By Samantha H. Gee
Modern parenthood is a complex world of decisions, choices and contradictions.
In these politically correct times, and with the nanny-state breathing over us, the way we bring up our children is no longer simply down to using our own judgement and common sense. Methods of disciplining children that have been used by generations in the past are no longer acceptable in our society and trendy new alternatives are now advocated in parenting magazines and television programmes.
In some respects, parents now have more guidance and advice than ever before. At the same time however, children's behaviour, certainly in schools and public places, has never been so bad. Manners and respect are words that too many children disregard completely and adults, particularly the elderly, are terrified of gangs of children that seem to hunt in packs on street corners and outside shops.
With smacking now frowned upon by the majority of people, the naughty step and "time-out" approaches that were once seen as the new watchwords in punishing bad behaviour, now becoming a little tired, and raising your voice simply believed to be a bad example that encourages children to simply shout back, what are we meant to do?
Positivity, we are led to believe, is the best way of parenting: ignore bad behaviour, do not rise or give any attention to naughtiness but instead praise the good things, encourage the child when they do something correctly and offer small rewards in recognition of tasks achieved, chores completed, or simply being good.
However, the "offer small rewards" angle is not as straightforward as it seems. Do not, we are instructed, use sweets or chocolate as rewards as this only leads to obesity and health problems in later life. Material items are definitely not to be used as rewards, as these lead to the child being spoiled, failing to appreciate the value of things and can cause competition amongst their friends. Offering an agreed time period, even as little as half an hour, of the child's preferred activity can be damaging if the child elects to play on their games console, watch television or use the family computer: this once again leads back to the obesity issue but in addition, looking at screens for too long has now be suggested as a cause of various behavioural difficulties.
The question therefore is, how does one reward children for being good? There are several "healthy" options - for example offering the child the opportunity to try a new activity or sport, one which as parents, you would be happy for them to do.
For a lot of parents though the answer is reward charts. Once seen as a simple visual aid to encourage children to brush their teeth or eat their vegetables, reward charts have come a long way and are now viewed as one of the most positive ways to encourage good behaviour.
Modern charts are a far cry from the plain piece of paper on the fridge with some gold stars on. Nowadays they come in all shapes and sizes, different colours and tokens and some have various themes - many based around popular children's characters. There is even one based online that encourages parents to set up a chart on the internet with their children, where they can choose the chart's colour and one of thirty token types. The site even has a mascot who interacts with the child by sending emails with words of support and encouragement. This ultimate reward chart for the twenty first century!
So, instead of worrying about how to get the best, or avoid getting the worst, out of your children, use your computer to find new alternatives. There are many sites out there dedicated to improving children's behaviour, you just have to look for them.
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