There are several steps to peaceful guidance of small children.
1. It is important to work hard at connection with these children during happy and joyful times. Connection that is built up over time, and connection that is built in the moment of crisis are both needed.
2. It is important to attempt to guide from a place of understanding of developmental stages. Many parents try to guide from emotion (ie, anger, yelling) or guide from a place of reasoning and extra explanations and such so the child will essentially agree with them regarding discipline and the action taken by the parent. Neither is effective. Guidance from place of developmental understanding and other tools are necessary.
3. It helps to be working on yourself, and also to understand your own family culture. Try this back post for help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/what-kind-of-family-are-you/
4. Boundaries are important! Children need to learn how to function in society. What are the boundaries in your home? What are the rules? It should not be all willy-nilly! It matters what boundaries you set, so think about them and set them in confidence and love!
5. The needs of ALL the family members matter! The rhythm of your day, bedtimes, mealtimes, etc have to work for EVERYONE. You are the designer of your family life and if something is NOT working, you must change it!
This is a brief summary of gentle discipline techniques according to age, up through age 8. These are not all-inclusive lists, but just some things to get you started and thinking!
Children ages 1 -2: Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, limited words, singing and verses and movement instead, avoid DIRECT commands because they will turn around and run the other way! Don’t be afraid to pick your child up and move them. Shape the environment – don’t put all the toys out, etc. Rest is important! Getting the energy out is important!
Children aged 2: Keep out of the home excursions very limited and simple. Simple words (remember a child of 18 months is about at the “coat-hat-out” phase so a 2 year old is not too far ahead of this! Do not provide choices about big things, esp at 2 and a half – they have a really hard time choosing and are likely to dissolve into a puddle of tears. Have confidence, find your rhythm. Do not expect two years to share! Shape the environment. Use imagination and fantasy for daily tasks, for changing activities. Sideways, sideways, sideways instead of direct head on commands and demands. Rest is important.
Children ages 3 and 4: Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, limited words and explanation, singing and verses and movement instead. Let some of the behaviors go and ignore instead of trying to address every single thing.
Children ages 5 and 6: Connection, nursing, distraction, rhythm, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, limited words but more pointed phrases regarding behavior, verses, this is a time when children say things like “You’re not the boss of me!” “no I won’t do that!” “Make me do that!” Calm down, and don’t respond in an angry manner. You are the one shaping the situation, not them. Be calm!
Children ages 7 and 8: Connection, enough rest, enough outside time to get energy out, simple explanations, distraction still works to a limited extent. 7 year olds have a really, really hard time stopping to do what they are doing to do what you asked, so you can warn them in advance if that helps, and give them TIME to complete a task.
Peaceful days in March and many blessings,