December Discipline for Naughty Children
By Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE
During the holidays, many parents get their children to behave by saying "you better be good or Santa won't bring you toys!" Since it usually works, it's tempting to use this trick.
Aside from the fact that the holidays are the only time parents can use this response, parents want to avoid this approach because it violates a major parenting principle: "Just because a parenting tactic works in the short-run, it doesn't mean you should use it!"
If we take this idea to the extreme, we can see just how flawed this kind of thinking is. For example, "If I tape my child's mouth shut with duct tape, I can make him be quiet." Well, yes, that might work, but it's also disrespectful to the child, overly harsh and even borderline abusive!
Many common parenting practices fall into this category of "quick fixes that work in the short run but have a high risk factor of bringing on negative long-term problems." Bribes, rewards, threats, smacking, slapping, and spanking are just a few examples.
So parents have a choice to make --- and it's a choice that presents itself almost daily. Do I use a parenting tactic that will work the fastest, even if it is disrespectful or there is some risk of it backfiring later? Or do I invest some thought and effort into learning, choosing and using an approach that is respectful, works in the short run, and gets more effective long-term results?
The choice parents make shows whether they are a "Reactive" or "Proactive" parent. Generally speaking, reactive parents are more likely to do whatever comes to mind first or that "works" immediately. Proactive parents take the time to learn the most effective approaches (there are dozens), then choose from those options, to get even better long-term results.
If we run "The Santa Threat" through this decision-making filter, we see that it is just a quick fix. It might work at that moment --- or for about six weeks at the most --- but it is manipulative and it would be cruel to follow through with it. So parents are better off to resist this holiday temptation and use whatever discipline they normally would use in a similar situation.
Get more information from Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE, second-generation parent educator, president of Parent's Toolshop® Consulting, parenting expert to the media worldwide, and author of 100+ practical parenting resources, including the award-winning book, The Parent's Toolshop at: http://expert.parentstoolshop.com/.
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