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Let’s reach our inner child and imagine something. Imagine you have a job (if you do have a job, you can make this game easier and just imaging your job). Now let’s say your boss catches you doing something you aren’t supposed to do. You may have broke the rule intentionally or you may have done so unintentionally. Motive is irrelevant to this game. Your boss stares you down to make sure you comply or lectures you until you finally move to make fix the problem.
How does that make you feel?
Now imagine how your child feels when you correct him or her and do the same thing your “boss” just did. How do you think your child feels?
When you give your child, of any age, instruction or redirection, allow him to surrender with dignity.
What does that mean?
That means that when you give you correct your child, you don’t hover over him to make sure he does it. For example, you tell him to pick up his toys. You don’t then stand there and stare him down while he does so. You go off and do your own thing. Of course, you check on him. Once he has made progress, you thank him for what he has done thus far.
The same can be done with a baby. Say your baby is touching something he shouldn’t but isn’t dangerous. You tell him that is a no and then turn to do something else. Allow your child the chance to stop the behavior. Young babies (at least mine) seem very interested in doing a certain behavior over and over to see if what was no yesterday is still a no today. Toddlers are often the same way, but they aren’t as cute about it :). If I turn away from it, the child usually gives it up and move on to some other activity. Of course, if I turn away and the child continues anyway, then I continue on with the discipline.
There are other ways to allow your child to surrender with dignity. You tell him that is a no, then suggest something else for him to do. Then he can move on to the new activity as though the old one was of no interest anyway. If you have a baby, it is often a good idea to tell him that is a no and then simply remove him from that activity. You will especially want to physically remove the child if he is in a potentially dangerous situation.
Another way to allow a child to surrender with dignity is to tell him what he can do. When Brayden tried out spitting at the table, I told him he could not spit at the table but he could spit in the tub or outside. That has always been good enough for him, and he has actually never tried spitting in either of those places. But knowing he could seems to be enough for him to give it up at the table. There are many things toddlers seem to do in order to try to be independent. Take, for example, your toddler trying to work the surround sound system himself. You tell him that is a no and he is not allowed to touch those items. You tell him you know he is trying to take care of it himself, but if he needs something changed, he needs to ask a parent for help.
Allowing your child to surrender with dignity also means you don’t lecture him unnecessarily about the behavior once he has stopped it. Yes, there are times you will need to discuss the behavior assuming your child is old enough to benefit from such a conversation, but a lecture is not necessary following each action. The discussion will usually prove more beneficial to all if done when all parties are calm.
Sometimes you do need to use your “mommy glare.” Sometimes you need to supervise your instructions. Sometimes you simply can’t allow your child to surrender with complete dignity. But do it as much as possible. When you do need to interfere without allowing dignity, you can do your best to allow as much dignity as possible with the situation. Treat your child with respect and you will see wonderful results. Your child doesn’t want to be stared down any more than you want to.
For more on discipline, see this post: Tantrums and Discipline