Family matters: Directed discipline - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Family matters: Directed discipline

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Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 11:08 am | Updated: 8:03 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

How a parent handles a child’s shenanigans is critical to the child’s development. The wrong choice of words, experts say, can have lasting effects on self-esteem.

How a parent handles a child’s shenanigans is critical to the child’s development. The wrong choice of words, experts say, can have lasting effects on self-esteem.

“When a child does something wrong, a parent has to separate the child from the behavior,” says Mary Coonts, a child development specialist with CIGNA Medical Group. “Comment on their behavior. Tell them their behavior is unacceptable, rather than (using) the 'you’ messages: 'Why did you do that? What’s wrong with you?’ ”

“Telling your child he is a bad boy doesn’t tell them what they did was unacceptable,” explains Sue Eaton, a child life coordinator with Banner Children’s Hospital at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa. Eaton says parents should be specific, as in: “I did not like how you threw your toys on the floor.” She says it’s important to make it clear you still love them, but don’t like what they did.

Experts say tone and choice of words is extremely important.

“If a child is continually exposed to negative comments the child, over time, will think of themselves as that 'bad child, lazy or scatterbrained,’ ” says Coonts, and in turn, they will act that way.

Parents can counteract negative behavior by reinforcing the good things their child does, says Eaton, “A child wants to please their parents. Praise is a reward or gift to them,” says Eaton.

Sometimes, even parents with the best of intentions may have a short fuse once junior starts to throw a tantrum. Things to consider when your child tries your patience:

• Think before you react. “Parents have to stop and realize they need to be a parent, and not have a knee-jerk reaction to what their child is doing,” says Eaton. It’s important to keep your cool, she says, because children watch their parents’ reactions: “If you always yell when something goes wrong, your child will think screaming is the thing to do when something goes wrong.”

• Consider your child’s feelings. Feeling loved and capable are the cornerstones of self-esteem, Coonts says.

• If you lose your cool, it’s OK to apologize. “It’s fine to say, 'Daddy is sorry. Daddy shouldn’t have said that.’ You won’t lose your parental authority,” Coonts says.

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