I used to work with a large group of children, who seemed to be more aggressive than I anticipated. Over time, I realized that I needed to figure out why some children become aggressive, while some don’t, so I studied a second career: behavioral psychology. While my schooling definitely helped me figure out how discipline can shape a child, the main way I learned this lesson was as a mother.
Even if children are twins or siblings living under the same roof, with the same parents and the same circumstances, they each have a different brain. The way each child reacts is unique. Particularly when it comes to disciplining your kids, it’s important to consider the impact your punishment style can have on different personalities. But for any child, you need to remember the risks harsh punishment can have:
1. When you make things conditional, you subtract security
Punishments should never threaten your love for your child. “If you don’t listen to mom, I won’t be happy with you” could be confused as mom no longer loving you, in a kid’s mind. “If you keep screaming, I will leave you at the store” is equally frightening. Make sure punishments have a clear connection to the mistake they made and never made love conditional. Reassure your child that you love them, but because they are screaming, you need to leave without buying ice cream.
2. Incorrect punishment can stop your child’s progression
Help make sure your children feel they have a say in their punishments. Your child should feel like have some control in their lives, and aren’t just being bossed around. A controlling and harsh way of parenting can mean raising a child who either rebels against you or lives in fear of being yelled at for something they didn’t know was wrong.
As a parent, be clear in your house rules. If your child chooses to ride their bike in the street without asking, it isn’t fair for them to go without dinner. Instead, their punishment should be age appropriate and related to their mistake. Instead, take their bike away for a period of time and talk about how to stay safe while riding.
3. You harm your child
You may think punishments are “for the sake of the child,” but extreme measures can put emotional pressure on your kid. They may feel anxiety and apprehension which could develop into larger psychological issues. While your child shouldn’t be happy when being put in time out, it’s crucial they understand why they are being punished. Having clear discussions and always reassuring your child that you love them (even though you are upset) can help prevent these issues.
Again, it’s crucial to parent your children in the right way. If not, your child may become defiant, or submissive and insecure. Experts weigh in on how you can handle situations based on your child’s personality.
1. For your high energy child
Your first reaction may be to get angry and tell them to “stop it”, but Louis Lichtman, Ph.D, saysyou should do the opposite. Pull your child aside and calmly explain to him why he can’t continue running around (mom is trying to get out the door on time and we will be late if you decide to play tag instead of getting our shoes on). In the future, Lichtman suggest channeling your child’s energy by giving them time to run around before sitting quietly at church. Again it is very important your child understands why their behavior is upsetting and when it is appropriate to shout and jump, and when mom needs them to sit still.
2. For your child who hits
It’s not easy watching your child lash out with violence, no matter how old they are. Parenting coach Laurie A. Couture points outhow “Kids learn from imitation, so that will only make her more apt to act out physically in the future”, so never punish violence with violence. Instead, build your child’s empathy by comforting the victim together. Explain how hitting hurts other people and why we don’t hit. Ever. For the future, discuss other ways your child can channel their emotions so they don’t reach to violence to express themselves.
3. For your child who is never to blame
This is common in families with more than one child; someone spills flour all over the kitchen floor but your five-year-old insists it was the dog, not him and his younger sister. What do you do? Dr. Lichtman explains how you can’t tolerate lying (even if their excuses are hilarious) but it’s also important that your response is not harsh. “If a child thinks he’ll get screamed at whenever he does something wrong, then he becomes motivated to lie and keep things secret” says Lichtman. As a parent, take a breath, keep your composure and discuss how important it is to be honest, even when you may get in trouble.
You know your child best, so it’s important you adapt your parenting style to fit their personality and behavior. Learn your child’s love language so they feel your love, even when they have done something wrong. By catering your parenting style to your specific child’s needs, you will raising happy, healthy and successful adults.