A child can not be expected to behave unless he is first instructed in proper behavior. Instruction should be simple and repetitive in infancy and toddlerhood, but then progresses in complexity and expectedness as the child developmentally matures. Frustration arises when a parent’s expectations of the child are above his ability to comply. With the older child, instructions and consequences for misbehavior should be crystal clear. This will strengthen your hand in the process and reduce the chances of exasperating your child.
Instruction must be:
- Simple and clear. A child cannot be expected to behave properly without first being instructed how to behave. When misbehavior occurs, ask yourself, “Have I been clear about my expectations to my child?”
- Age-appropriate. Instructions must be given in language clearly understandable to the child. The behavioral expectation must be achievable by the child at his or her level of development. For example, it would be unreasonable to expect an 18-month-old to sit still and quietly through a one hour church service. It, however, is reasonable to expect a 6-year-old to respectfully sit through a restaurant meal with his family.
- Expectant. Instruct your child (from toddler to teenager) with confidence and expectation. Your child’s perception of your exceptions of him or her with greatly influence their compliance. If she believes you are serious about the directive (willing to back it up with correction) and are confident that she can do it, she is much more likely to succeed! Be lovingly firm.
- Consistent. Instructions and rules must not change upon the whim of the parent. Consistency from a parent results in security within the child in knowing that he can relax and enjoy his freedoms within his known boundaries. Inconsistency causes frustration and anger within a child who eventually becomes exasperated in trying to please his parent.
- Within a Relationship. It has been said, “Rules without a Relationship lead to Rebellion.” All your instruction must come from a loving relationship with your child. Though this relationship will change as he or she matures, it must always be based upon your genuine concern for your child’s well-being.
The other three areas of the discipline process: