React swiftly but have a plan

Source: totallifecounseling.com

When our children misbehave, reacting swiftly and quietly can have a much greater impact than giving a warning or waiting to see if they’ll stop. But to react swiftly, we must have a plan.

For example, when you see your toddler throwing toys, I’m sure there’s no doubt in your mind that this is not a behavior you allow. I’m sure the child knows it as well. So what do you do? Do you tell him to stop? Do you plead with him? Do you try to reason with him?

Actions speak louder than words. So when you see such a behavior, simply stop what you’re doing and react swiftly but calmly. You might take your child by the hand and guide him to his room for a timeout. Or you might simply take the toy away. Guiding him by his hand without saying a word or even having an angry expression on your face will surprise the child. He won’t know for sure what’s going on until you sit him on his bed and walk away. It eliminates any chance for a tantrum or that spaghetti legs thing they know works so well.

By the same token, if you take the toy away, simply take it and walk away. If he knows he threw it and he knows it’s wrong, you taking it away will send the message. When he asks for it back, then you can tell him why you took it away.

You’ll notice that both examples, however, require having a plan. Acting calmly and swiftly can only happen if you have a plan. If you see your child throwing toys but aren’t quite sure what to do, you will hesitate and your actions won’t be as powerful. You might also think that reasoning with him will work.

Not having a plan will also increase the likelihood that you’ll act out of anger and frustration. And when they know they can get a rise out of us, some kids see that as score 1 for the child–not to mention the fact that correction done in anger is simply less effective.

“It’s natural for parents to react spontaneously to negative behavior. You see defiance and boom, you jump on it. But before you jump, you stop and think. You must act for the child’s good. Recklessly reacting in the heat of the moment isn’t the best plan.” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 135)

So take the time to think through your child’s most chronic misbehaviors and come up with a consequence for each. Then decide on your “go to” consequence for every other behavior problem that presents itself. We use timeouts as our “go to” consequence. Read more here on how to create a discipline plan.

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