Sarah Salomons’ hands are full with three young boys, ages 3, 6 and 7, but her West Hartford is controlled chaos. The keyword is controlled.
On a recent day, footballs were flying through the air and one boy stood up on the countertop, but Salomons stayed calm as she got the trio to behave.
Calm, behavioral psychologist Wendy Habelow said, is the key to effective disciplining.
Staying calm shows the child that you have respect for them, she said.
“If you get angry and you raise your voice sometimes what happens is the kids only hear the raised voice and they miss the very important message that you’re trying to communicate” Habelow said. That means no spanking, she adds.
Be consistent with rules and discipline Salomons said.
If young children are doing something dangerous, a quick and firm “no” is a must, said Habelow, who counsels young children as part of her work at Beacon Behavioral Services in Avon.
If a child is mature enough to understand, perhaps older than 2, explain that what they are doing is dangerous. As for the dreaded tantrum, her advice is to rule out hunger and being overtired or over stimulated first. Then, ignore it.
“Part of the reason for a tantrum is a toddler trying to get their parents attention, so if they ignore it, the child’s not getting the attention, and they realize this isn’t getting me what I want, so I might as well stop” Habelow says.
As for time outs, she says to keep them to just a minute or two, in a quiet, boring spot. A bedroom or crib can also be used.
When kids get older, it’s all about watching TV and playdates, which Salomons uses as leverage to get her boys to behave.
She also starts them off each week with an allowance of a dollar or two and subtracts a dime for bad behavior or failure to do a chore.
Habelow is fine with this, but reminds parents to not just “take away.”Give them a chance to earn back, which Salomons does.
And, Habelow says, teach responsibility. By expecting them to complete a task before they enjoy a privilege.
Most of all, ensure you are emotionally bonded with your children, Habelow recommends. She encourages parents to teach their children the language of feelings and never forget to tell them that you love them and that you like them.
Signs that your child might be having behavioral problems include failure to: get along in school, respond to adult and peer interaction or reach developmental milestones, Habelow said.
Children with emotional issues might also seem worried, clingy and push people away.