- By Rebbeca Huntley
Is there a healthier way to discipline?
• Finish your dinner and you can have dessert.
• Behave while I shop and you can choose a treat from the bakery.
• Feeling sad? Here, have a cookie.
Does rewarding good behavior with food and sweet treats help kids learn to behave? They behave........for the moment!
But treats and bribes only inspire good behavior for a little while. Kids learn that the reason to behave is to get a treat, NOT that the reason to behave is that it is the right thing to do. NOT that behaving is the right thing to do when I am on my own...and there is no one around to offer me a treat.
Treats and bribes need to get bigger and bigger over time. Treats start to lose their impact. The first time your child gets a doughnut because he behaved and let you shop through the grocery store. The next time he will expect a toy if he behaves at Target. If you refuse he may do the opposite of behaving and throw a fit in the toy aisle...knowing that you usually give him things to "help" him behave.
Food helps you feel good. Using food to distract your child at the store gives the message that your child gets food instead of attention from you when you are busy. Offering food when your child is sad or bored teaches him to eat whenever he feels bad.
Food is an important part of the Hispanic culture but childhood obesity and diabetes is on the rise. Let's save the love of food for special times with family and friends...and find other ways to encourage good behavior.
If treats don't work, what does? The research says that it is not the reward itself that makes a difference. It is the hug or smile or attention from the parent that urges the child to do their best. It may not feel like it on those difficult days, but kids really do want to please you. You can leave off the calories in the sweet treat (or the expense of the toy) and just show and tell your child how much you appreciate his efforts.
The word discipline means "to teach." Just repeating "What a good boy!" or "Good job!" can become meaningless, too. It may show love and attention, but to help a child learn to do the right thing it is important to give him information. Be specific with your praise: "You stayed close to me at the grocery store--that really helped me finish the shopping quickly." "Because you turned off the tv when I asked, we have extra time to read before you go to bed." "It was so smart of you to bring your toys in--now it's raining and they would have been ruined!"
Let treats be spontaneous surprises! We are not saying to NEVER give treats or to NEVER reward good behavior. Instead, keep the treats meaningful and special. : "You stayed close to me at the grocery store--that really helped me finish the shopping quickly. Let's buy dessert for dinner tonight." "It was so smart of you to bring your toys in--now it's raining and they would have been ruined! You are taking such good care of your toys, let's save up for a new toy when we go to Target."
Can you feel the difference? Your child will, too.