As parents, loving our babies is the easy part. But as our little ones grow, there comes a time when we must set boundaries. Most of these "rules" are established to ensure our children remain safe. For example: “Please don’t run into the street" and "We don't hit people." So how do we set these boundaries? Plenty of folks want to offer their thoughts on the subject, to be sure, but honestly? For me, at least, there are so many pieces of child discipline advice I’m happy I’ve ignored over the years. For the most part, it's the advice that, via numerous studies, causes more harm than good, or that simply wouldn’t work for my particular child.
I have a toddler at the moment, and if you know anything about toddlers, you know they are always ready to explore and experiment. I do my best to keep my home as kid-friendly as possible. I have covers on all the electrical outlets and 95 percent of our furniture is without sharp edges. My partner and I don’t have any breakables that are within our son’s reach. We keep chemicals and other adult items out of reach. But our kid still crosses the line sometimes. He wants to hit me when he’s angry, or he wants to run around during meal times and barely eat. He wants to jump off furniture that isn’t all that safe to jump off of. Like, ever. So I set boundaries. I discipline by asking him to stop his behavior. I explain why he shouldn’t do "this" because "that" will happen. I listen to him explain how it makes him feel. If he gets out of hand, he gets to have some quiet time in his room (which might be more like “scream and cry by myself in my room for five minutes and then suddenly realize life isn’t so bad and proceed to play with my toys” time). It’s what works for us, and that's really all there is to it.
I don’t believe in authoritarian parenting because I’ve experienced the damage it can do, but most of the advice I’ve received is in line with this particular parenting philosophy. This is why I’ve chosen to ignore all the “advice” usually thrown my way when it concerns disciplining my child, including the following:
Just Say "Because I Said So"
I understand that sometimes we just want our kids to stop questioning us. I mean, those endless inquiries can be frustrating as hell. But this line is totally bogus and kids see right through it. Have a solid argument and reasoning behind your disciplining and your kids will learn to understand the benefit.
Yell At Them To Stop Yelling
I’m not perfect, you guys, especially when it comes to my parenting. I’ve raised my voice at my child before and during moments of frustration. But I do my best not to. My partner and I aim to keep as calm and collected while dealing with our 3-year-old toddler, kind of like a professional would deal with a hostage situation. Yelling only begets more yelling and frustration, and sometimes even fear.
Just Shame Them
Shaming a child for acting like a child is just plain wrong. So what if your child is acting out? That just means they need to get their feelings out and they aren’t sure how to go about it. You don’t belittle their feelings or call them names. That only breeds resentment.
Just Spank Them
There are numerous studies stating that spanking children only leads to worse behavior, not better. What it does teach kids is that it’s OK to hit others when you’re frustrated with them. It teaches them that to get someone to do what you want them to do, you should get physically violent with them. How is any of that a good thing?
Making Your Kid Stare At The Wall
Some parents make their kids do silly, pointless things like stare at a wall or hold up books or whatever. There’s no real lesson involved in this, though. At least, not a lesson I can decipher, and I'm a grown-ass woman. It’s certainly not as problematic as some of the other forms of discipline, but unless you’re going to thoroughly explain why your requiring your children to do a specific task as a form of punishment, it's probably going to be a pointless endeavor.
Just Take Away Something Beneficial
While taking privileges away from a child during a tantrum isn’t necessarily bad, it’s probably not wise to take things away that are normally beneficial to the child. I know I’ve had my slip ups cutting bedtime stories short when I’ve gotten upset with my kid in the evenings. But I tend to try and make up for it and read some extra books later. That said, I don’t want to take away this important and beneficial activity just because I can’t handle dealing with my kid for a few minutes. Instead, other privileges should be revoked.
“Correct” Gendered Behavior Not “In Line” With Their Gender
Some people believe that you need to discipline a child who is not conforming to the gender placed assigned to them at birth. This is wrong, my friends. So, so wrong. My son is such a stereotypical boy in some respects (obsessed with cars and trains and playing in dirt), and then totally cool with "gender bending" in others (loves wearing my hair accessories and making necklaces with me). I will never “correct” that behavior because there is nothing to correct.
There's Nothing A Good, Long Lecture Can't Fix
I’ve read numerous parenting articles on discipline, and a good majority warn against lecturing your child. There's no reason to give your kid a length discussion regarding whatever topic, because chances are they either won't understand or won't pay attention. Is my toddler really going to understand a long-ass conversation about the germs he’s picking up when he tries to lick the table at the restaurant? Probably not. But letting him know that’s "icky" because it can make him sick, so please stop, is generally sufficient. At this age, it’s more about repetition than anything else.
Don't Discipline Them At All
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s folks who don’t really believe in disciplining their kids at all. They’re much more laid back and tend to be OK with letting their kids run amok most of the time. I try my best to be hands off when I can, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be my child’s doormat, either. Kids thrive when routine and structure are followed. So while I won’t be acting like a god or as “owner” of my child, I will set the boundaries necessary for him to live a safe and happy life.
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