Stress-Free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems

Stress-Free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems


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Many moments in parenting seem unavoidable. Your preschooler will throw fits. Your third-grader will try to get out of doing homework—even if it means lying. A budding tween will dish out insults. And a teenager will simply take off for who knows where. At each stage, they are trying to test your boundaries (and sometimes your patience). While this may be a natural part of growing up, that doesn’t mean any of these actions are acceptable or excusable. So what does a parent do?Stress-Free Discipline knows that the one-size-fits-all discipline methods many experts tout can actually be too narrow for some concerns. Instead, parents need to learn how to determine the root cause behind their child’s issue, which will then help explain what is driving the behavior, why it’s probably more normal than the parent realizes, how to prevent further escalations, and how to instill self-control. Once parents grasp the underlying motivation, they can select the strategy that fits their child's age, temperament, and issue—including role modeling, setting limits, positive reinforcement, negative consequences, disengagement—and deploy it calmly and with confidence. Complete with an arsenal of proven techniques, as well as examples and exercises throughout to help parents personalize to their own unique situation, Stress-Free Discipline is the one-stop resource that will prepare parents for any challenge from any stage. Don’t lead home without it!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814449097
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 750,041
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

SARA AU is a mom and a journalist specializing in parenting and health issues.

PETER L. STAVINOHA, PH.D., is a dad and a pediatric neuropsychologist in the Center for Pediatric Psychiatry at Children's Medical Center of Dallas and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Together, they are the authors of the popular book Stress-Free Potty Training.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction and Philosophy

Tantrums! Homework! Mealtime! Bedtime! And then there's the attitude starting. . . .

If you're parenting a child, you're under a lot of stress, and that stress is most pronounced when you're dealing with a behavioral problem. Kids are also under a lot more stress today, so it's no wonder that clashes are frequent and that common ­ground seems rare. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can use discipline to cultivate a positive relationship with your child and alleviate many behavioral issues.

Start by taking a moment to think about what the term discipline means to you. If you're like many people, you may interpret it as synonymous with punishment. Within the pages of Stress-Free Discipline, we'll broaden that interpretation.

Discipline is counseling, consoling, coaching, ignoring, practicing, praising, and sometimes punishing, according to the values of your family. Discipline is an investment in your child's future, not just the correction of the behavior in front of you at any given moment. Discipline is shaping your child's behavior toward the outcome you want. More than anything, discipline is education.

It's essential for you to understand that discipline is not simply punishment—that punishment is simply one method of discipline. This book offers a whole new repertoire of strategies on a par with punishment to put in your parenting arsenal, including positive reinforcement, role-modeling, and restitution. We will teach you to learn from each experience handling a behavioral situation with your child and to self-correct your approach. Additionally, you need to examine your own life choices, such as how busy you are, your time and resources, as well as your own relationships and self-care, to see how they fit in with your child's behavior.

Children need to feel loved by the person or persons parenting them and to know their value in the world. But love is not the same thing as permissiveness. Parental love means saying no to your child at times when it's in her best interest. Love is inextricably intertwined with discipline. Taken together, love and discipline form the most solid foundation for life that can be provided to a child.

Picture yourself as a gardener just starting to organize and cultivate an overgrown backyard. You first must make a plan for what you're going to plant and where you're going to plant it. You then have to start weeding, being careful to identify what is growing before you decide to pull it out or keep it. After that, you need to till the soil, turn it over with fertilizer, and, finally, plant the seeds. But planting is just the beginning. You've also got to water the garden and nurture its growth. And, of course, you have to keep feeding, watering, and monitoring your plants on a regular schedule.

We'll be doing all that with you as you learn how to tend the garden that is your family. Just as different plants need different kinds of care, soil, and sunlight, each of your children will need his or her own version of your discipline approach.

An understanding of your child's motivations will help you weed out some bad behaviors from his garden and till the soil for the new seeds. Being an attentive parent is like a regular watering schedule: It nourishes your child. Before long, seedlings will mature into young plants, stretching green leaves up into the sky to capture as much sunlight as possible and drilling roots to anchor themselves tightly to that which fortifies them. Love and discipline root your child deeply, so he grows straight and strong, and doesn't bow to negative influences later in life. Good disciplinary methods will help your child blossom and grow into a strong, healthy, thriving, beautiful individual.

Getting your child from where she is today to where you want her to be as an adult is what parenting is all about, so before we get into tips, tactics, and psychological insight, let's start with an affirmation for you:

Now, we authors are parents, too, and we know it's not that easy to hold onto a positive thought like this when you're in the thick of a difficult situation. Without a crystal ball, it's really hard to know if what you're doing is right, especially when every day seems to bring another problem. That's really the crux of why we wanted to write Stress-Free Discipline: to explain why kids behave the way they do and help you connect the context of those whys to your response to their behavior. Once you understand the why, you can figure out how to make some changes.

Positive behavior is a skill that all children have to acquire, just like potty training, learning how to pump their legs on the swings, and saying the alphabet. Children are not born knowing all the rules, boundaries, and manners of good behavior. They don't know how to peacefully resolve conflicts with siblings and peers, how to settle down for bed, or that certain words are off limits in our society. Those are things that have to be specifically taught, cultivated, and nurtured.

