5 Alternative and Effective Disciplinary Techniques

As a nanny or non-parental figure in a child’s life, how do you exercise authority and disciplinary actions without overstepping your bounds? Read below to learn about some alternative and effective disciplinary techniques which can be used for children of all ages.

As a nanny or non-parental figure in a child’s life, how do you exercise authority and disciplinary actions without overstepping your bounds? Read below to learn about some alternative and effective disciplinary techniques which can be used for children of all ages.

1. Removing immediate fun (young children-6>)

The most effective way to grab a young child’s attention is to stop all fun for the moment, in the moment.

Say you are a babysitter and the children you are watching are not used to hearing your voice. Not only are they not used to hearing your voice but they are most certainly not used to the different tone. Because of this, it is easy for them to tune you out. You could now find yourself in one of two positions. 1) You find yourself with the upper hand because you are different. You are the cool, new thing, they want to please you and will do all you ask. 2) You find yourself at a disadvantage because they don’t know you. They don’t have an earned trust or respect for you and they certainly do not want to listen to you. The former would of course be preferred. But you now find yourself with the latter. So what do you do?

I have found a very effective way of gaining attention and listening ears, is to remove other competing distractions.

For example: If your child is not responding to your request to start getting ready for bed, it may be possible that they do not hear you. The TV is on and you have a different tone than the normal voice they are use to hearing. They are oblivious. A perfect way to aquire their attention would be to turn off the TV. This may be a startling move, but an effective one. Once you state your request and give direction, it will then be your prerogative whether or not you allow more television. The goal is to have their attention and let them know you are serious. You want them to be listening when you are speaking to them.

2. Time out/ Break

Sometimes children need  time to recoup and get their heads about them.

The ‘witching’ hours from 5 pm-7 pm are the prime hours when breaks will need to be taken.  It is, however, very important to recognize that your child has had a full day of listening and trying to obey under their belt. Giving your child a chance or more than you usually would, may be a good idea at this time. There are those times though, when you just cant let it slide. Your oldest has pushed her little sister over one too many times. Though you know you should probably enforce your boundary line, you find yourself wondering if you should discipline her. It’s late, she isn’t trying to be mean or rough and lets face it, you have had a long day yourself. But it is so important that after the correct amount of warnings, redirecting and talking, that action is taken.

This would be the time to tell your oldest she needs to sit down. A break (time=age) will hopefully be just what she needs to show her that you are serious about your set boundaries. This break lets her know that her actions were not okay and she needs to listen to you. It is more likely than not that she will respond to this time out. Once she is ‘let off’, she will dart to a new toy that has caught her attention and offers less drama.

3. Slap on hand/ Eye to eye

Eye contact is important when trying to keep the complete attention of your child. 

For me, the use of a slap on the hand is reserved for extremely important and urgent issues. This is the last ditch effort to get your child to understand that you are serious. To make it clear that what you are asking of them is serious, before you perform the ‘insistent move’. Ill explain.

You are in the grocery store with your 2 1/2 year old boy. He is safely sitting in the top portion of the cart while you are shopping. He sees a candy bar that he REALLLY wants. You politely explain that he will not be getting it today but he could have a comparable snack if he would like. This sets him off. What starts out as a somewhat quiet whine, quickly turns into a louder whine and eventually scream. This situation needs to be controlled. Now he is already sitting and you are in a store, so the ‘break’ idea is not going to work. You would really rather stay in the story to grab the last few items if you could, so you implement the ‘slap on the hand/eye to eye’. You take his little hand, get down at eye level and give a firm 1,2,3. This is followed with a soft but firm voice saying, “Stop”. You’ve now gotten his attention, taken control of the escalating situation and have an opportunity to talk to him. This provides the moment of turn around and moving forward. You have avoided carting a screaming and kicking child up and down the grocery aisle. You have completed your shopping adventure successfully! If the situation was not able to be solved with this step, then the next step would be to park the cart and take your child out of the store.

4. Removing future fun/privileges (school age children- 6+)

“If you do not complete your disciplinary writing assignment during recess today, you will miss tomorrow’s recess as well. This must be completed.”

This technique is teaching that there are consequences for every choice a child makes.

When children are young, under 6 years of age, they require ‘immediate discipline’. Once a child reaches the age of 6 years of age, they are now ready to learn more complicated lessons. One such lesson being: If you make a decision today, it may very well affect fun and events tomorrow.

