Ah discipline. It’s a slippery slope that discipline stuff. What does it mean? Punishing bad behavior? Teaching kids how to behave within the society they live in? My own personal thoughts and views on discipline have changed as I have matured, times have changed, and societal norms have also. For instance I used to use corporal punishment for bad behavior and although I sometimes felt guilty, thought I was justified in doing so. But as I got older I felt as though it just wasn’t an effective way to teach the lesson I was trying to get across and honestly, it was the path of least resistance. It takes a hell of a lot more energy and for some, inhuman patience to come up with a creative way to discipline in the face of bad behavior than it does to swat or smack your kid. Because ultimately discipline is how we control ourselves when we get the urge to do something that might not be good for us.
What is bad behavior? Seems like kids know how to be jerks from birth and we struggle every day to teach them how not to be an asshole. I paid a lot more attention to my own role in my children’s poor behaviors as I became older. I was exposed to more and different types of parents from whom I learned too. Quiet, gentle parents often (and I’m using anecdotal life experiences here) had quiet, gentle children. That’s not to say that they never jumped around and made noise, it’s just that they often reflected their parents attitudes and demeanor. Never was this more evident to me than with my last child. I’d already recognized the ways my impatience and cranky behavior influenced my boys’ behavior and learned to tone it down in little ways. I used to get so upset about stray socks on the floor. I’d scream pick these up NOW, in an almost rage and make my kids sullen and angry and act out. And I’d do this when my kids were right in the middle of a cliff hanger on their favorite Nickelodeon show and wonder why I got so much push back. It was requested of me that I just wait until a commercial and then tell them that as soon as the next commercial break came on, I would expect everyone to jump up, run around and pick up anything from the floor that they owned that didn’t belong there. Would you believe I was surprised when this worked like a charm (most) of the time?
So I worked at these types of solutions because it made my home a calmer, happier place. And when my youngest developed the habit of nag-whining at me, I had to recognize that he was getting it from watching me do it to his father. It sure wasn’t working on his father and him doing it to me was driving me up the wall. I felt bombarded when I walked through the door from work. He would whine, nag and beg for something and if I asked him to do something he didn’t want to do, he was off on loud, demanding tangent. I really wanted to stuff a sock in his mouth sometimes he was so obnoxious. One day I felt like I was really going to blow my top, so when he was mid sentence I just stood up and walked to my room and shut the door and locked it. He was shocked, but in true smart ass fashion, he recovered quickly and came to my room and tried the door.
“I’m not coming out until you stop being rude and bratty and are ready to listen and have a respectful conversation with me.” He immediately said ok, so I came back into the kitchen with him where he picked up whining and demanding. I said, “I thought you were done, and you were ready to listen to me. You’re still whining and yelling.” He barely paused, so I went right back to my room and locked the door. This time he came running after me, but wasn’t in time to stop me so he began kicking the door and screaming and crying. I was so glad he couldn’t see me because I was cracking up behind that door! Like any other tool, parent time out doesn’t work overnight or without other techniques. But it really helps someone like me who is trying not to yell and lose it over what is actually just age appropriate behavior that no one ever tells you about. It really worked well for me, just walking away until he was ready to talk and actively listen. So if he was begging and pleading to play with something that required parental supervision on a Wednesday night and not being rational, I would walk away, lock myself in my room and come out when he was ready to talk and listen. Then I would explain that mommy is tired and that is not a weeknight activity. If he started to whine and beg I would go back to my room, but if not, we could move forward. I would give him a day, circle it on the kitchen calendar and then live up to my part of the bargain no matter how much I didn’t want to do it on Saturday. And that was a good foundation to use as he got older.
I found that as long as we had good dialogue and both felt understood, none of my boys really actively defied me. Often their actions were about lacking the ability to control themselves. And parents, be realistic, is it always easy to control your actions and emotions? No? Imagine only being on the planet six or 7 years. It’s ok for your kids to be bored or unhappy once in a while. It makes being out and doing fun things that much better. It’s also ok to turn off the tv or games and say go entertain yourself without doing something you know you shouldn’t be. If you draw on the walls instead of playing with your dolls, I will be taking away all crayons, pencils, etc. until you can learn to control yourself and you will have to clean up the mess you made. Simple and fair and a lesson learned. Watch how you talk to your spouse in front of your kids. Are you nagging? Kids will do that. Rolling your eyes, mumbling under your breath in frustration? Kids will mirror that too and even though it may look a little different because they have child centered issues, it will be modeled on that behavior. Hope this helps and feel free to drop a question in the comments!