Time outs, Punishments and Rewards not Working?
Are these tactics not working with your child? Let me guess: Is your child strong willed and sensitive, but also intelligent, creative and funny?
If you are struggling with a spirited child, read on.
👉 I appreciate the effort and different approaches you are trying. It can be frustrating when you are putting in a lot of effort in and it isn’t paying off. You want to help your child learn and you want to do a good job as a parent. You’ve tried a number of things to get your child to do what they need to do, but it isn’t working and frankly you are becoming exhausted.
I’ve worked with children like this. My son was the same way too. I had to learn a different way of approaching them. The punishment/reward stuff just didn’t work. Here are two reasons it didn’t work.
1. Punishment (and reward) can create disconnection. It creates separation through judgment. And sometimes it creates separation through physical separation (i.e timeouts). These sensitive children often really value connection. Threatening this connection can further cause anxiety and worry within the child. Spirited children don’t react well when they feel further threatened and anxious.
2. Punishments and rewards are attempt to control someone. But these children are smart, and they see through this. They resist being controlled because they don’t like how that feels. Strong willed children resist pressure from the outside, especially if the message is to “conform”. They want autonomy/independence too and ultimately want to be directed from within. THEY want to understand what is going on, and they want to make decisions too.
This is all actually pretty healthy and will serve these children really well into the future if their spirit is not crushed. However parenting these children can be challenging to deal with.
Do you understand what I am talking about? Strong willed children often have strong willed parents you know… 😄 Have you felt what it feels like when someone judges you, dangles a carrot for you, controls you or tries to make you do something, especially if you think their reasons aren’t good or you feel they just want control you?
There is a kind of person that values connection and autonomy above all else. Children are like this too, but it’s hard to see when we are the parent, because we just want things to be easy.
I expect that if you keep trying to make your strong willed child do things by motivating them from the outside without meeting their important needs of connection and autonomy, you will keep banging your head against the wall. She will continue to negatively react to your attempts at trying to control, whether punishment or reward.
It doesn’t mean you can’t teach your child how to behave prosocially and give them responsibility, but you have to provide the child what they need if they are going to trust you and listen to you. It’s through teaching and empowering (not leveraging) that these children will respond the best. Your spirited child wants to work with you. She wants to feel part of the team.
It’s a tough balance to provide both the connection and autonomy. If you are a parent that likes to be in control and likes to have children listen and be calm, then dealing with a strong willed child will be difficult for you…which may make it hard to meet his or her need for connection. An exhausted and overwhelmed parent doesn’t always feel like she wants to be close to the child. It can be a bit of a conundrum.
But once you find the sweet spot, your lives will be much more peaceful.
Don’t worry, you can give your child what they need and still have influence. In fact, you will have more influence this way. Do this by: connecting regularly, seeking to understand, actively listening, validating, collaborating, giving choice, having routines, having a few limits/rules that make sense to them and then being consistent about them.
And last but not least, lead by example. We must act in a calm, positive and fair way ourselves, Consistently. Day in and Day out. Children learn to regulate through the parent. Regulate your nervous system if you want your child to regulate hers.
The idea is to work WITH the strong willed child, not against him/her…to be patient and positive as they learn to navigate the world in a prosocial way.
Did you find this useful, let me know. Drop a comment below.
❤️ With love and respect,