Discipline: Way to bring out the controversy! Okay- go see Perpetua, our lovely host, and thank her for stirin’ up all kinda trouble. Then go see Accidents and applaud her badge.
Hold on to your hats all… here we go!
Yeah, I have some pretty strong opinions on the subject. So, before we go any further I want to make sure we cover the basic disclaimer. You know your kid(s). I know my kid. I have my opinions about what approach might be a good one for likely more then just my kid, but since I don’t know your kid and your particular circumstances please don’t take my opinion to mean that I am judging your parenting if you don’t do/think what I do/think. If it works for you, it works for you. Go to town. If what your doing isn’t working, then… well, as Dr. Phil would say “How’s that working for you?” (I am not a big Dr. Phil fan, but the man has a point with that particular phrase.)
Obligatory acceptance of others statement complete- let’s get right into it, shall we?
I think kids need discipline, and from a young age. They need supportive structure and direction. They don’t need to be yelled at, spanked, talked down to, etc. But they do need someone to say no.”They” say you can’t spoil a baby under 1 years old. I disagree. By the time most babies are 9 months or so they know how to communicate what they want. And what they want is not always what they need. And if they want to hit you, or bite, or eat 15 cookies, there is nothing wrong with saying no. Meet their needs- yes. Meet their every want- no.
So here it is our strategy. We aren’t perfect, it doesn’t always work. We get frustrated sometimes and it is flexible to deal with changes and circumstances. But here it is.
We either ignore temper-tantrums or we simply acknowledge why she is upset, and then ignore. “I understand you want a cookie, but you have already had a cookie today.” We stay close and provide comfort if she wants it, but we let her work out her feelings on her own.
We say no. When she hits, or throws food, or whatever. We say “No, you do not hit/throw food/ etc.” Then we re-direct. If she does it again, then we change the situation to indicate that she shouldn’t do that. For example, if she looks me in the eye and hits again then I put her down somewhere safe and walk away. If she drops food again (as she often does with a smirk) then meal time is over. Even if that means we need a ‘snack’ an hour later.
We try to be consistent. And we try to stay calm. I was reading Janet Lansbury’s blog the other day and she suggests to remain calm, like a CEO. I loved this way of explaining it (actually, I loved her whole post about discipline).
I really agree with Janet that the key is a consistent, loving environment, clear communication and boundaries and reasonable expectations given the age of the child. I don’t think you can expect a toddler to behave if they are hungry, over tired, over stimulated or way off their normal routine.
Furthermore, I think you have to pick your battles. I try to ask myself- is this annoying or is it dangerous or disrespectful? I find it annoying that A likes to shake her sippy cup, thus spilling little bits of milk or water on the floor. Is it dangerous of disrespectful? No. Therefore I don’t waste my parental “no” clout on it. Although I should note that as Accidents recently pointed out on twitter, something that may seem innocent, even funny, the first time your toddler does it can become a problem later, so sometimes I end up eating my words and using the all powerful no once it appears it is a problem.
Obviously we are still in very early toddler stages. And the approach we take will have to change as she changes developmentally. But for now, the things I mentioned pretty much cover our discipline needs.
But I do want to talk about the big picture philosophy. I think that many parents struggle with the idea of setting boundaries, especially with young kids. So they don’t. And they just let stuff happen. Or they are inconsistent. Then, as the kid gets older and the behaviours get more and more undesirable then the parents get stricter and stricter. Let’s face it, a 9 month old can get away with hitting in most circles but a 9 year old that punches an other kid in the face is looked at totally differently. It seems there are a lot of parents who operate on laying down more boundaries as the child ages, rather then the other way around. As I see it, if you set up boundaries and limitations early, then you can give the kid more and more freedom as they get older. For example, I don’t understand letting your 5 year old get away with anything and then not trusting them to go out to a party when they are 15. If you did your job when they are 5, then you should be able to trust they have enough good sense (because you taught them boundaries and self control) to call you if they get into trouble when they are 15.
But that is just my rant. And I don’t have a 15 year old, I have a toddler. So admittedly, what the hell do I know. Except that I want to do the best I can parenting my kid so that when she is 15 I trust her to do the right thing, without having to keep her locked up in her room. Or at least trust her that when she does make mistakes she will call me for help, rather then trying to hid it from me and thereby putting herself at greater risk. I want the process to be about her learning to take care of herself, trust herself and be able to make good judgment calls. To me, that is the long term goal of discipline.
Just in case I didn’t ruffle your feathers enough, here is a quick run down of what I agree and disagree with when it comes to discipline:
-Communicating respectfully and giving a child fair warning (“we are going to leave the park in 5 minutes)
-Using positive reinforcement (“thank you for sharing that toy with me”)
-Providing choice, when the child is old enough (“do you want to go to bed in 5 minutes or 10 minutes”)
-Explain why you have a rule (“you can not play in the kitchen because it is not safe”)
-Give the kid control over some things (can’t think of a good example)
-Never saying no. I am sorry, but positive reinforcement can’t cover it all in my opinion. If she is doing something that could be dangerous, I need to communicate that it is not okay as clearly as possible. No works.
-Always giving a choice. Choices can be an effective tool, but not everything is a choice. And I want my child to understand that sometimes she will be given a choice and sometimes she won’t. The parents or caregivers ultimately call the shots.
-Trying to reason or debate with them. You can’t argue with crazy or children. You just can’t. It is not up for debate. I will explain and then the conversation is over. At least in the moment. I think once a child is old enough it is good to have a “how do we avoid that argument next time” conversation once everyone has calmed down, but don’t try to reason with them in the moment when they won’t be able to reason.
-Lastly, spanking, yelling or getting frustrated. That being said though, while I hope I never spank my child, I certainly have yelled and gotten frustrated. I try to be the best parent I can, but I am human. I can tell you what my philosophy of discipline is, but in the moment I don’t always do what I should. And in that case, I believe strongly in apologizing to your kids. When I get frustrated at A, I always apologize once I calm down. She deserves that respect. And she deserves to know that I am human and I make mistakes, just like she is human and makes mistakes.
So, there you have it. Feel free to share your thoughts. I am still new to this discipline thing and I am sure I still have a lot to learn.
Oh, but I will share one great thing I learned from leading daycamps when I was in highschool, which works great with 8-12 year olds. Child does something bad, multiple times after being asked not to. I say “How many times do I have to ask you to not do that?” Child, being smart and trying to call my bluff says “a million”. I say “okay- do not …….. that’s one, do not …….., that’s two, do not ……., that’s three… you just let me know when you have heard it enough so you understand…” and you keep going until the kid says stop. Essentially, you bore them into behaviour. Worked great.