Stress-Free Discipline begins by explaining that behavior is communication. Part I consists of an explanation of the ABCs of behavior, which allow you to decode what your child is trying to tell you when he or she acts out. Whether you're about to embark on this leg of your parenting journey and are looking to smooth the path ahead, or if you're already down the road, wondering if you took a wrong turn, our 16 Universal Strategies will help you avoid or defuse difficult situations, stop the bad behavior, and forge a positive direction forward with your child.

Part II offers an in-depth look at some of the most common situations in which your child may exhibit behavioral challenges: tan­trums, homework, mealtime, bedtime, and attitudes. Complete with examples and even sample scripts you can use with your child, this section provides response tactics that align with the basic tenets of child development and help you handle every problem that arises in a calm, stress-free, confident manner.

Part III is all about proactive steps you can take to develop the kinds of positive characteristics in your child that will help her grow into a happy, productive, and fulfilled adult with whom you continue to have a loving relationship. From the essentials of a healthy social network to instilling a sense of resilience and grit, this discussion will benefit your entire family.

Finally, in Part IV, we'll take you through the kinds of red flags that may signal your child is under too much stress and that you might need to consider seeking professional help. There's no rhyme or reason to how any individual will respond to a particularly stressful situation, but we'll go through some common scenarios and give you guidance in making a decision.

By investing substantial time and strategic effort now, you can set positive habits and behaviors that show up naturally in your child when he is older. Discipline is very much a long-term process: It's never easy, and it can be exhausting to keep up with it all, but it pays off when you see the wonderful person your child is growing into with your guidance. Keeping a long-term perspective is key to removing the stress you may feel while parenting. Understanding the reasons behind your child's behavior, and being able to react appropriately, will further reduce strain. This is the Stress-Free Discipline philosophy.

Love is inextricably intertwined with discipline.

Behavior is communication.

Discipline is very much a long-term process.

Table of Contents


Introduction and Philosophy 1


Understand Discipline from the Inside Out

1 Decode Your Child's Behavior 9

Most Problem Behavior Is Normal 11

Develop Awareness of Influences That Lead to Bad (and Good) Behavior 19

Understand Your Child's Motives 23

Behavior = Communication 25

2 Apply Universal Strategies 30

Cultivate a Positive Relationship with a Time-In 32

Role-Model Good Behavior 34

Prioritize Your Absolutes 35

Give Good Directions 36

Enforce Limits and Roles 37

Redirect Your Child's Focus 39

Act Like a Coach 39

Hold Practice Sessions 41

Ignore the Problem Behavior 42

Disengage from Behavior Out of Your Control 44

Yell Sparingly 45

Praise Positive Behavior 46

Offer Positive Reinforcement or Rewards 49

Use Negative Consequences Through Punishment 50

Call a Time-Out 53

Insist on an Apology and Restitution 54


Dealing with Areas of Common Difficulty

3 Tantrums 59

Understand the Source of Tantrums by Age 60

Manage Contributing Factors 61

Deal with Tantrums 66

Use Coaching and Practice Session Strategies at the Grocery Store 69

Use Disengaging Strategy 72

Understand the Violent Tantrum 73

Reset a Negative Relationship 74

4 Homework 78

Understand Learning Styles 80

Instill a Motivation for Learning 81

Establish a Process for Working Independently 84

Use Positive Reinforcement 92

Effect of Negative Consequences 93

Avoid Unintended Consequences 95

Work with Your Gifted Child 98

5 Mealtime 101

Manage Mealtime Meltdowns 102

Establish a Mealtime Routine and Use Redirection 104

Institute Rules and Use Reinforcement and Restitution 107

Get Your Children to Eat New Foods 111

Develop Strategies for Eating Out at Restaurants 115

6 Bedtime 119

Your Child's Sleep Is Very Important 120

Use Universal Strategies for Bedtime 123

Contend with Childhood Nightmares 130

7 Attitude 134

Contend with Hot-Button Behaviors and Judgment Calls 135

Understand the Intent Behind Behaviors 139

Use Strategies for Battling Attitude Behaviors 142


Develop Positive Characteristics

8 Impact Your Child's Social Development and Peer Influence 153

Promote Positive Social Relationships with Peers 154

Manage Access to Peer Influencers 158

Combat Negative Peer-Group Behaviors 160

Use Strategies When Your Child Has Peer-Group Problems 163

Handle Sibling Rivalry 166

9 Instill Resilience and Grit in Your Child 170

Let Your Child Experience Failure 171

Grit Doesn't Mean Being as Tough as Nails 174

Have Confidence and Use Praise 175

Problem-Solve Like a Role Model 178

Store Up Reserves of Resilience for Challenging Times 179


Recognize Red Flags

10 Manage Situations That Increase Family Stress 185

Recognize the Symptoms of Stress 186

Maintain Normalcy 190

Separation or Divorce 191

Long-Distance Parenting 194

Illness 195

Financial Problems 198

Moving to a New Home or School 199

New Baby 201

11 Find Professional Help for Your Family 204

Determine Whom to Turn to for Help 206

How to Decide to Call a Professional 210

Recognize When a Behavior Is a Serious Concern 215

12 Conclusion 218

Index 223

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