Do You Give Punishments or Teach Discipline?

Friday, October 10th, 2014

When we punish, we impose a penalty.  We attempt to stamp out undesired behavior.  The renowned behaviorist B.F. Skinner showed that when children are punished, they simply try another way.  They learn nothing except to try to avoid further punishment.  Too often, the punishment has no connection to the offending action.  When a lesson is not learned, it is more likely that the inappropriate behavior will continue.

 Discipline, on the other hand, is about teaching and instruction.  To be disciplined is to be able to follow a set of rules.  Discipline is instructive rather than punitive.  It teaches children to think critically about their own behavior and to understand that the same consequence, a logical reaction, will happen every time they commit a specific act. 

 As you consider if your method of teaching boundaries is effective, think about the following:

  • Are your boundaries focusing on what’s most important? Do you prioritize what you want to teach your children about behavior?  Boundaries are important as your children test their power in the world.  It is your responsibility to set boundaries that protect their health & safety and teach respect for people and property.  Anything else is less important.  Think about your rules.  Do they all fall within those categories or are they more about your own pet peeves? 
  • Do the consequences of inappropriate behavior make sense?  The consequences of behavior have to be consistent, predictable and make logical sense in order to teach a lesson.  If a child refuses to do homework, taking a favorite toy away makes no sense.  It does not teach the lesson that needs to be learned.  If you refuse to do homework, the consequence is that you have to show up at school without the work and take the zero.  Children who learn that lesson at a young age are more likely to integrate the notion that not meeting responsibilities has consequences in the world… and taking a zero when in the early grades will not impact college acceptance.  Better to learn it young.  Likewise, a child who throws a toy or hits a friend and is simply sent to his/her room learns more about isolation than about the real consequences of being unkind.  A child who throws a toy should not be allowed to play with that toy for a short period of time.  A child who hits a friend should have that playdate ended and told that you will try again another time. 
  • Do you spend the time talking about the inappropriate behavior calmly and with teaching in mind?  Yelling and barking may be intimidating and stop a behavior temporarily but they don’t teach much other than that it is acceptable to yell and bark when upset.  When you yell at children and they yell back or tend to yell at others, it is because that is what they have learned.  They learned that when people are upset, yelling is acceptable.  We know that children who were hit tend to grow up and use hitting as punishment.  Think about what you are trying to teach.  You aren’t trying to teach to yell or hit.  You are trying to teach that a behavior is not acceptable.  That requires explanation.  Young children do not have a grasp on cause and effect.  You have to explain that throwing blocks can hurt people or break things.  You have to explain that hitting hurts other people and we cannot hurt people.  Even when your children are teens, you will have to explain the rules for socializing, dating, driving and more.  

 We understand that we need to learn the rules of the road, but we become impatient with teaching the rules of being a good citizen, friend and family member.  We don’t want our bosses to yell at us, intimidate us or treat us like we are not deserving of respect for our feelings, but we too often do just that with children.  Teach and don’t punish.  Be consistent.  Be kind even when behavior is upsetting.  Make sure that consequences give lessons about the real world.  Getting out of the power struggle will be an example of handling upset and show, by your behavior, that rules simply need to be learned and are not a trigger for negative attention.

From – Cindy Terebush

Random Acts of Pride

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is a healthy self-esteem.  When children believe that they are capable, they are more willing to try new things.  They learn to believe in the possibility that they can succeed.  We do them a terrible disservice when we point out what is wrong more often than what is right.  A preschooler should not struggle with defeat.  Preschoolers should reach for a familiar feeling of success.   It is, however, human nature and a symptom of our adult preoccupation with the details that draw our attention to the negative.  We are so busy that we forget to catch the little moments – the random moments -  when our children do great things and praise them.  It is easy to congratulate your child when they put a piece of paper in your hand and say, “Look what I made.”  It is harder to find the random moments when they:

  • Wait nicely in line at the supermarket – This is not easy for anyone.  I know that I get impatient with the people and their price checks and their coupons.  Children have an even harder time waiting.  The frontal lobe of their brains are not fully developed and so they cannot resist impulse or stay still as long as an adult.  When they wait nicely, tell them!  Say, “You waited so patiently.  You should be proud.”
  • Choose their own clothes – It is highly likely that the clothes won’t match and aren’t quite right for the occasion but they chose.  The point is that they boldly chose and did not wait for you.  Tell them, “You should be proud that you picked your own outfit” instead of shaking your head and apologizing for the clashing colors all day long.
  • Make a keen observation – Children do say the most amazing things.  Just when you think they haven’t developed empathy yet, they tell you about a child who is upset.  They seem to be paying no attention and then add a tidbit to a conversation that stops everyone in their tracks.  Tell them how great it is when they notice something important that you missed. 
  • Entertain themselves – When you are parenting small children, it is always a relief when they spend some time entertaining themselves with a toy.  Amusing themselves and not requiring your participation is one of the first steps of independence.  Make note of it.  Tell them that they should be proud of how long the spent playing with that doll or building that building.
  • Walk into a building – Put that child who can walk down!  Leave a little extra time if you have to but for goodness sake, let that child walk!  Walking into school, the store or a friend’s house is a very grown up thing to do.  It is also one of your child’s first ways to feel separation from you.  Celebrate it with your child.  High fives all around!

