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Discipline can be your new Party Trick!

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There is nothing more frustrating in life than a demonic young wildling whose ears are purely used as ornaments. Teachers, parents, I am sure you can all relate. But what if I told you there are a few simple tricks that work better than any threat you have ever used? Your sanity has never seemed so close to reach!


When they’re acting up:


give them a do-over

“If I see two kids pushing in line, I might say, ‘Pao and Tommy, please make a different choice,'” says Michelle Mertes, a first-grade teacher in Wausau, WI. “Kids typically know what they’re doing wrong, and using this technique gives them the chance to change their choices and make me proud.” Which, she says, kids really want to do, despite their occasional in-your-face behaviour. “Seeing a disappointed adult is more powerful than being yelled at,” she says. If they don’t come up with a better choice, of course, then it’s time to take away a privilege, like the chance to sit next to a friend.

add a dollop of guilt

“If a kid is doing something ridiculous, look at her like you’re disgusted or make her feel a little guilty,” says Alison Frank, a kindergarten/first-grade teacher in Encinitas, CA. Let’s say your child is fondling every piece of fruit in the grocery. “It’s probably better to say ‘I hope you don’t have a cold coming on—now someone is going to buy that and your germs will be all over it,’ rather than ‘Don’t touch that.'” This gives her both a good reason to stop and a chance to think about how her action affects others.


Like a security guard tailing a shoplifter may deter the crime, sometimes just standing near a kid who is breaking the rules will curtail the behaviour—you may not even need to stop what you’re doing or say anything. Elaine Smith, a third-grade teacher in West Bloomfield, MI, says that while she’s teaching, she’ll simply drift over to where the kid is goofing around, and perhaps come up behind him and place her hands on his desk. The mom equivalent might be to make your presence known by peeking into your child’s room or lurking in the hallway or peering over his shoulder while you’re on the phone (and he’s doodling instead of doing homework). If he knows you’re onto him, he may stop.

get on your knees

Not to beg, but to look the child square in the eye. “Women tend to stand up when talking to kids, whereas men tend to kneel down and get eye-to-eye,” points out Nick Ferreira, a former teacher who is now an education adviser at Child Centre New York, a non-profit child and family support organisation in New York City. “Getting down to their level changes it from a huge scary interaction to a direct conversation,” he says.

When they’re not listening:

change “go” to “come”

Next time you find yourself desperately trying to get your child to do something (like sit down for dinner), try saying “Come with me to the table so you can sit down,” instead of “Go sit down at the table,” suggests Joan Rice, a third-grade teacher in South Milwaukee, WI, and co-author of What Kindergarten Teachers Know. “It almost immediately changes the tone from one of confrontation to one of cooperation,” she says. Plus, you can take him by the hand and move him where you want him.

When they’re not listening:

say their name first

“With kids who don’t listen the first time, say their name first and then what you want,” suggests Smith. “If you say ‘Make the bed, Suzie,’ she’s not going to hear anything before her name.” Standing nearby is also more effective than yelling across the room – it’s too easy to ignore you that way.

How to prevent misbehaving (as much as is humanly possible)

do a countdown to lift-off

Transitions (getting out the door, putting toys away before bathtime) are a bear for kids and adults. Boelts suggests a countdown. If you have to be out the door at 9:20, call clean-up time at 9:00. At 9:10, it’s pee and put-on-shoes time. At 9:15, everyone needs to have their coats on, etc. “You count backward with a schedule,” she says. That way, you’re sure to have allotted enough time, and the kids know what to expect.

Enjoy the last bit of the school holidays, the end of the year is in sight!

Discipline can be your new Party Trick!


Inge Liebenberg




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