By Priscilla Dunstan, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
There are times when we need to shape our children’s behavior and by being aware of which discipline techniques work best for your child based on their dominant sense, you will be able to do so calmly and effectively.
Tactile children feel physical touch keenly. They will not respond simply to words, so use touch to help anchor them into the moment, enabling them to hear what you’re saying. This means sitting next to your tactile child and holding her hands, putting your hand on her shoulder, or sitting her on your knee as you talk about what behavior you wish to change. Keep your language simple, direct and without emotion. Tactile children are keen helpers, so the very fact that he has been unhelpful will be a big motivation for your child to do better next time. If tougher discipline is needed, withholding a cuddle for a short time will work wonders.
For the auditory child, a raised voice might seem like an ideal disciplinary tactic. In fact, it can have quite the opposite effect, as auditory children will be afraid of loud voices. Even a stern voice can cause the child to shut down and not hear a word you say. As an alternative, take him to a quiet area and talk about what you want. If you use a ‘timeout chair,’ consider making it a “talking chair,” where you calmly explain what behavior needs work. Auditory children respond best to clear and constant consequences, even more than most. Involve your auditory child in the discussion of what consequence is appropriate. Like most children, they will need reminders in learning how to behave — try to think of musical ways to correct, avoiding the cross voice. For example, a whistle when you need them to correct a chore, rather than calling their name.
Visual children can gain all sorts of information from a single look, so start practicing in the mirror. This subtle language will allow you to get the message across without having to publicly correct them. Avoiding a reprimand in front of others is very important, as visual children are very conscious of others’ opinions, and can become embarrassed easily. Star charts for tracking their improvement are the perfect motivator for the visual child, as is drawing pictures of the desired behavior, to be hung in an easy to see place such as on the fridge. As visual children are clothes-conscious, reinforce the behaviors appropriate to the clothes: quiet and contained for Sunday best, responsible and studious for the school uniform, running and playing for gym clothes.
Taste and smell children will tend to feel emotional at any sense of disappointment on your part, so it’s very important to moderate your response to improving behavior. Too strong a response will create nervousness in the child, which can become a vicious cycle. With Taste and smell children, behavior enhancement is more about building up confidence to follow what they know to be the right behavior path, rather than following the crowd. A taste and smell child will often behave badly when wanting to fit in. Since it is hard for the very young taste and smell child to initiate play with other children, sometimes it will seem the only friends he makes are a bad influence. Remember to pick your battles — sometimes a friend is more important than perfect behavior.
Discipline should always be done in a calm state and never when you yourself are angry or feeling overwhelmed. Remember you are aiming for improved behavior, not perfection; after all they are still learning.
Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.