Alleviating Parental Stress – Discipline

After having worked with families for over a decade I can say without a doubt that parental stress would be alleviated somewhat if you were to discipline your children.  Usually when people hear the word Discipline they think corporal punishment.  Discipline has received a bad rap due to extremist measures in handling children.  The real truth is that discipline means raising your children and teaching them right from wrong as you will read in the first paragraph in the above highlighted link on Wikipedia.

Here are some Dos’ and Donts’ on doing so. The rules below are meant to be started from the moment a child is born for best results:

1. Do use the word NO, from the moment a child does something wrong.  There is nothing wrong with smacking their hand under the age of five when they don’t understand very much  English.  Over the age of five you sit down and have a conversation with them which teaches them that you have respect for the child and that you are trying to explain right and wrong.

2. If a child is doing something dangerous of course you do need to grab them quickly away from the stove, the fire, the match, the prescription tablets that were not in a safe place, the gun cabinet left open or the weapon sitting on the table.  It is not appropriate to grab a child’s arm because you are upset in non-emergencies.  It is not appropriate to spank a child with objects because you are pissed off.

3. Do set rules and limits that are age appropriate.  Do NOT go back on your word.  If the time for bed is 7pm than that is the time for bed.   This makes sense for an elementary school child during school nights.  If there are chores for everyone to do make a list and put it on the refrigerator.  All parents and children should be involved because if everyone is involved in house cleaning, no one will be singled out.  It should not be parents sitting down watching television while children clean the house.

4. Avoid computer usage,videos and even television two hours before bedtime.  This stimulates the child too much.  They need to be winding down for sleep.  If you have any problems getting your children to sleep, pay attention to this rule of thumb.  Spend the last two hours taking baths, reading books, last-minute homework assignments, putting clothes out for the next day and making lunches.  Do all of this together as a family.

5. No SODA should be given to a child at all or any other product with caffeine in it.  Children are developing their brains and bodies in the first 18 years of life.  It is important that if you want your children to grow up strong, intelligent and healthy, you have to really be cautious what you feed them.  They should also eat the healthiest products you can buy.  Best is locally grown produce, organic if possible.  Refrain from anything microwaved.  Try to cook foods that are freshly prepared to get the most vitamins from the meal.  Do not buy fast food for your children except on very rare occasions.  If you are traveling on the road this is one thing.  If you are running errands all day and don’t have time to return home, this is another but it should not be a habit.  A good rule of thumb however is that instead of stopping for fast food, stop and have a meal in a proper restaurant where everyone can sit down and talk and eat.  This is better for the body and reduces stress from the daily activities.

6. DO NOT let a child do the grocery shopping.  You are the parent and it is your responsibility to make sure your children are eating healthy.  Children are not capable of understanding these things because they have not been taught nutrition.  Prior to going into the store the first time with a child (when they are able to understand what you mean), you tell them “We are going to buy our food now.  I do not want you to ask me for anything because we are not buying anything today but food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”  Do what you say when you go in the store.  If they look at toys or candy you remind them of the rule.  If you have established a relationship with your child where they can trust you and know that you mean what you say and will also do what you say, they will listen.  If you have gone back on your word in the past, they will never listen because sometimes you might change your mind.

7. Do not punish your child in public.  If you are able to have stern words with the child in a low voice and they listen this is one thing.  If not and the child has begun to throw a temper tantrum, it is time to take them out of the building in a private place and wait until they have settled down.  A dirty bathroom is not appropriate for privacy or hygiene and very few are even clean these days.  Some department stores however do have lounge areas before the toilets and this is fine (if they are clean and sanitary). I bring up cleanliness because a child is a human being and they are bound to make mistakes in public, especially if they are having a bad day, have not had a meal in a while or have to go to the bathroom.  While as a parent you might be set in your routine for the day, the child’s needs must come first.  The best thing to do is get a babysitter for errands if at all possible.  Drop kids off at grandparents, aunt/uncles, somewhere that they do not have to deal with the stress of errands.  You will be much happier too.

