Learning to Discipline
When I had my kids, I decided that I wanted to discipline them without aggression, spanking, or guilt tactics. I honestly wasn’t totally sure I could do it but I’ve been doing my best. As a mom, you spend most of the time questioning your parenting, doubting your skills, and most of all: feeling guilty. Very rarely do we stop to celebrate our little wins.
I decided to write this blog post because I have gotten to spend so much time with my kids lately, thanks to Ramadan and just trying to be more intentional about spending time together. I realized recently that although I doubt myself a lot, I have kept my promise to myself about how I would and wouldn’t discipline them. At the same time, I also realize that I still have a lot of work to do and parenting is a daily learning experience. So I just wanted to share some of the tips that have helped me get through the past few years as well as some new skills I’m reading about and learning to try these days. I say all that to say, parenting is never perfect; but
Find a Discipline Mantra
It’s much easier to get frustrated with your kids than it is to stay level-headed around them. From the time they were babies until now, I have found that if I repeat my mantras to myself, I can stay calm and control my emotions better.
Mantra #1: “They didn’t choose to be here, I chose to have them.”
This mantra helps me put my kids behaviors and my reactions into perspective. This is a big scary world and the reality is, our children did not choose to be a part of it. We decided to bring them into it. So we are responsible for making their experience in the world as positive as possible.
Mantra #2: “They are not manipulating me, they are just kids expressing their emotions.”
It’s true, sometimes our kids do certain behaviors in order to get what they want. In adults, yes, that is manipulation. But in children, it’s them trying to figure out how to express themselves in a world where their voices are often small. During one of my prenatal visits, my doctor told me, “don’t listen to people who say if you pick your baby up, you will spoil them. There is no such thing as giving a baby too much love and affection.” I have carried that with me ever since and I try not to withhold love, but instead, share a lesson.
Mantra #3: “They are not mini adults, they are kids.”
Sometimes we expect adult behaviors from kids. Always assume your kids don’t know better, even when you feel like they do. Treat every interaction as a learning lesson.
Make space for big emotions
Sometimes kids act out because they are feeling emotions that they can’t express or manage. Even as adults, when we’re having a bad day, we can be irritable and mean. Why not give our kids the grace to do the same? Find out what they are feeling so you can deal with those big emotions.
Address the stress in you
When I am stressed, I know that I am more likely to get frustrated, angry and overwhelmed at my kids. Whether it is financial stress, workload stress, insecurity stress, or just a bad day, stress puts me on edge and I am less patient with my kids. This can also impact how I discipline them. I might yell instead of talking it out.
Find ways to address the stress factors in your life so that when you deal with your kids, you are able to come from a place of calm. For example, I’ve had to ask myself, “is this the best time to go back to school?” As much as I want to do it, I know it could have a big impact on my family because I would be stressed all the time. So I know it is best for me to wait until we are out of the early years of life before I explore that option for myself.
Talk to your kids
As a child of African immigrant parents who were constantly battling stress, “talking” to us kids was not an option! I think you have to develop the skills and have the time to do it. And there’s also the culture of respect that doesn’t encourage us to have dialogue with our children. But kids are curious; I know I was. And my kids, especially Diari, are extremely curious about the world and why we do things the way we do. I’ve been challenging myself to talk to them more, no matter how challenging it is because I recognize that that’s how they learn and participate in the world. So here are my key tips for talking it out:
- Explain the rules and why they exist
- Breakdown the consequences
- Answer their “why” questions – “because I said so” just isn’t enough
Learn your kids’ specific needs
Different kids need different things. And when it comes to discipline, they respond to different things as well. Diari is so emotional and needs her feelings heard and addressed while Fatima is more self-assured but very prone to tantrums because she wants her way. I realized that I couldn’t discipline the same way because they just don’t respond to the same thing. So keep in mind your kids tics, behaviors, and personality and meet them where they are.
Explore discipline resources
There are so many tools and resources online that can help you be whatever type of parent you want to be. Search for terms like [authoritative parenting], [gentle parenting], [Montessori], [praise and reward system / token economy system] and decide what works for you. From there, you can tailor these different tools and solutions to meet your family’s needs. Here are some links and Instagram pages that have helped me as well:
Child Development: Milestones and Parenting Tips
How to Discipline Your Child in Public
Discipline without guilt
Most importantly, don’t judge and don’t feel guilty! Parenting is a journey and it’s difficult; just do your very best and what works for your family. Do your best to raise good humans and take a moment to celebrate your efforts.