Friday, January 29, 2010

Understanding Child Development

Throughout childhood, children go through developmental stages that contribute to some of the behaviors that parents often freak out about. When parents assume that misbehavior is coming from a place of disrespect, they have set themselves up to overreact to typical development issues. As a parent, an understanding of child development is invaluable; not only will it help you understand where your child's behavior may be coming from, it will also help you determine whether a behavior is normal at your child's age or whether something more is going on.

Often in response to typical developmental issues, many parents yell, spank, bribe, blame their own feelings on their children, try to make their kids feel bad, focus on what their children aren't doing right, and assume their kids have negative motives for their behavior. But how parents respond to a child's behavior will teach him lessons that will impact him for the rest of his life, and the lessons that will be taught by the preceding responses are most assuredly not the lessons I want my child to internalize and take with him throughout his life. The skills discussed in Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline-- composure, assertiveness, choices, encouragement, positive intent, empathy, and consequences-- teach integrity, respect, responsibility, self-control, cooperation, and compassion. These are absolutely the lessons I want my children to learn!

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to research and understand child development. I would also encourage parents to commit wholeheartedly to disciplining children in a loving, understanding, positive way. Yes, there are moments where it seems easier to punish. That's because it is easier to punish, to yell, to criticize, to spank, to lose control of yourself. Discipline is really about teaching, though, and that takes time, patience, and commitment. No, discipline is not easy, but we set ourselves and our children up for a lot of frustration if we convince ourselves that parenting is easy. I definitely do not want my children to be the products of the easy way out.

The final chapters of Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline discuss developmental stages and some common discipline problems. I will not review all this information here, but I encourage you to read it on your own if you are interested. I will wrap up my review of this book in my next post with a few final thoughts as we close out January.

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