Being parents, we all know that children will, of course, be children and be rowdy, unruly and cheeky from time-to-time. They will naturally push boundaries of what is and is not acceptable behaviour and this will start from the time they’re born until they reach adulthood…and maybe even beyond! As their parents, it’s our job to make sure they don’t over-step the mark.
“Children will inevitably misbehave from time to time,” says parenting expert, Elizabeth O’Shea. “But they behave much better when they know what the consequences will be for certain actions, and that these consequences are predictable and fair. The problems creep in when sometimes we discipline them, but sometimes we’re just too tired and ignore misbehaviour. Many children will try their luck when the consequences are not consistent.”
Discipline is important in teaching children to be well behaved but it’s not always easy, especially if you’re a working parent.
“Lots of parents have problems with children misbehaving. I think discipline is an issue in many households and it can be harder if you’re also working. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, many parents don’t know a good range of ways to discipline children. Secondly, they want to enjoy some quality time with their children when they do get to spend time with them, and many parents let their children get away with things just to keep the peace. Lastly, it is difficult to maintain consistent discipline when there are other people looking after your child, which is often true with working parents.”
So, if your child is spending time with grandparents, a child minder or at a nursery during the week and then with you at the weekend, how on earth do you make sure the same rules apply everywhere?
Pick your battles
Sit down and work out what qualities you want to see in your children when they are grown up. These qualities are the ones that are important for your family, and if you need to choose battles, these qualities are the ones you should be trying to instil.
Consistent discipline starts at home
There will inevitably times where parents may be tempted to overlook bad behaviour; perhaps out of tiredness or the desire to spend rare family time having fun instead of disciplining. But, it’s important to set clear boundaries for children early on and to reinforce them so that children will always know what is expected of them and bad behaviour doesn’t get out of hand when they’re older.
Talk to your childcare provider about how they deal with bad behaviour.
If you’re paying a childcare provider, many already have policies for ways they deal with misbehaviour. It’s a good idea to talk about their discipline methods and how they deal with your child when they misbehave. Starting a conversation with ‘we are trying to keep discipline consistent and wondered if you could tell us what you do when our child misbehaves so we can do the same at home’. If you then make one or two suggestions about new things you are trying out, and ask if they would consider using that too with your child, many childcare providers will be only too happy to report back.
Don’t be a control freak!
It’s difficult for parents to insist their child is disciplined in a certain way unless there is a concern about unfair, harsh or punitive discipline. If the carer is fair and consistent with discipline and your child behaves well for them, it may be good to let them do what they feel is best.
Effective discipline doesn’t involve shouting or smacking.
There are many positive discipline techniques that are effective and fair, and are designed to help children learn from their mistakes rather than punish the child. It’s good to explore a whole range of discipline methods that don’t involve shouting or smacking and talk about the success you have had with these techniques at home with people caring for your child.