by Madison Longchamp, MS, APC
Let’s talk about effective discipline. When our children are feeling big emotions, it can be hard to know how to help them. It becomes even more complicated when their behaviors aren’t acceptable, and we are trying to figure out how to discipline them.
Effective discipline is meant to teach your child something new, something that will keep them safe, and help them grow. It is also one of the best ways to show your child you love them! When your child is emotionally dysregulated, any discipline will be ineffective. They’re in survival mode.
Here are 3 Steps to Help Your Child Move from a Place of Disconnection and Dysregulation to a Place of Safety and Calm so they Can Learn What You are Trying to Teach Them
Step 1: Regulate
First, we must bring our child out of that fight/flight/freeze elevated state. This step requires us to have a whole lot of self-control and awareness. This means you must calm yourself and choose to connect with your child first, even if you feel like banishing your child to their room or taking away their iPad for a whole year! Recognize what your child may be feeling and let them know it is okay to feel those things, even if their actions are not okay. This moment is an opportunity for connection and teaching, but it will be lost if we are not in control of our own emotions.
Step 2: Relate
Next, we must let our child know we understand what’s going on and re-connect with them. To do this, lower your voice, get small, and communicate empathy and understanding to your kiddo. Give them words for what they may be feeling. This might be a good time to soothe your kiddo with a hug or by providing some other calming, physical contact. Once you have re-established the connection with your child and you both understand what’s going on, you can begin step 3.
Step 3: Reason
Now we get to set limits and help our child problem-solve. Let your child know what behaviors are not acceptable or safe and why. Then help them brainstorm alternatives for next time they feel this way. This will help your child become a better problem-solver and become more confident and self-assured over time. If needed, provide some logical consequences.
If we jump right into reasoning, our child will continue feeling disconnected and misunderstood and they won’t be able to learn from the experience, no matter how logical we think our lesson is. Taking a moment to connect with your child can strengthen your bond and create lasting change as your child is able to reflect, articulate, and learn.
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