What are some unique, effective ways to discipline a child?
Stop treating your kid like a child.
No, really. I’m serious.
Our son started talking early and one of his first tricks was to parrot what we said and how we said it. I know that it sounds cute — and it was in the beginning — but mostly it was maddening. We quickly realized that traditional parenting is really, really condescending.
Don’t believe me? Try this experiment with your significant other:
- Give seemingly arbitrary orders without any context or reasoning (“Don’t touch that.”)
- Ignore feedback (“Do you want to go to the park? No? Well, we’re going to the park anyway.”)
- Ask rhetorical questions in a passive-aggressive fashion (“Do big boys cry?”)
- Respond to frustration with more orders (“Stop pouting.”)
- Deny autonomy at every opportunity (“Let me do that for you. You’ll hurt yourself.”)
- Impose arbitrary punishments (“Keep that up, and I’m taking away your car keys.”)
Be serious about it, just as if you were talking to a child. If, after a week of this treatment, you and your significant other haven’t had at least one bitter argument, then you are either extremely lucky or already mired in a dysfunctional relationship.
So, how do you parent a child without treating them like a child? Here are some tricks that have worked for us:
Kids ask “Why?” so much because they genuinely want to learn. At some point, they stop asking, and it’s generally because we stop giving them real answers.
When a child questions your instructions, it’s a great opportunity to teach. When you explain the reasons and context behind a rule, you’re giving the child the tools to build their own moral framework, to fill in the blanks between the rules they know and the ones they don’t. This is fundamental to learning.
Offering an explanation is also a great opportunity for your own reflection. If you don’t have a good reason for a rule (“Stop making faces.”), it’s probably a crappy rule and you’re probably taking yourself too seriously.