Your child is growing up and the methods of discipline have to mature with them. From the ages of 6 to around 10 you child is beginning to develop a moral compass and make decisions based off what they should do rather than what they want to do, but only just. At this stage there will still be tantrums, and screaming, crying and gnashing of teeth, but once you’ve calmed down and dried your eyes you can focus on getting your child in line.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I’m not big on spanking. If you haven’t been able to discern that from my previous posts I’ll go ahead and put it in writing. I don’t like it and I think it’s a catch-all for people who lose their temper or can’t think of other options. So I will not be listing spanking on this post or any following as an effective punishment.
So now that physical punishment is off the table how do you handle a middling age child that just won’t behave? There are actually several tools at your disposal here and with the work that you’ve done up until this point hopefully you’ve already set some basic boundaries and shown the child that when you say no you mean it.
One of the most overlooked tools for children 6 and up is actually just telling them point blank that they have disappointed you. Many times a conversation with a father in a quiet place where he’s not yelling or screaming and neither is the child can be life changing. If you start with the words “I’m disappointed in you. Not because you did it, but because you knew better.” and build the conversation around that without attacking the child it can stick with them for years. Every kid wants to make their parents proud. Being told that a certain behavior does the opposite is huge to them.
Time out is still a viable option at this stage in life. Have the child sit in a corner, do scream at them or force them to sit, just tell them to sit and let them know they are not allowed to move or play. If they get up, or try to move or play, sit them back down and tell them firmly not to move until you say its okay. Afterwards have a conversation with them and explain why they received punishment and how to avoid it next time.
You kid has friends now and they want to go places. This is one of the new weapons in your arsenal: grounding. If your child doesn’t respond to time out or disappointing you move to grounding. You can ground them specifically from toys, tv, friends, play time outside, etc. The key here is to let them know why they are in trouble, and be firm in the punishment. Check on them often and ask if they intend to repeat the offense. Keep the time under control though. The first time you may only want to do a day, the second time maybe 3. Let the child know that every time they do the same thing you will add more time to the grounding.
Extra chores. Oh the man that invented extra chores is a genius. You are helping you child stay active and healthy while punishing them. This is the perfect punishment; children hate it, it keeps them active and gives you some spare time. Don’t go over the top, but if there is a chore you know they hate that’s the one to choose. Cleaning the bathroom is usually a good one, or scrubbing base board trim is excellent as well. Raking leaves or grass clippings will get them some fresh air and I’ve not met a kid yet that likes to vacuum.
For a little extra uumph you can check on the progress of the chore and tell them to do it again if it’s not satisfactory. This particular punishment works extremely well in conjunction with grounding. If you ground them and give them extra chores they want that much more to get off punishment.
The key at this stage in life is not so much the punishment to correct the behavior but cultivating a moral compass in the child. I say this because you want them to want to do good, not just because doing bad gets them punished but because it’s the right thing to do. Use punishment to your advantage here. Reward good behavior even if you have to force the behavior somewhat.
For instance if you are watching your son rake leaves and your elderly neighbor arrives home with groceries. Take the rake away and tell the child to go and help your neighbor in with her bags. When the kid is finished tell them to go inside and wash up for dinner and that you’ll finish the leaves for them. Then thank them for helping the elderly lady next door. Have them stop doing whatever they’re doing inside the house and help your wife with something she’s doing. Again thank them and release them from the remainder of the chore.
The idea is to plant the seed in their head that good deeds get rewarded while bad behavior gets punished. Use every chance you see as a teachable moment. Don’t always let them out of their punishment, but do so regularly enough that your kid wants to actually do good. They are not dogs to train with either punishment or reward. You need a healthy combination of both.
This will help you to set a strong foundation for the next stage in their lives; the preteen years.
Read Part 2 – Punishment: Babies Don’t Understand. Do They?
Read Part 3 – Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?
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