Guidelines for Successful Parents
From a number of research studies plus Tavris, the following guidelines are suggested for building child self-control and self-esteem.
1. Learn to deal with your own and others' anger.
When parents discipline out of anger or with expectations that are inappropriate for the age of their child, they often make mistakes in the way they react. The place to begin is with ourselves. When we feel calm, we can model effective anger and conflict management. Example: "I'm so angry at you right now for dumping your cereal all over the clean floor, I feel like hitting you. But I don't hit, so I'm going to leave and come back when I've calmed down."
2. Distract or redirect the child.
When a child is misbehaving, a calm parent can sometimes re-direct the child's behavior. Example: "Here's a bowl of warm water. Let's put it outside where you can splash all you want."
3. Be prompt and brief with discipline.
One technique you can use is to pick up and remove your small child from the room immediately and isolate him or her for two to five minutes. This also gives you time to get in control of your emotions. Two to five minutes are enough; lecturing is unnecessary. In rare circumstances, it may be helpful to physically hold the child. Be consistent in enforcing rules, especially with older, school-age children. Example: "I'm putting you in your room for 'time out' until you calm down and are ready to talk again." "I want you to go to your room now and stay there until you are ready to come out and use words to ask for what you want rather than spitting on people."
4. Try to discover the reason for your child's anger or temper tantrum.
What does he or she want and is not getting? The reasons children have temper tantrums vary: to get attention, get someone to listen, protest not getting their way, get out of doing something they do not want to do, punish a parent for going away, for power, for revenge, from fear of abandonment, etc. Let the child know the behavior is unacceptable. Talk calmly. Example: "Now that we're out of the store and we've both had a chance to calm down, let's talk. I think you were mad at me that I said no to buying the candy you wanted. Is that right?" ... "It is OK for you to be angry at me, but kicking, screaming and yelling that you want candy won’t work. It won’t get me to buy you the candy.”
5. Avoid shaming your child about being angry.
Children in healthy families are allowed to express all their feelings, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.They are not criticized or punished for having and expressing feelings appropriately, including anger. Some research studies have found that parents' shaming their child's anger can negatively affect their child's willingness to relieve distress in others (10). Example: "You look and sound angry right now. I'd feel angry too if someone messed up my coloring like she messed up yours."
6. Teach children about intensity levels of anger.
By using different words to describe the intensity of angry feelings (e.g., annoyed, aggravated, irritated, frustrated, angry, furious, enraged), children as young as 2 1/2 can learn to understand that anger is a complex emotion with different levels of energy (10). Example: "I was annoyed when I had a hot meal ready and all of you were late for dinner." "That man was so angry -- I think he was enraged after someone spray painted his business with graffiti."
7. Set clear limits and high expectations for anger management, appropriate for your child's age, abilities, and temperament.
As parents, we will be angry all the time if we expect our 1-year-old to be toilet trained, our 2-year-old to use 5-year-old words rather than have a temper tantrum, our shy 8-year-old to be a life-of-the-party magician, and our low self-esteem 15-year-old to snap out of her depressed "funk" and run for Student Council President. Example: "While I want you to know it's OK to feel angry, it's not OK to hit others!" "I expect you to help with chores, control your anger without hitting, biting or spitting. I expect you to be honest and thoughtful of others, do your best in school, ask for what you want, and treat others as you would like to be treated."
8. Notice, compliment and reward appropriate behavior.
Teaching your child to do the right things is better (and easier) than constantly punishing bad behavior. Children who get a steady diet of attention only for bad behavior tend to repeat those behaviors because they learn that is the best way to get our attention, especially if we tend to be overly authoritarian. Example: "I really liked the way you asked Uncle Charlie to play ball with you." "Thanks, Ebony, for calling me beforehand and asking if you could change your plans and go over to your friend's house after school."
9. Maintain open communication with your child.
Consistently and firmly enforce rules and explain the reasons for the rules in words your child can understand. Still, you can listen well to your child's protests about having to take a national test or measles shot. Example: "Sounds like you are angry at the school rule that says you can't wear shorts, sandals and tank tops to school."
10. Teach understanding and empathy by calling your child's attention to the effects of his or her actions on others.
Invite the child to see the situation from the other person's point of view. Healthy children feel remorse when they do something that hurts another. Authoritative discipline helps them develop an internal sense of right and wrong. Remember, a little guilt goes a long way, especially with a child. Example: "Let's see if we can figure out what happened. First she did her 'nah, nah, nah routine.' Next, I saw you take her doll. Then she came and hit you, and you hit her back."