Monday, June 21, 2010

Teaching self control

Your child’s need to feel competent in practical matters is matched by his need to feel a growing sense of self control in his behavior. Firm, consistent parental discipline is crucial: neither rigid authoritarianism nor wishy - washy permissiveness prepares the child for the world he will function in. The first system gives all responsibility for behavior to the parents and leaves little or no room for the child to choose and experiment; the second turns all control over to the child without rehearsing him in the kinds of behavior the world will expect of him.  What is needed is a style of discipline that falls somewhere between these two approaches. You will need to make clear to your child what you consider acceptable behavior. Explain that you think him capable of living up to these expectations and that you will correct him when he is off the mark. Be consistent in your expectations, so the child will understand the value you place on certain standards of behavior.
 Transgressions should not be overlooked, but let your method of discipline be appropriate to the child’s level of understanding. Never forget that making your child feel loved is the most important rule of discipline, and that the ultimate objective is for him to learn to discipline himself. When he does break the rules and needs correcting, focus your complaint on the troublesome act rather than on the child. For blocks, tell the spoiler that ‘Knocking over the fortress makes your friend feel sand’ rather than ‘You were mean’. In this way you make your point forcefully without attaching a negative label to your child.
 At the same time, avoid too much descriptive praise. Statements such as ‘you are my perfect little angel’ may actually undermine self esteem by suggesting that you love the child for his good behavior rather than for himself. Children know, usually better than their parents, that they are not perfect angels; when a child hears this sort of praise he is likely to remember hidden misdeeds and fear his parents will love him less if these  secrets are ever revealed. It is better to direct praise toward the child’s accomplishments and to avoid characterizing his nature.