For example: Displayed on your third grade classroom wall, there is a poster that states: CLASSROOM RULE #3 NO CHEATING. The children see this poster as they enter your classroom and you review classroom rules every morning. One day, you observe Johnny looking over Olivia’s shoulder during a History test. You continue watching for a few minutes. After a few minutes, you call Johnny over to your desk and confront him quietly about this behavior. He acknowledges his fault. You kindly remind him of the class rule and necessary subsequent consequence. You let him know you will not call his parents this time, but he must now finish the test next to your desk and will also be required to write a disciplinary assignment during recess.

He is learning that his actions have consequences, either good or bad. I say, when you are old enough to complete mathematical equations, you are most certainly old enough to assume responsibility for your behavior. 🙂

5. The ‘insistent’

“You do not have the final say, I do.”

I have told you to stop hitting, you continue. I have sent you to time out, told you to sit down and you get up. All my attempts in removing immediate fun to get your attention have failed. The last resort, a slap on the hand, did not do the trick. I am now left feeling defeated. I don’t want to spank my child, but what am I suppose to do now?

The ‘insistent move’ as I like to call it, is where you insist that your child obeys. Keep in mind that this is no way an aggressive or hurtful action. This is an insistent action.

For example: It’s now time to pack up and leave the park. You give your child ( 3 years old) one last go down the slide. Once you finish loading the diaper bag with the last of the picnic left overs, you look up and your child is still playing. One last call and you let her know you’re heading out now. She looks up, acknowledges your words, turns on her heels and scurries up the play set once more. Implementing the ‘insistent move’, you leave the stroller, climb onto the play set, and pick your child up. This is when you reiterate, “It’s time to go.” “I need you to use your listening ears and come please.” You have just pulled off the insistent move!

You insist.

Most insist scenarios come out of health or safety situations. This could look like your child holding your hand when you cross the street. This could be insisting that your child not open the gate leading to a fifteen stair drop. It could possibly be insisting that your child does not hit others. In either of these cases, it is important enough for you to step in, take action and implement authority for their good and their health.

There must be consistency, love and concern present here. If not, these techniques will not be nearly as effective.

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Giving the WHY

Teaching moments happen almost daily when you are on child duty, but some can be a little more necessary than others.

Teaching moments happen almost daily when you are on child duty, but some can be a little more necessary than others…

I was boarding the bus heading for our midweek outing to the children’s museum. The ride had begun with a few sips of milk, a lovely rendition of the wheels on the bus and a few ‘what’s that’s’?!’ directed at people close by. All of a sudden I felt a swat on my hand. Now I knew what my little one was TRYING to get across to me. “Please move because I want to put my hands there,” is what she meant to say (and I would have gladly done it). Because I knew this, and I know that we all need reminders sometimes, I reminded her that we do not hit and if we would like to put our hand where another’s are we say ‘Excuse me’. She nodded understandingly and said excuse me. I moved my hands and life was good. Not but a few minutes later, I felt another swat on my hand followed by another. I softly, but firmly took her little hands, came down to eye level to make sure my voice was heard and repeated, “we do not hit, if you want someone to move we use our words” (Remembering that the less words we all use in correction and redirection with our little ones the better, I left it at that).

I knew that at this point, she was testing out the waters of ‘well, what are you going to do about it’ pool. Every child does. For some it may be more around 1 or 2 years of age and for others you may see a huge display of this when they hit their teen years, but either way it does need to be addressed. You see, our children (as we did) need a reason WHY not to do something that you kindly request or require they not do, not just a no or please don’t. Can I get an amen from anyone who has ever tried to just talk a kid out of not grabbing that cookie off the counter? This was one of those times. The next time she attempted to swat at my hand I was ready, caught her little hand before it could reach mine and held it safely for one whole minute. I reassured her that she would have her hand back but if she was going to use it to hit then it needed to take a break. There is absolutely no hurting involved with this ‘why giving’ and there should be none. Providing the why should be affective and immediate not dragged out and painful. There are many some other forms of ‘why giving’ that could be given as well:

  • Because if you don’t, you will need to serve 2 minutes in break
  • Because if you don’t, we will not be enjoying any more chocolate milk
  • Because if you don’t, you will need to sit on my lap for the rest of the ride

Remember that the ‘why’ that you are giving must match the crime and their age. I will talk more on this later, but here is a good place to start.

When the time was up and her little hand could go free to either make the kind decision or unkind one. The choice was hers, but now she had the ‘why’.

We soon exited the bus, dug out a yummy snack from under the stroller and continued to the museum. There was not another incident of hitting.

Have you ever experienced a teaching moment with your little? I’d love to know how you handled it! Comment below!