By Angela Zam
You’re in the checkout line at the store and Junior decides he wants a candy bar. He wants it now.
Despite every attempt for a calm and preferably quiet solution, a tantrum ensues.
“I’ve totally given in so I’m not ‘that’ mom,” says Mindy Alt, a stay-at-home mother of two from Medina. “I’ve also carried kids screaming and crying from stores. I’ve caused that scene too.”
The truth is, we’ve all been there: red-faced and frustrated wavering between standing firm and quietly whispering threats in little Junior’s ear.
So let’s take a look at these five discipline approaches — both good and bad. As parents, we often fall into one or more of these categories when faced with frustration.
Welcome: the Pushover, aka “Take the candy bar and stop screaming, honey,” you say, through a fake smile and clenched jaw in a voice about two octaves higher than normal.
Sometimes, it’s just easier to give up and give in. Unfortunately, what’s easy in the short term breeds more problems down the road.
“It is not teaching the child to be able to handle situations that do not go their way,” says Erica Bennett, a licensed professional counselor who sees clients at Northern Ohio Medical Specialists (NOMS) in Sandusky. “Especially in situations with other children or with different authority figures.”
Introducing: The Redirector, aka “Look, something shiny!”
“Maybe I don’t give them the exact thing they are whining for — like if they are begging and begging for a candy bar, I might (give them) mints instead,” Alt says. “Redirection works really well, especially when they’re younger.”
Akron-area mom and school psychologist Heidi Goik agrees.
“I use redirection when it’s not as big of a deal and I need her to reroute herself,” she says of her 2-year-old.
For those times when it is a major offense, Goik and Alt both employ another popular discipline technique such as the Time Out.
Cue: the Time-Out, aka “Mommy needs a break.”
If it were only that simple.
This method is one where self-discipline is key.
After a warning, Goik sits her daughter down in a time-out chair and explains what she has done wrong. After two minutes, she again explains the infraction and asks for an apology.
“I keep the language really simple,” she says, noting a phrase she uses, “You hurt my feelings because you did this.’’ Then, she says, “once the punishment is over, it’s over.”
Goik follows these steps, exactly, every time.
While sometimes that’s hard to stick to, Bennett says it’s definitely worth it.
“For parents, following through on what you say is very important because if you want the child to be consistent with good behaviors it is helpful to be consistent in correcting them,” she says.
For Alt, this method has definitely been a learning process, but she adds that it really is effective — that is, if you can make it through a freak-out without freaking out yourself.
“Sometimes you just have to let them work out whatever screaming fit they need to have,” she says. “And I have to walk away, pretty far away, and keep myself busy.”
The key — don’t have a screaming fit yourself.
Meet: The Yeller, aka “IT FEELS REALLY GOOD TO LET OUT MY FRUSTRATIONS IN THIS SUPER LOUD VOICE!”
In the end, screaming into a pillow might suffice and have just as much impact.
“Most of the time when parents yell, the child does not seem to be listening to what they are saying and they get defensive and yell back at them,” Bennett says.
Sometimes, it does feel like the only option.
“There’s stuff flying through the air, the dog starts barking, the phone is ringing,” Alt says. “Sometimes you’ve just hit the ‘I can’t take it anymore’ stage.”
You let ’er rip and then the guilt ensues.
“They are shocked and scared, then I feel terrible,” Alt says.
“I have seen it be much more beneficial for parents to focus on the behaviors they would like to see from their children more so than focusing on the behaviors that they are doing wrong,” Bennett says.
Though rewards for good behavior can come in the form of material items, other options include having a friend over, a special one-on-one activity with a parent or a simple pat on the back.
Meet: The Referee: whether it’s over a toy, the TV or time on the computer, it often falls to parents to break up fights.
If you find yourself stuck in this role more times that you’d like, Alt suggests her tried-and-true timer method. She uses her cell phone and sets limits for things like time with a toy or cleanup. It lets her off the hook and makes the clock the bad guy.
Goik says she often advises parents and teachers implement some planned ignoring of bad behaviors but is quick to point out this method should be reserved for little annoying things and not for anything that could be considered a safety threat.
In addition, she reminds parents to plan quality time with their kids.
“Sometimes you forget to squeeze that in, but having it in their daily schedule should help,” she says. “Most times, kids just want attention.