8. Never use negative words toward a child.  They are not stupid, irresponsible, lazy, ugly or miserable brats.  These words will cause a child to have low self-esteem.  If a parent has not been consistent with discipline, the child will turn out appearing to be these aforementioned verbs.  However, they are behaving in response to the way they were raised, not because they are trying to get on your last nerve.  Children learn what you will and will not allow them to get away with very quickly.  This is why you have to raise them from the moment they are born.

9. Do not hit your child with an object (something placed in your hand) and try to refrain from even using your hand.  If a child is taught right from wrong from the beginning, are respected and raised in a healthy household (free from addictions, violence, cursing), they will do the right thing for the most part.  Everyone makes mistakes but the more problems that are occurring in your household, the more you will see from the child.

10. Never make derogatory comments about your spouse, partner, or elder family members in front of a child. Saying negative words to a child’s mother or father or even grandparent in front of the child will teach the child to be disrespectful to others.  It will also confuse them about their parents and other family members.  I am not saying you can’t have an argument in front of your child.  You should never say “You are a bad mother” or call them an idiot, stupid, lazy, etc…  It is not necessary to put people down in a family argument.  If you disagree with parenting styles you should discuss this privately. Single parents should refrain from doing so as well.  This should be a private conversation with the other parent.  It should also be a private conversation with the child about why visits are restricted – not in a loud argumentative voice or when you are angry.

11.  Clothing should be chosen by the parent until a child is in junior high school.  At this point you begin to allow them some level of creativity but they should not be given free rein.  In high school, it is appropriate to allow them to go shopping with their friends but if they buy something inappropriate this should be explained and returned.  If a child is raised knowing their limitations with you since day one, this will not be an issue.  A child should also be taught proper hygiene from the beginning, as well as cleanliness and how to wear their clothes appropriately.  There are some children who are going to be sloppy no matter what as this is their nature.  However, for the most part, if in your household people act and behave with a certain amount of pride and standards, your children will too.  I have seen kids raised in the worst neighborhoods who do not conform to street rules because their families raise them with discipline and respect and they are able to overcome the obstacles of the street life.

12. Number 11 leads into 12.  Economic level has nothing to do with cleanliness, hygiene, proper attire or behaviors.  Poor parents have raised very healthy and successful children just as rich parents have raised very unhealthy and ignorant children.  It all has to do with family values, standards, respect and consistency.  A child should be able to trust their parent to teach them right from wrong.  If they cannot, they will learn to get around those loopholes.  That is what causes bad behaviors.  Of course no parent is perfect and no child is perfect.  Overall though, a child knows who they can trust, what they can expect and what they can and cannot get away with.

If, as a parent, you have at one time since their birth, or are currently using drugs or alcohol or are using cigarettes and coffee in large quantities (many times/day), these are going to have an effect on the raising of your child.  A person in recovery can expect that their children are going to go through a period of transitioning from the old you to the new you.  If you are currently using they are going to be dealing with your moods, behaviors and personality switches as a result of this.  This is something you as a parent need to own up to.  It is not a child’s fault if these things are happening.  They should not be blamed for your addictions.

If your child appears to have mental illness or mental retardation, there are organizations to support you as a parent and help guide you through this process.  There are also professionals who specialize in working with children who have special needs and who can assess and evaluate.  Your doctor can refer you to local resources or you can look online.

A child that has not been disciplined properly and consistently will give you problems throughout life.  A child that has been raised in a home with addictions or abuse will do the same.  Children do what they see and are raised with in their homes.

A healthy and happy family is one that is consciously raising their children in a house free from addictions, violence, curse words, and abusive talk.  This family has taken the time to consider having children prior to conception and has prepared a strategy for how they wish to do so.  They eat healthy, take meals together and there are rules and regulations as to what is appropriate behavior that will and will not be tolerated.  If you are adhering to a conscious family lifestyle you will raise children that behave properly, have respect for you and others and are successful in life.

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