 You may have noticed that in each scenario, the adult points out how proud the child should be about the action or behavior.  The Random Acts of Pride aren’t about us.  They are about instilling pride in your child.  Children need to integrate that feeling and will do so more readily when we make it about them.  They will feel good because you noticed them being well behaved or doing something praiseworthy.  That feeling has a name but they don’t naturally have the words for what they feel.  Commit Random Acts of Pride and help your children to identify that wonderful feeling that is a building block for positive self-image.    

- Cindy Maloff Terebush

100 Ways to Say “Good Job” or “Very Good”

Monday, August 4th, 2014

You’re on the right track now!
You’ve got it made.
That’s right!
That’s good.
I’m very proud of you.
You’re really working hard today
You are very good at that.
That’s coming along nicely.
I’m happy to see you working like that.
That’s much, much better!
Exactly right.
I’m proud of the way you worked today.
You’re doing that much better today.
You’ve just about got it.
That’s the best you’ve ever done.
You’re doing a good job.
Now you’ve figured it out.
That’s quite an improvement.
I knew you could do it.
Not bad.
Keep working on it.
You’re improving.
Now you have it!
You are learning fast.
Good for you!
Couldn’t have done it better myself.
Aren’t you proud of yourself?
One more time and you’ll have it.
You really make my job fun.
That’s the right way to do it.
You’re getting better every day.
You did it that time!
That’s not half bad.
Nice going.
You haven’t missed a thing!
That’s the way!
Keep up the good work.
Nothing can stop you now.
That’s the way to do it.
You’ve got your brain in gear today.
That’s better.
That was first class work.
That’s the best ever.
You’ve just about mastered it.
That’s better than ever.
Much better!
You must have been practicing.
You did that very well.
Nice going.
You’re really going to town.
That’s how to handle that.
Now that’s what I call a fine job.
That’s great.
Right on!
You’re really improving.
You’re doing beautifully!
Good remembering.
You’ve got that down pat.
You certainly did well today.
Keep it up!
Congratulations. You got it right!
You did a lot of work today.
Well look at you go.
That’s it.
I like knowing you.
I like that.
Way to go!
Now you have the hang of it.
You’re doing fine!
Good thinking.
You are really learning a lot.
Good going.
I’ve never seen anyone do it better.
Keep on trying.
You outdid yourself today!
Good for you!
I think you’ve got it now.
That’s a good (boy/girl).
Good job, (person’s name).
You figured that out fast.
You remembered!
That’s really nice.
That kind of work makes me happy.
It’s such a pleasure to teach when you work like that!
I think you’re doing the right thing

Tips for Surviving Summer with a Preschooler

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Preschool is out for summer!  Every June brings mixed emotions from parents of preschoolers.  Over the course of my career, I have seen parents excited for the weeks ahead with less “get up and go” obligations.  I have listened to parents bemoan the loss of a steady schedule.  Every year, at least one parent asks, “Do you have to take a break?  Now I have to figure out what to do every day.”   Mostly, parents look a bit lost as they refigure their daily schedules to include the kids or scramble to fit in all the summer fun even though they work.   Make the most of the weeks ahead by keeping your expectations realistic:

  • Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean your child will have mastered grocery store behavior.  If you struggled in the grocery store with your young children in April, you will also very likely struggle in July.  It is not a realistic expectation that most children under the age of 5 will be able to wait in the little cart seat while you do an hour of shopping.  If you shopped while the kids were at preschool, shift your time to evening or when you have someone to watch
  • Warm weather did not bring a longer attention span for days at the beach.  Expect to be up and down and all around when you go to beaches, lakes or other crowded summer destinations.  Before I had children, I could sit for hours and read.  When my children were young, I was happy to get through 2 pages at a time.  Know that lazy beach days won’t be so lazy for you until the kids get older.  Accepting their realistic attention spans will make your days less frustrating.
  • If you feel cranky from extreme heat, your children probably feel the same.   When it is 100 degrees and the kids start whining, it is time to simply go home.  The line for just one more ride in the amusement park won’t be worth it.  Be grateful we live in the era of all things air conditioned, go home and read a book together.
  • Separation anxiety isn’t restricted to the school year.  If your young child is going to a camp or activity with all new people, don’t be surprised if he/she is anxious.  Feeling confident in their usual school setting may not translate to feeling confident in every new setting.  Change is scary and rooms full of strangers are scary even for adults.  You may know that fun is ahead but your young child doesn’t.  Send the message that your child will be fine by saying goodbye and leaving just like you did (or should have done) on the first day of preschool.  Need more tips for dealing with separation anxiety?  See the link at the end of this article.

See more at:

Father’s Matter – How to build a relationship with your child

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

father's day pdfResearch shows that father involvement is a strong factor in building resiliency in your child.  Here is a great hands on resource for Dads on how to engage with your school aged child or teen.

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