(Editorís Note: The following is the second in a series of columns on parenting provided by the Dorchester Childrenís Center.)
Most parents are aware of how important discipline is to a childís development. Yet discipline does not occur in a vacuum. It occurs within the overall context of your relationship with your child. When that relationship is a good one, based on mutual respect and genuine caring, discipline is much easier and we have a greater influence on the decisions that our children make. But when the relationship is stressed and kids feel that the only time you even notice them is to say ìStop!î or ìDonít!î then they often misbehave out of frustration and resentment.
To help build or maintain a positive relationship with your child, make sure you build time into each day to have fun together. It can be as brief as ten minutes of horseplay on a busy day or a whole afternoon together on a weekend. Better yet, why not rent a Lear jet for the week and take the whole family on a tour of favorite roller coaster parks with unlimited money for souvenir spending and all the ice cream the kids want three times a day? (Sorry, my twelve-year-old son inspired that one. Our fault though, we taught him to dream big.) The key is to make sure to choose an activity that you both enjoy. And it doesnít have to be expensive. Whether it is a board game, sport, an outing, rough-housing, cooking together, or destroying an entire army of terrorist invaders (Iím thinking video game here and not real life, but suit yourself), make sure this is a time free from discipline and confrontation. Make it a time to just enjoy yourselves and each other. You may be surprised how a little daily play can pay great dividend in so many other areas of your relationship with your child.
Take a minute to think about something fun that you have done with each of your children. Remember the good feelings that you had while doing this thing together. Try to picture the joy on your childís face while the two of you played together and how good she must have felt inside knowing that you valued her company so highly. Now plan to spend at least ten minutes every day this week doing something fun together. On a sheet of paper, make two columns and label one side ìWhat did you do, and how did it go?î and label the next column ìHow can you improve the experience next time?î Use this sheet to record your experiences with your children.