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Actionable Strategies to Support Parents and Caregivers in Positive Discipline and Preventing Abuse

April 26, 2022

Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, the region’s leading resource to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families, recognizes the important role parents and caregivers play in modeling appropriate behavior and supporting children in their emotional development. This April, during Child Abuse Prevention Month, the center is providing actionable strategies to support parents in managing their own emotions, practicing positive discipline and preventing potential harm.

Many parents and caregivers wish they could be calmer when managing their children’s misbehavior. Not only does remaining calm make discipline more effective, but it can also help prevent abuse. Positive discipline, which includes responding in ways to improve connection and increase appropriate behaviors, is an important part of helping manage a child’s behavior while promoting healthy development.

“Parenting is both rewarding and challenging. At Dee Norton, we know that healthy families are key to the prevention of abuse, and we want to be able to provide parents and caregivers with strategies to address their feelings and frustrations before responding to their children.  Everyone, especially parents in their ever-demanding roles, wishes they could have more patience,” says Beverly Hutchison, Executive Director at Dee Norton. “In the moment, it may be hard to both manage frustrations and respond to a child in the best way. By taking an extra minute to cool off, we can approach discipline in a healthy and positive manner.”

To support parents and caregivers, Dee Norton has compiled actionable steps to help manage frustrations while also providing positive discipline:

  • Identify Your Triggers as a Parent. Recognize when you are more likely to lose your patience. What time of day is it? Who are you with? Where is it most likely to happen? By understanding these triggers and potentially writing them down, you can develop a plan to manage them.
  • Take a Minute to Assess your Feelings. Before you communicate with your child, take some time to think about how you are feeling. Collecting your thoughts and feelings will help you figure out the best way to proceed instead of acting on impulse.
  • Set Aside Time for Self-Care. Often parents put themselves on the back burner until they are burned out and exhausted. Taking time and do activities that you enjoy to recharge is important. If you know a situation is triggering or, in the moment you recognize you are feeling frustrated, take five deep breaths to calm and center yourself, so that you can choose a parenting strategy that aligns with your values.
  • Plan 1-on-1 Time. Put time aside each day to give your child your full attention. Every child needs connection with the adults in their life. Challenging behaviors are often escalated when children are missing this uninterrupted personal attention. Let your child take the lead on what you do together and offer praise and support. Put away your phone and be fully present – even 5 minutes of undivided attention can make a difference.
  • Praise the Positives. Instead of only focusing and drawing attention to bad behaviors, verbally acknowledge when your child does something good. Model the behavior you expect and communicate how you want them to act instead of how you don’t want them to act. Setting realistic age-appropriate expectations for their behavior will help reshape both your mindset and your child’s mindset to be more positive.
  • Use Calm Consequences. Research has proven that spanking and other physical disciplines are not effective at managing behavior in the long term and can have negative effects on children. Thankfully, there are other methods of discipline that are more effective. When you want a change in behavior, calmly communicate the expectation. If they stop on their own, offer praise and positive feedback. If needed, consider redirection, offering alternative choices, losing privileges such as a phone or favorite toy, taking a time out or modeling the positive behavior you desire.
  • Give Yourself Credit. Parenting can be an exhausting and challenging role. Remember to put time aside to praise your own behaviors and patience and recognize the incredible job you are doing raising your child.

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