AS much as we’d all like there to be, there’s no rule book when it comes to raising children.
But there are some easy tips and techniques you could try at home which could help curb temper tantrums and challenging behaviour.
Age-old discipline techniques including spanking and shouting were once common, but these “never worked on children in the long term,” Corinne Card, author of Parenting Tips Your Mother Didn’t Tell You: An A-Z of Parenting in the Digital Age, tells Fabulous.
“Instead, parents need to find positive ways to reinforce good behaviour and gently discourage behaviours that are less desirable,” she says.
Jacqueline Carson, psychotherapist and social worker, specialising in child protection, adds: “It’s important to think of discipline as guidance and boundaries rather than punishment for doing something wrong.”
Here, the experts share the discipline techniques that really work on kids of every age – from toddlers through to teenagers.
What they need:
At this stage of a child’s development, kids need a calm and safe environment – as well as comfort, reassurance, positive encouragement and experiences.
“This helps the child to feel safe and learn to trust,” Jacqueline says.
Toddlers don’t know the difference between right and wrong, so it’s about teaching rather than disciplining.
What not to do:
Toddlers learn from their environment so it’s important not to copy bad behaviour back to them.
“If your child starts to bite other children for example, what you must NOT do, is bite the child ‘to show them it hurts’,” Jacqueline says, adding “this will only serve to encourage them to bite more.”
Scream or ignore
Temper tantrums are normal and natural, but you should never ignore their behaviour or shout at them for it.
“[Doing this] will only serve to exacerbate the situation and worse still, distress your child even more by switching on their stress hormones,” Jacqueline warns.
Use time out
‘Time Outs’ are a big no-no according to the experts. They will only “increase distress and pain and teach the child that having emotional and painful feelings is not okay,” Jacqueline explains.
What really works:
Corrine says “distraction” is a way to stop challenging behaviour. If they’re acting out, give them something different to do.
“For example, if they’re trying to push a child away from a toy they want, pick them up and show them a different toy,” she says
Another alternative that encourages sharing is to use a sand timer.
Chizzy Chukwukere, parenting expert and owner of Zippy’s Day Nursery in London tells Fabulous this “works like magic” when you have two kids fighting over the same thing.
By creating interval playtime, your children will most likley anticipate their turn while waiting quietly (hopefully).
One way to manage temper tantrums is to hold them close while remaining calm and talking to them softly until they calm down.
Jacqueline says: “Doing this will help them to calm their nervous system down, their flight or fight response.
“It teaches them how to calm themselves down and regulate their own emotions. It also teaches them empathy for others.”
It’s important to remember that children usually misbehave out of frustration, which they’re not able to express in a more logical way.
“If you can identify [the cause] you can mitigate against it,” Corrine says.
Meanwhile, Kathryn Lord, childcare expert at More To Organising says to, “take a breather, get down to their level, reassure them that you are there and are listening.”
But always set boundaries.
Positive reinforcement acts as an incentive to repeat good behaviour Corrine explains, and it should be used as often as possible.
She says: “Your toddler remembers that good feeling and is therefore more likely to repeat the good behaviour.
“Instead of only noticing when things are going wrong, be on the lookout for times when your toddler is kind, helpful or responds well to an event.”
What they need:
“Up to the age of around six or seven years a child does not have the ability to reason,” Jacqueline says.
“They continue to need guidance and boundaries to help them learn what is okay and what is not. ”
At this primary stage parents need to be firm and consistent with boundaries – if you say you’ll do something, do it.
What not to do:
Make them say sorry
Kathryn says: “Forcing a young child to say sorry doesn’t mean they understand what they did wrong or will actually be sorry.”
Jacqueline says: “Do not keep changing boundaries. Children do not understand this, and it makes them feel that they can’t trust you, encouraging them to keep pushing.”
For example, if you say you’ll offer a punishment if they keep misbehaving, make sure you do it.
