AGES 5-8

Scenario 1.

Paul’s five-year-old, Matt, spills a cup of juice on the family computer.

Action 1. Paul slaps Matt and says, "Look what you what you did. Your ruined our computer! Do you know how long it took me to save up for it? And it’s for all of us. And now it’s broken! It’s so much money!"
Action 2. Paul says, "You’re so clumsy. Time out! Go to your room! I need to think of what I’m going to do with you now." Thoughts on punishment.
Action 3. Paul takes a deep breath and says, "Aaaah. I am so upset. I know you didn’t mean to do this. It was an accident. It could happen to any of us. I’ll take it to a repair place." Thoughts on being present not punitive.

Scenario 2.

Heidi’s child, George, is often running around and playing with a ball in the house. Heidi has told them not to many times before and then they break a very special vase.

Action 1. Heidi grabs the ball out of his hands and waves it in front of George’s face, saying, "Clean that up right now and just consider yourself lucky that I’m not going to hit you with this ball. That is exactly what would have happened to me." Thoughts on chances to change.
Action 2. Heidi says, "You know you’re not supposed to play with the ball inside the house! Now you’ve broken the vase that grandma gave us! Give me that ball. That’s it! You’ve played enough—now you can’t play with it at all. And you’re grounded for a month! You clean up this mess and then you’re going to bed without supper." Thoughts on discipline.
Action 3. : Heidi says, "I’m so upset. I’m sure you didn’t mean it, but we did have a rule. And you have broken something very special to me. I really need to breathe and take time to calm down and then we can talk. Let’s clean it up together now."

Scenario 3.

Sheila planned an evening out and is in a hurry. Her children are supposed to be babysat by her aunt, but Nina refuses to go and has a tantrum. Thoughts on tantrums.

Action 1. Sheila says, "You’ll do as I say and stop talking back! All of you, go and get into the car or you’ll get a spanking. I’m already late enough as it is."
Action 2. Sheila says, "Don’t be so selfish! You know I never get out! And your aunt will be so hurt if you don’t go. What would I tell her?"
Action 3. Sheila invites Nina to come and sit with her at the table for a minute to talk. Sheila hugs her and gently asks, "What’s going on, Nina? You usually like going to your auntie’s! I am surprised that you are so upset about going!" They have a conversation about Nina’s feelings.

Thoughts on punishment.

At COPA we encourage those caring for children to leave the path of punishment and shame and blame, and move toward a focus on learning opportunities.

As our children’s guides, we hope to help children take advantage of life’s many challenges to learn more about themselves and others.

A two-year-old who grabs another’s shovel can learn about sharing, taking turns, and thus learns more about their own needs and their peers’ than if they were punished, developing important awareness and life skills. In fact, at that stage of life, punishment is only negative with learning attached to it.

When a ten-year-old is bullying another child in the playground, keeping them indoors for lunch for a week teaches them nothing about what is wrong with their behaviour. They may feel badly, and embarrassed, but what have they learned about bullying, about their classmates, about healthy relations, about respecting others?

What learning is taking place? This is the question that we encourage adults caring for young people to ask.

Punishing children for mistakes that they make or information they don’t have or even skills they should not have developed yet builds a negative and even hostile environment. While helping them build their problem-solving skills and their ability to recognize and handle difficult situations is essential to nurturing children in a healthy way. Not only for their future, but in their lives, as young people, too.

Thoughts on being present not punitive.

Most of us were raised to think of punishment as normal, natural and even logical.

At COPA, we encourage stepping away from punishment and see that by being present—just by paying attention, being available and listening carefully—we can even avoid many situations that end up in conflict, or become problems or steer us toward punishment.

Thoughts on chances to change.

Parenting is so hard. Caring for children is so difficult. COPA believes strongly in learning, not judging, blaming or shaming—not just of children but of adults too.

We can work at being better at caring for our children, our grandchildren and children in our care. We can make mistakes, we can react, over-react, be angry, impatient, frightened, respond in ways we don’t feel proud of and still take steps to change.

Here are some simple ideas for things that can change our lives with children we care for:

  • Slow down
  • Take a breath
  • Keep breathing
  • Admit you were wrong
  • Ask for ideas for how to deal with the situation
  • Provide choices (younger children)
  • Come up with ideas together (older children)
  • Say you are sorry (and mean it)
  • Listen and let your child express themselves
  • Keep breathing
  • Be available

Order Problem-Solving Together: COPA's Tool for Empowerment

Thoughts on be discipline.

Definition / The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.

For example / She was too relaxed and didn’t discipline her children.

At COPA, we would like to think of parenting or caring for children as something different than training for obedience. In fact, a child who has been trained to obey authority is a child, and later an adult, that is more open to being abused.

People who abuse children—whether children or adults themselves—look for young people who are afraid of disobeying people in charge. Blind obedience can be dangerous.

At COPA, we would like to think of parenting as loving guidance. And this is often called "positive parenting". It involves aspects that are different from training, such as leaning in, listening, taking young peoples’ feelings seriously, modelling behaviour that we would like to see in them.

And helping our children develop tools for thinking about problems and finding positive and practical solutions is an essential skill in life, one that will be useful always, help them be more self-aware and build confidence.

Learning to work through difficult situations leaves children safer and better able to handle all kinds of challenges. Training them to do what we say because we say it, can mean the opposite.

We want to encourage our children to listen to and respect their own feelings—as we respect them and hope, too that others will respect ours.

In the moment: When facing a problem, leaning in to our children,and listening to empower can help them recognize and deal with situations that are difficult. The confidence they gain through this is character-building.

In general: Giving children time and space to express themselves, while learning how to problem-solve builds important life skills and builds a self-discipline that we all admire and is useful in life.

Thoughts on tantrums.

Definition / An uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, usually associated with a young child.

Example / "His child has temper tantrums when he can't get his own way."

It’s hard to imagine that anyone that has taken care of children has not had to manage a child having a tantrum. And there are many articles on the internet for parents and caregivers for handling them. The language about them is fascinating, and worth reflecting on.

A favourite, for example, is the idea that we can try to tame children into not having tantrums. Clearly, the idea behind this is that we think of children as wild animals. One can even imagine being in the cage with them, with one hand holding a whip and the other a chair.

At COPA, we would like to think of young people as (whole) people too—with feelings of helplessness and frustration similar to our own. (It is unlikely to meet an adult that has not wanted to have a tantrum or cannot remember feeling ignored as a child.)

In addition to ignoring their feelings, seeing children as in need of taming can actually harm them, leaving them open to all kinds of abuse. We want to encourage our children to listen to and respect their own feelings—as we respect them too, and hope, too that others will respect ours. Children whose feelings are tamed—shut down, repressed, ignored or belittled—are children that are much more vulnerable.

Yes, tantrums are very hard to deal with. Even harder when people are watching us and often judging us for how we are managing them, but let’s think about tantrums as what they really are: the expression of someone who is feeling helpless and frustrated.

In the moment: Leaning in to our children and listening to empower can defuse a tantrum in moments.

In general: Giving children time and space to express themselves, while learning how to do so in a positive way builds important life skills and makes tantrums less likely.