We have all seen them. In a restaurant, doctor’s waiting room, the supermarket, and even in our own relative’s homes: out of control children…
We cringe at how they seem to have no respect for anyone or anything. We are horrified when we see them punch, kick, or verbally assault a parent. And we are shocked at how their parents do nothing and allow them to be destructive, rude, or aggressive. It’s easy to say you could never have a child like that. But the reality is that if you don’t act early, your child will more than likely also be out of control.
So ask yourself a few key questions: Who is in charge? Can you tolerate your child being angry with you when you set limits or discipline them? And are you afraid to discipline your child when they cross the line of acceptable behavior?
The first answer should be obvious. You must be in charge. You are the parent. Your son or daughter is the child. This is a very important concept and one that many parents do not fully appreciate. Children need to have limits set on their behavior. What’s more, they need to know that you are in control, and you are the one who has set and will enforce those limits with the help of any other caregivers in your child’s life.
How does this translate into your everyday parenting? It means being able to tolerate their protests and anger at your rules. Some parents are afraid that if they make their child unhappy, that they will not love them. And so they do everything they can to make the child happy and give in to all demands. They then become afraid to discipline them. Now who is in charge?
Discipline works when it is consistent among all caregivers, and not harsh. It is the consistency and not the severity that is effective. Children have very little self-control at this age and although they may not always act like it, they really want your help. On some level they understand that you must help them learn self control and will not let them “go wild”. They want parents to be strong. It makes them feel safe.
Here is an analogy that may help clarify this issue. In our society, we are not always happy with the decisions of our government and we may even stage a protest; however, most people still understand that we need laws to keep our society safe and will abide by the law even as they protest it. Your child is the same and really wants to be a member of their family and ultimately this society.
To successfully guide your child through the inevitable behavioral problems of the preschool years requires inner strength. Setting limits on a young child’s behavior is very important. You cannot begin this when the child is older, and most definitely not when they hit the teen years. You are the teacher of how your child will act in the world, what kind of person they will become, what type of citizen they will be and what kind of spouse or parent they will ultimately become. Remember — a wise teacher treats his or her students with respect but does not allow them to teach the class.