Gentle Discipline for the Older Child
Part of disciplining a child is about setting boundaries and also about contributing to the healthy development of your child’s character and value system. As your child gets older and starts to assert his character, you may need to have some patience in order to adequately address disciplining situations. Remember every word or action you communicate to your son or daughter has a distinct impact on their perception of you and your relationship. Your words and actions also influence the character development of your child. Disciplining without a doubt is a serious and important part of your childrearing responsibilities.
Gentle discipline advocates emphasize patience, firmness and consistency and do not condone physical punishment since the goal is to teach reason, boundaries and sound judgment and to discourage violence.
When your older child misbehaves it is suggested that you acknowledge his growing ability to talk and express his feelings. Perhaps a calm discussion about the problem or behavior in question is the best way of getting at the problem. If both of you are not calm, delay the discussion until you are calm. Then try again. When children feel they’re being heard and understood they’re more inclined to follow expectations in the future.
Sometimes older children just need to better understand why a rule is put in place. Take the time to explain why a certain rule was made and discuss the potential dangers or implications of behavior that violates that rule.
Be consistent in the way you discipline and make sure the penalty fits the digression. If kids think they are being treated unfairly they’ll likely rebel and take no new lessons away from the disciplining experience. Consistency and fairness are very important to older children.
Pick your battles. Many older children and teens will try to push their boundaries as part of their “biology” and their desire to be their own person, separate and distinct form Mom or Dad. Boundary pushing can be frequent or infrequent. Depending on your child and the degree of the violation, you may want to pick your battles. If you are constantly disciplining your teen you may eventually lose effectiveness or even a decent relationship with this child. Allow your child some elbow-room on things that aren’t critical to their health and safety. When it comes time for you to want to negotiate on an issue (e.g., you may not want your child to go to a certain place or friend’s house) perhaps you will negotiate better if you have previously made allowances in earlier situations.
Don’t threaten to give up on your child. Many parents of older children will say this and if we believe that we are helping to build character and confidence in our children these kinds of threats are not helpful. Your child should never think that you would for one second give up or withdraw your love or protection.
Be positive, listen to your children, set reasonable boundaries that are clearly explained and be consistent in the way you respond to behavioral issues. Your child is paying attention to your response and may even repeat your disciplinary actions when he has a child of his own. With that in mind don’t respond in a way that you wouldn’t want repeated. The easy response is to yell or lash out. The harder response is to discipline with respect for the child and with authority that can’t be mistaken. Raising and disciplining older children isn’t an art or science, but it is a responsibility that takes patience and love.