Conscious Discipline Series Part Two: How to Implement Conscious Discipline When Your Child Exhibits Hurtful Behavior

In part one of our two-part Conscious Discipline series, we focused on why traditional discipline is an ineffective tool for correcting hurtful behavior and promoting helpful behavior and how Conscious Discipline works in a more effective and caring way. Now, in part two, Celebree Learning Centers provides best practices for implementing Conscious Discipline when your child exhibits hurtful behavior.

Understand That Hurtful Behavior is a Cry for Attention; Provide Children Regular, Loving and Positive Attention

Children require the love and attention of their parents and caretakers—without it, they will seek out ways to force the attention of adults in their life, and this is often through exhibiting hurtful behavior. When children feel they are being given the attention they require, their desire to exhibit hurtful behavior decreases. Think of your child’s need for attention as a basket: when the basket is full, they will not actively seek more attention. When the basket is empty, children will look for ways to find attention, and those ways may often be hurtful.

When your child is an infant, they require extremely frequent attention through feeding, cuddling, changing and nurturing—all of which are basic needs. As your child gets older, the attention they require becomes more nuanced, and they begin to desire attention through acknowledgement and play. Take time out of each day to interact with your children in a way that is free from distractions—even ten minutes twice a day is enough to make a real impact in your child’s desire for attention. Establish rituals that reinforce the love you feel for your child, such as reading them a nightly story, singing songs while in the bathtub or going on daily walks together hand-in-hand. Physical touch is an important part of attention for children, and hugs, kisses, hand-holding, cuddling and other physical gestures of affection can have a major impact on whether a child feels they are receiving the attention they deserve.

Spend Time Each Day Teaching and Training Your Child

Discipline does not need to be punitive—in fact, the word discipline comes from a Latin word meaning “to teach.” Children want to learn how to behave, and they naturally want to please their parents. By spending time each day teaching your child about helpful and hurtful behavior, they will be empowered with the tools necessary to make appropriate decisions. Pointing out the helpful and hurtful behavior of others is a wonderful tool, as children learn by observing and mimicking the behavior of others. Be sure to also identify the “why” behind the behavior as either helpful or hurtful.

This also means that children learn by observing and mimicking your behavior, so regularly demonstrate helpful behaviors. If you demonstrate a hurtful behavior, apologize, identify the hurtful behavior and explain to them why the behavior was not appropriate and what to do next time. With reinforcement and time, children will begin to understand the differences between helpful and hurtful behavior, and actively seek ways to exhibit helpful behaviors.

Set Expectations and Enforce Limits

Children crave structure, and they need boundaries in their lives that are reasonable, enforced and understandable. While too many rules can limit independence, creativity and self-regulation, too few rules can encourage hurtful or even dangerous behavior. Set firm ground rules for your child and explain why these rules are in place. Remind your children that rules are in place not because you want to force them to behave, but because you love them and want them to exist in a safe and nurturing environment. Make sure to enforce rules consistently—enforcing rules haphazardly or inconsistently only teaches children that rules are made to be broken or manipulated. Discuss expectations for both them and you: this will create unity and support their emotional growth and connections.

Treat Hurtful Behavior as Learning Opportunities

Instead of seeing a child’s hurtful behavior as a willful desire to cause disorder or pain, see it as a child’s coping mechanism—they have not yet learned a helpful coping mechanism for dealing with a confusing or distressing situation, and therefore it is up to you to teach them how to effectively handle the situation. Give them an opportunity to distance themselves from a hurtful situation and teach them calming techniques to help them diffuse any negativity they feel: some great techniques are deep breaths, counting slowly to 10 or closing their eyes and visualizing themselves in a calm environment. Once they feel sufficiently calmed, ask your child to explain what happened and how they feel. Acknowledge their feelings and repeat them back to them. Ask them to explain why the behavior was hurtful—if they struggle with this, work with them to come to the correct conclusion. Then, collaborate with them to create an appropriate solution to the problem.

As children learn, they will be able to determine appropriate solutions for hurtful behaviors on their own. They will also feel more empowered to avoid hurtful behavior by using the new coping mechanisms you have taught them.

Choose a Learning Center That Reinforces Conscious Discipline Philosophies

Conscious Discipline is an effective teaching tool that allows children to become autonomous, capable of behavior management and conflict resolution. By choosing an educational center that reinforces these philosophies and techniques, you provide your child with a stable and consistent foundation of expectations. At Celebree Learning Centers, Conscious Discipline is at the forefront of our educator’s minds and is the only disciplinary technique our educators use. To learn more about the policies and philosophies of Celebree Learning Center, contact us today!