What really works:
Kathryn says: “Working as a team and giving them more autonomy means they feel like they have choices and are less likely to misbehave as they feel they have more say in what they do.”
Offering choice among options is a smart way to give a feeling of control to a child, Corrine adds.
“Instead of insisting your child gets dressed, give them a choice. This shirt or that shirt? When they want a snack, offer two healthy alternatives. Sliced apple or carrot sticks?,” she says.
Offer a reward
Parents should avoid time out with school kids too.
Something way more effective is what Jacqueline calls the positive or restorative approach, which is encouraging positive behaviour through reward.
“This could simply be positive recognition such as a ‘well done,’ or it could be something like using a sticker chart,” she says.
It could be that the child collects a certain number and when they have so many they get a bigger reward – such as a small gift or a trip out for the day.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
But Kathryn, says to try and keep it verbal.
“The trouble with reward charts and giving them physical prizes for doing something means why they ‘behave’ becomes because they want to get something for it,” she says.
“Saying that, a sticker or a stamp are low cost rewards that toddlers and young children really love.”
Also avoid rewarding with food as this could spark an unhealthy relationship with it.
Jacqueline says: “Using a restorative method is very effective in helping them to reflect on their behaviour and learn about consequences in the process.
“It encourages their thinking brain to develop resolution and learn about cause and effect.”
This is where the thining chair comes in.
“It works by asking your child to sit for a few minutes (5-10 minutes depending on age) and think about what they have done and how they can help to put things right,” she says.
Working with your child to resolve the issue in a calm way is far more effective than punishment and will serve to teach your child life skills such as respect, problem solving, empathy and forgiveness.
Count to three
Believe it or not, this actually works as it give your child time to choose the desired response.
“Instead of demanding your school aged child does something immediately, give them time by counting to three,” says Corrine.
“If you are consistent, and give the child a consequence after the count of three, the child will learn that you mean business.”
This works particularly well for tasks including brushing their teeth before bed.
What they need:
It’s important to create healthy habits and routines from an early age, but there are still some things you can do to help teens on their way,
Making sure you have open communication and trying to see things from their point of view are good starting points.
Plus sharing your boundaries on what’s not acceptable behaviour will ensure they don’t cross the line.
Jacqueline says: “Teenagers need strong leadership from positive role models.
“With teenagers, often the worse their behaviour, the more they need your strength, love and resilience – it’s ‘show rather than tell’.”
What really works:
“This technique takes perspective-taking to the extreme,” says Corrine, and it works when your teens say or do something you disagree with.
Rather than yelling, “take time and a calm approach to fully understand where your teen is coming from,” she explains.
It’s a good idea to ask questions and repeat back what you think you’ve heard them tell you, and ask if that’s correct.
“Really listening to your teen helps them to feel ‘safe, seen, and significant,’ and once heard, your kids will be more receptive to hearing you.”
Delegate and gamify
The is a good way to give teenagers responsibility within a framework they enjoy.
“Give your teenager full responsibility of a role within the regular workings of the home, such as making breakfast, taking out the rubbish or redecorating a room,” Corrine explains, then help them think of ways to make it fun.
In contrast to asking for help, delegating a role in its entirety gives a sense of control and personal satisfaction.
“Praise can help build their confidence and increase the likelihood that they’ll maintain that role,” Corrine says.
In Chizzy’s opinion, the greatest tool you can posess is communication.
She says: “Communication fosters a good relationship between teenagers and parents. It is crucial, and a springboard to having a great relationship.”
Find a mentor
It’s completely normal for parents and teenagers clash, so it’s important for teens find a positive mentor who they trust, outside of the family, Jacqueline says.
“Risk taking is normal for the teenage brain so it is up to the adults around the child to help to facilitate,” she explains.
“Encouraging your teenager to take part in sports will satisfy the need for risk and will also provide mentoring in the form of a coach or similar as well as developing social skills.”