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How can we get her to act her age?

My eight-year-old daughter rarely gets into trouble at home, but when she does, she pitches a huge fit when we discipline her. How can we get her to act her age?

Positive Guidance

By the time children reach eight years of age, they have a good understanding of cause and effect – consequences for their actions. Children at this age can grasp when they are not acting appropriately and know that parents will act to correct inappropriate behavior. The key to getting your daughter to respond to discipline is positive guidance.

Positive discipline involves making her understand the cause and effect of the inappropriate behavior so that she can avoid repeating the behavior. Sounds too easy, right?

The good news is that your daughter rarely gets in trouble. Consequently, she probably cannot understand why she needs discipline on these rare occasions. Your job is to guide and make her understand why she will receive some form of discipline if she acts inappropriately.

It is imperative to maintain your composure and don’t let her see you upset. You are the adult and it is important that you guide and redirect her appropriately. Communicating with children is so important. The more you talk to your daughter and guide her, the better choices she will make and consequently avoid the inappropriate behavior. Children inherently want structure and guidance. Parents are the best ones to guide them through life.

Without knowing what action caused you to discipline your daughter, a generic example can be used to explain my points above. Say that your daughter is supposed to do her chores before she can go out and play. On the particular day, she decides to go and play first. When you attempt to discipline her, she “pitches a huge fit.” At eight years of age, a child can rationalize and say that she can do the chores after she plays. That sounds perfectly logical. However, the rule was to do the chores first and then play.

Remember, you are the adult and what you say goes. So if the rule is to do the chores first, then that’s the guidance to your child. To positively discipline (guide) your child to get back on track, communicate the consequence of not doing the chores first. Then stick by it. If you tell your child that he/she will lose computer privileges (consequence), if they don’t follow your guidance, then follow through with the consequence. It is hard because older children can give you a million reasons; stay strong and communicate.

I always support “catching children being good.” This means be quick to praise when you child does the right thing. Children want praise and will remember your words. Words are powerful and can help you guide your child thus setting him/her up for success.

Catherine Headrick
Adjunct Professor teaching Guidance of Young Children
Thomas Nelson Community College

Talk About Your Feelings

First, let me congratulate you on the fact your daughter behaves well most of the time- that is a huge accomplishment on both of your parts! Without knowing what specifically tends to trigger her outbursts, here are a few things to try. 1) Make sure her basic needs are met. When hungry or overtired, children have a difficult time maintaining their emotional stability. 2) Include her in a discussion of family rules and fair consequences for when they are broken. Post the rules and consequences in a highly visible place in the home. 3) Model the behavior you’d like to see in her. When you as the adult get upset, tell her “I’m feeling mad and I think I need to go take some deep breaths and calm down for a few minutes,” rather than yelling and screaming. Offer her the same opportunity to take some time to calm down when she is upset, suggesting that she color her feelings, punch a pillow, kick a ball in the backyard, or listen to some music in her room. This shows her it is okay to get upset, but there are appropriate choices to make when we need to let our anger out.

Lisa Lee, L.P.C., M.S.Ed.
School Counselor and VSCA 2012 Elementary School Counselor of the Year
Trantwood Elementary School
Virginia Beach

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