Grandparents raising grandchildren: Part seven

How to discipline in a positive manner.

Even under the best situations, all children misbehave. Grandchildren living with grandparents may be experiencing extra stress and strong emotions and therefore may display challenging behaviors more often. Whether it is acting out, temper tantrums, talking back or all out defiance, as a grandparent raising your grandchild, having knowledge of some positive discipline techniques can make your life and your grandchild’s life a little easier.

Some key things to remember:

  • Children need boundaries and clear rules to help them feel secure and holding children accountable for their behavior is a part of healthy development.
  • Rules should be based on two things — safety and values. For example, holding an adult’s hand when crossing the street and washing your hands after using the bathroom.
  • Rules should be made together as a family. Getting the children to participate will help them feel like they have a say in how the family functions. Ask them what they think the rules should be to keep everyone safe and happy.

Michigan State University Extension has programs and resources related to helping parents and grandparents learn about positive discipline techniques. Here is a list of some to consider when developing family rules and consequences.

  • Reminders and warnings: Most of the time a reminder of the rules is enough to get children back on task. For example – use your indoor voice. If that doesn’t work, remind them of the consequences. For example –if you continue to yell and scream at your brother you will need to take a time out. 
  • Ignoring and re-directing. This is most effective for younger children like toddlers aged 2-3. Ignore annoying behaviors that are not harmful to the child, someone else or to something, for example, whining. Re-direct by moving the child to another activity and telling what you want them to do. Try paying more attention to the behaviors you do want to see.
  • Timeout. Think of time out as a temporary time to calm down for the child and you. It means removing the child from doing what they want to do. It can be used for behavior that is hurtful, like hitting or for behaviors that continue after repeated reminders and warnings are ignored. It should be in a boring place, in your view. It should never be in a closet, basement or other confined or locked areas. The amount of time out is based on a child’s age - a three-year-old, gets three minutes, and so on. After the timeout is over, don’t lecture, just move on.
  • Removal of a privilege. This works best when it relates to something they misused. For example – if they throw their truck, the truck is put away for a period of time such as an hour. It works for older children and teens. For example – if they are missing homework and getting bad grades, then there will be no video games until grades improve. Keep in mind that a privilege is something the child can live without like toys, television, video games, computers and cell phones. Never remove things related to the child’s basic needs such as water, food, shelter, clothes, toileting, bathing or attendance at school, for example.
  • Restitution. This means making right of a wrong. For example – if they break the neighbor’s window playing ball, they need to do chores to earn money to pay you back for replacing the window. If they are kicked off the bus for being rude to the bus driver, they need to write a note of apology to the bus driver.
  • Grounding. This is effective for older children, especially when misbehaviors are repeated in spite of using other positive discipline techniques. Start with the least amount of grounding time possible at first. Chances are, especially teens, are going to challenge authority and try the misbehavior again. Give yourself some room to respond to these typical challenges. So for example – if they miss their curfew once, they are grounded for a weekend. If they miss it twice, they are grounded for two weekends. The idea is to give them another chance to comply with the rules. It tells them you have confidence in their ability to remember to follow the family rules.

Most of these techniques may sound familiar to you as you probably used at least some while you were raising their parents. Sometimes it is nice to have a simple refresher. Think of them as tools to add to your toolbox for raising your grandchildren. Remember not every technique works for every child, every time. Most of all, get your grandchildren involved developing rules and considering appropriate consequences. Life is full of rules and consequences, so you are giving them some good problem-solving skills that will last a lifetime. 

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