Is shouting or smacking working?

Parents have a tough job. When children misbehave they need to work out what is most likely to help them learn from their mistake and reduce the chance of it happening again. But can I ask you a question? If shouting or smacking works, why do our children continue to misbehave?

The truth is that parents find behaviour management really difficult. And so most parents resort to criticising, nagging, pleading and cajoling, and then when these don’t have the desired effect we start threatening, raising our voice and shouting. And if this still doesn’t work, out of sheer frustration some parents smack their child.

Shouting and smacking stop children from learning. As adults, when we feel threatened we don’t learn from our mistakes. Instead, we put up a barrier and try to justify our actions. Punishments and being controlled through force make people feel resentful and our children are no different.

Positive discipline

Discipline comes from the word disciple- to teach. What we need is a few alternative discipline techniques to use rather than the shouting or smacking. There is a whole range of tips and techniques we can use as parents to prevent misbehaviour from happening in the first place, and a parenting course is a great place to go to remind yourself of a whole range of ideas on how to do this.

But when it comes to discipline the first step in teaching your child is to decide what rules are really important to you. The next step is using discipline techniques that help them learn about consequences. Have a look at the following list to find a few discipline techniques that may really help your youngster understand their misbehaviour and be ready to change

Set rules with rewards and consequences (not punishments)

Decide on what is important to you and your partner. Work on no more than 10 rules at any one time.

State what you want to happen –write the rules down or use pictures

Decide what rewards your child can earn for following the rules (make it really motivating and achievable –cheap or free rewards little and often are best.)

Have consequences for not following the rules

If you want your child to do something wait in their space until they do it.

Be consistent.

What to do when your child does something wrong

The following strategies are designed to give the message that your child is loved, but the behaviour is not acceptable

  1. Use natural consequences to teach your child. The consequence for not following the rules can be just not earning a treat.  It could be that he is late for school, or there is not enough time for two bed-time stories, or he clears up the mess. It could be that they do something nice or helpful to the person concerned. Consequences should happen straight away and be relevant
  2. Stop them earning privileges – If your child is allowed to stay up until 7.00, if they are able to get ready for bed without a fuss they can stay up until 7 the next night, if not their bedtime will be 6.50. Or they don’t ‘earn’ their half-hour on the computer or TV.
  3. Do an ‘action replay.’ When your child does something wrong, get them to repeat the behaviour, this time doing it right. So she sits back at the table and asks if she can leave, or comes back to ask politely for a drink
  4. Invite them to calm down. Sometimes everyone needs to calm down. Children can sit down quietly in the same room or sometimes in a separate room.
    When your child is calmer, talk about why they needed time out, and move on. Remember this is to help everyone calm down and allow thinking time not to ‘punish’. If you use a ‘naughty step’ the child will feel they are being labelled as ‘naughty’ and your child is more likely to repeat ‘naughty’ behaviours. Instead, have a ‘place to calm down’. After a cooling-off period Ask the child;
    • What did you do?
    • How were you feeling?       
    • What should you have done?
    • What are you going to do now to make up for it?
  5. Let your child choose how to make amends. What can your child do to make up for the hurt they caused? How could they make amends?
  6. Encourage your child to apologise –but only if they feel genuinely sorry, otherwise saying sorry can be meaningless
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here