As any parent knows boundaries are important. Nothing gets done, behaviors spin out of control, and there is utter chaos in the home if you don’t set some basic rules. New parents have firm ideas of what boundaries they are going to set and are determined to stick to them no matter what. Then reality sets in and they find themselves learning what all parents learn: kids don’t like boundaries and they test them, all the time. Some boundaries are fairly easy to ingrain into your children. Manners are not that hard to teach really. It’s simple repetition and learning by example. If they hear or see you doing the behavior, they are going to imitate it. It’s what humans do. This is a good thing, but it can also drive you crazy. They don’t always copy the behaviors you want copy-catted. Enter discipline.
**Now, please understand I am not an expert with a degree in childcare/child psychology. I do have 20+ years of experience in dealing with my own children though, and I know what works best for us. If you are a parent, you know what works for you.**
Discipline has become one of those taboo subjects to discuss in many parenting circles. No matter what kind of discipline you use you are probably doing it wrong because that’s not how you should discipline your child. How many times have you heard that or received The Look? You know the one. The eyebrows raise, the eyes dilate a little, and then the condescending smile just before they say “That’s not how we do it.”
Time-outs? Corporal punishment? (There’s a heated subject if ever there was one.) Grounding? What discipline works? There is no easy answer to that. Every child requires a different type of understanding because they are all different. One child might take well to time-outs and another won’t. Different stages of childhood require a different style of parenting. Also, if you use the same technique over and over children grow used to it and realize that if that is the worst thing you are going to do then it doesn’t matter what they do. So the unwanted acts continue.
When I was growing up there were two punishments: spankings or groundings. The groundings began when my parents felt I was too big to spank any longer. The spankings were effective…for a time. Then you learn to expect it and you just don’t care. When the groundings began they were effective…until my mother made the groundings so long that I got used to not having whatever it was that I was grounded from. I learned early on that my behavior was my choice. I could either be punished for actually doing what I was accused of doing or I could be punished for choosing to do the right thing and go to bed with a clean conscience. That’s how I learned integrity. But that was a side effect, not the intention.
Now, most parents reading this are saying this is all obvious information. Yep, it is. And yet I hear parents from my kids’s elementary school complaining about how they don’t understand why their child is not learning to stop their misbehavior. A discussion ensues and it is almost always because either the punishment didn’t fit the deed or they *always* use this disciplinary act and it used to work.
I have four kids: one adult, one teen, one pre-teen, and one kindergartener. I was adamant they were all going to be treated fairly and all the same way. And each one proved me a liar. I couldn’t do it. I was strict with my first two kids when I should have been more lenient and I am more lenient with my two younger boys. I am still learning what works with my youngest because he is irrepressible. Stubborn does not begin to describe him. The three older boys were pieces of cake compared to him. But the one thing that does work is consistency. Yes, another obvious remark but true and not always adhered to.
I also had to get creative. Creative punishments work wonders. Back when I was in college I had to take a child psychology course. I learned so much from that one class, such as punish the act, not the behavior. Meaning, there is a reason why the child is reacting the way they are. What is that reason? No, they should not have thrown the toy at their brother and that needs to be dealt with, but understanding the emotion behind it is important. Knowing that little piece of information has actually helped me be a better parent. For example: the reason the child gave why he threw the toy at his brother was because they both wanted it and it belonged to the one who was playing with it. He threw the toy because he was angry and the other child became angry in defense and tried to take it back (possessiveness). What do you do? Get creative. Here’s what I did (it was a true story): I took the toy and put it in time-out, not the boys. Then I explained that since the toy was making them be mean to each other it had to go in time-out until it could behave itself. That stopped both kids in their tracks. They had expected to be punished, not the toy. We then had a talk about why throwing things was not nice and why we shouldn’t do it. End of story. They then went on to play with something else but each one came back at different times to check on the toy to see if it could come out of time-out yet. I said that it could once it had apologized and it hadn’t yet. BOOM! A light clicked on in my son’s eyes and he went and told his brother he was sorry. The toy was brought out from where it was and the two played without another incident. That day. Consistency is key.
I will freely admit that with my older two boys I did spank them. But I hated it. It always felt wrong to me. It also didn’t stop the misconduct. And that’s why I decided to change the way I discipline. I took a class called Love and Logic Parenting that our elementary school hosted back then, and it helped immensely. I highly recommend it. I am the main disciplinarian in our family. I try to do my best and sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I fail often, but I am succeeding more times than not now. When my kids go over to their friends’s houses or spend time with anyone outside of our family I always hear how polite they are and what nice, young men they are becoming. I smile and say thank you but inside my head I think how they should have seen my kids last weekend when they weren’t such sweet little angels. Still, hearing the compliment means I must be doing something right. Right?
So, tell me. What discipline do you use at home? How do you do creative parenting?