I can’t just post about being a no-spanking family and not follow up with a list of alternatives, right? Since eliminating spanking from our behavior-correcting actions, I’ve added a few new things. One of the things you need to consider when choosing discipline strategies for your child is the reason behind the offensive action. Is your child tired? Hungry? Was this deliberate? Does your child just need attention? Is there a sensory overload and your child needs a space to process things in? For a behavior to be corrected, you must immediately respond to it, be consistent in your response, and follow through.
Sometimes, you need to sternly tell your child that whatever he did was NOT acceptable, and then immediately put him down for a nap. Other times, you may need to let him know that it was not acceptable, but then hurry up and get some food in him because his low blood sugar is making it more difficult for him to be in control of himself.
Many times for young children, a sensory activity can help them calm down. The key is teaching your toddler to seek out the sensory activity before they begin acting out. At first, my daughter would act out so that she COULD get to play in the rice box. I had to teach her that the rice box was to help her stay calm and behave, not to reward her for bad behavior. She still had to have a time out. Once she understood the correlation though, she would ask to play in the rice box when she was getting frustrated but before she would act out. Success!
Here are some sensory based activity ideas to help provide a therapeutic way to teach self control, respect, and emotional processing:
1) Use words to identify emotions when your child is frustrated, sad, mad, tired, etc.. You will be surprised when your 2-year-old is able to say “mommy, I feel mad inside!” after you tell her to pick up her toys.
2) Rice box. Fill a shoe box or other container with some rice, an assortment of beads, or other small objects. Allow your child to play with his hands, cups, and spoons in the rice box. It allows for a sensory experience that creates calmer brain waves and a refocusing on oneself.
3) Drawing or writing. Depending on your child’s age, expressing himself or working through his feelings prior to an incident or following a time out can be very beneficial. You don’t need to instruct–just give him or her the materials. Your child will process spatially and through colors/lines what he or she needs to process.
4) Physical activity. Sometimes, there is nothing better than to focus your child’s physical activity. Running around the house, jumping up and down 20 times, or throwing a ball and running after it for 5 minutes can be all you need to restore order to your home.
It’s a good idea to always follow up an activity such as those listed above with a debriefing session. You don’t need to be in depth–a simple “next time you are frustrated because your brother wouldn’t move out of your way, tell me, and you can go jump up and down 20 times instead of hitting him. We never hit, and that is not acceptable” is generally effective. Always focus back on empathy, so your child will develop a sense of value towards others!
ParamedicMama lives in Upstate, NY with her husband and two beautiful children. She has her B.S. in Psychology and Therapeutic Recreation, and various certifications in everything from technical rope rescue to Music Together. Aside from being a Paramedic Mama, she is the author of http://LifeMoreSimply.blogspot.com and distributes natural weight loss and health products at http://BodyMoreSimply.itworks.net.