Parents face many challenges in raising their children to be safe, happy, well adjusted and able to deal with the everyday challenges of life in non-violent and effective ways. A common concern for parents is how to raise their children with positive self-esteem whilst also teaching them to deal with problems in non-aggressive ways. This is naturally difficult at times when the everyday stressors of life and day to day routines make being the ‘perfect parent’ consistently impossible! Discuss with your co-parent the strategies below and make these the objectives to aim for, whilst also learning from mistakes made, aiming to not repeat them. The positive aim is for the parents to be able to manage the child’s behaviour in ways that will help the child to develop and maintain good relationships with other people and feel goo about themselves in the process.
- It is essential to have positive interactions with your child that encourage good behaviour, rather than focusing only on difficult behaviour. This can also be challenging when it can feel (especially on some days) that children are persistently doing the wrong thing. Aim to have quality time with your children, develop rituals and positive outings together and work on ongoing communication eg. finding out about your child’s day
- Establish fair rules in the household that are appropriate for the age of the child and are reasonable and meaningful. Make sure they are clear and involve children where possible. Its positive to negotiate with children explaining the reasons for good behaviour rather than imposing consequences without explanation
- Look for and praise good behaviour – reinforce and reward creating a more positive environment
- Agree on consequences that are appropriate for the age of the child such as removing a toy from a pre-schooler and using time out fairly, which means gradually increasing the amount of time as the child gets older eg. four minutes for a 4 year old. Time out is a particularly useful strategy when the behaviour is attention seeking in nature. Some families prefer to utilise a space in the same room as the family, others prefer to isolate the child completely.
- Remember to change the consequences as the child gets older – withdrawal of privileges (taking away something they enjoy like an Ipad, phone, or missing out on a favourite activity like a party or watching TV). This is more effective when the consequence does not need to be immediate eg when the child is older than 5 or 6 years old
- Stay calm – give yourself a time-out if needed as losing control invariably fuels negative emotions such as anxiety, guilt and anger, and usually makes the situation worse
- Be consistent in applying consequences and be fair in providing a consequence that is fitting for the behaviour
- Communicate to children why a behaviour is right or wrong; physical punishment alone will not achieve this