Do you dream of having a child who is self-composed, articulate and respectful of others, young or old?
In our children’s pre-verbal days it seems like those attributes may be impossible, but there are some teaching tools you can use to help your child have the self-discipline to live a peaceful life as a toddler and beyond.
Respect. If we expect to get our children’s respect, we must first give it, and then expect respect in return. Respect has a boomerang effect. When we understand and respect the immense effort the young child expends to learn and perform daily living skills, perhaps we can be more patient with our child’s frustrations. We need to set clear and realistic expectations for behavior, remembering to remind our children of those behaviors. ”When we sit down for dinner, we don’t get up. We put our napkins on our laps.”
We need to catch our children doing something right, and thank them for their efforts. ”I see you put your napkin on your lap. Thank you.”
Problem-solving skills. We need to help our children learn to solve the frustrations that pop up in life. We begin by allowing our children simple choices. ”Do you want to wear your blue shirt or the green one?”
When a problem does occur, we can step through a thinking process:
Stop. I think we have a problem. I think the problem is…
Do you want to work on the problem?
What can we do to fix the problem?
What choice is the best way?
Later, we need to check back, and ask if the choice is working. If not, go back to square one for problem solving. Sort of like Chutes and Ladders.
Patience. Self-discipline requires patience and learning to wait. Instant gratification is 180 degrees from self-discipline on the behavior scale. The old adage of learning to count to 10 works here. Learning to refocus on something else while you wait is a big help. Using the problem solving technique from above, we might say: We have to wait for 10 minutes. What should we do? Count to 300? Read? Sing a song? Walk around the block? What do you think is best? Is this helping you wait?
Acknowledge feelings. We can help our children put words to their emotions. Having to wait in line for the promised ice cream cone? A friend took your toy? Your sister ate your cookie? Help your child put words to the emotions of impatience, anger, frustration and more. Assist your child in understanding that everyone has feelings and that we can learn to recognize those feelings and put names to those feelings.
Learning to interpret non-verbal cues will also help our children in their quest for self-discipline. ”Did you see what her face looked like when you gave her your present? She was happy.” Or perhaps, ”Did you see his face when you took his ball. He was upset.”
Giving our children respect along with helping them learn to solve problems, being patient and acknowledging feelings aid our children on their paths toward internal discipline.