Discipline Strategies to Use in the Heat of the Moment

February 10, 2021
Discipline Strategies to Use in the Heat of the Moment

This week’s tip is an answer to a question from one of our subscribers!

Q: What advice can I give parents around discipline in the heat of the moment? What are effective strategies they can use?

A: When children are out of control, there are some immediate actions parents can take.

1. Pause and reflect – Taking a moment can give parents the pause they need to respond to their child in a thoughtful and controlled manner instead of a reactive or impulsive one. In doing so, the parent is co-regulating with a dysregulated child and modeling their own self-regulation.
2. Connection is key – When parents are attuned to their child’s emotional state and make them feel seen, safe and supported, rather than fixated on their misbehavior, they are better able to diffuse big feelings. Connecting doesn’t mean that parents condone their child’s behavior or that they are giving in to the child, just that they are reliably present and able to weather the child’s emotional storm.
3. Label emotions – Helping children to name their emotions is the first step in understanding them. For example, parents can say “It’s frustrating when you can’t have what you want,” or, “I know it makes you feel sad when I have to go.”
4. Redirecting – For children under 2, it is often easier to move their attention from the source of their distress to another object of attention than to address or resolve the distress more directly.
5. Positive opposites – Every negative behavior has a positive opposite – an alternative and positive behavior. For example, instead of saying, “don’t jump on the couch,” a parent can say “please jump on the floor.”