When you’re angry with your child for misbehaving, you sometimes say things in the heat of the moment that hurt or belittle him. Take a look at these five common statements and ask yourself if you’ve ever uttered them.
The next time you want to discipline your kid, take a few moments to reflect on what you want to say, and avoid these harsh remarks, which will only add to his distress.
What not to say: “Why are you always so naughty!”
That’s a general criticism of your child, not just a criticism of his behaviour. It is severe disapproval of him as an individual, and suggests that you dislike everything about him, not just the misbehavior that triggered your remark.
What to say instead: “You are usually so well-behaved, so I’m so surprised you did that.”
If you start by emphasising that you feel positively towards your four-year-old in general, he’s more likely to listen to you the reprimand that follows in the second part of your comment.
What not to say: “Mummy won’t love you anymore.”
Your love for your child should not be conditional – and if he thinks it is, he’ll become even more unsettled.
A child becomes insecure and anxious if he thinks there is a real possibility that his parents’ love for him can be turned off so easily.
What to say instead: “I love you very much but I am annoyed with you for doing that.”
He needs to learn that you can love him and be disappointed or angry with him at the same time – the two feelings are not mutually exclusive.
A child who is emotionally secure eventually responds positively to parental discipline.
What not to say: “If you do that again, I am going to call the police to arrest you.”
There is no point in making a threat that you cannot carry out. Since the police are unlikely to arrest your kid for refusing to eat his dinner, he’ll soon learn that you don’t mean what you say and that you make empty threats.
What to say instead: “If you do that again, I will not let you watch your favourite DVD today.”
If you threaten him in advance with punishment for something he might do, and then you follow through with that punishment when he does what you warned him not to do, he’ll soon learn that his misbehaviour has direct consequences.
What not to say: “Why can’t you be like your sister?”
Unfavourable sibling comparisons are always divisive. Instead of encouraging your child to behave more appropriately, like his sister does, the comparison is more likely to build his resentment towards her without actually improving his behaviour at all.
What to say instead: “We all have much more fun together when you’re well-behaved.”
Giving a positive reason for changing his behaviour – one that he understands and that reminds him his actions affect everyone in the family – provides as an incentive.
When he realises the benefits, he’ll be more willing to improve his behaviour.
What not to say: “You wait till I tell your father.”
Punishments, as well as rewards, have a role to play in discipline. However, if you wait an entire day for your child to be reprimanded by his father, he’ll probably have forgotten all about the original incident by the time that happens.
What to say instead: “You deliberately misbehaved, so I am going to punish you right now.”
For any punishment to be effective, it needs to be carried out immediately or else he won’t grasp the connection between his behavior and your response. Keep punishments reasonable, fair, and instant.