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August 7, 2018

Behavior Blues: When Kids Act Out

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Seven Questions with Kahlil Mwaafrika

Some days are easier than others. And then there are days where there’s no predicting what emotion your little learner will be working through. Self-regulation is a skill that can be learned. And learning about one’s own feelings goes hand-in-hand with thoughtful behavior.

To learn more about managing behaviors (AKA discipline), we talked to Day Early Learning Park 100 Center Director Kahlil Mwaafrika. He recently presented a session about alternative discipline techniques for dads at the Father Engagement 2018 conference.

Something Brighter Futures Indiana took away from this interview, is how when Kahlil uses the word “discipline”, he means self-regulation. Discipline is often associated with punishment or reactionary behaviors, so it’s good to remember it can also mean learning new habits.

Brighter Futures Indiana: What are some misconceptions parents have when it comes to discipline?

Kahlil: I think there are many. I think the greatest or at least the most impactful misconception is that discipline is something that is taught. We know that true discipline is an intrinsic process. That process is developed internally as children feel safe, secure and confident. And when they have the opportunity to reasonably govern themselves.

BFI: What is a discipline trend you find useful?

K: I find that a child must have their primal needs met first. Once that is in place, they need to be holistically stimulated. Redirection and explanation would be the most trendy discipline techniques I can think of. Because discipline is a culminating result of intentionality towards providing an environment of positive reinforcement, stimulation, love and nurturing, structure and organization. And the opportunity for children to experience “safe” failure, as well as the opportunity to experience success.

BFI: Why is discipline important?

K: Discipline is important so that children can achieve self sufficiency and subsequent optimum growth and development.

Examples of fun ways you can build feeling skills with your little one:

Build Feeling Skills
Whats Next
Lets Talk
Big Feelings Need Big Words
BFI: Is there a type of discipline that works for all families?

K: No.

BFI: Many of us get defensive when we see other people discipline our children. What should we do in a situation like that?

K: Depends. I think any parent should be abreast of what discipline techniques are being used and ensure that the techniques align with what is being demonstrated at home.

BFI: Should discipline approaches evolve or change as our children grow older?

K: Yes. Ideally, children who have been allowed to grow and develop naturally are able to regulate themselves. However, this is not the case in most circumstances. In those cases, the disciplinary approaches should fit the behavior and help a child develop skills.

BFI: What advice would you give parents or caretakers who are struggling with supporting positive behavior with their children right now?

K: Avoid physical punishment at all costs. Supplant spanking times with redirection, conversation or focused breathing. Ignore behaviors if safety is not an issue. Ask someone else to intervene. And constantly help children build skills.

As center director of the Day Early Learning Park 100 location, Kahlil Mwaafrika manages and supervises day-to-day operations. He brings nearly two decades of experience as a teacher, counselor, consultant and administrator. Kahlil holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Martin University and a master’s degree in education with a specialization in early childhood education from Ball State University. Additionally, Kahlil serves as a technical assistant, assisting and supporting other directors, and as an adjunct teacher at IUPUI in the newly formed early childhood education cohort. Kahlil lives in Indianapolis with his wife Jua and his children Chin, Asli, Chioh, Kali and Kedar.

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