Three Tips for Effective Discipline
While my kids are by no means perfect, and my parenting can be far from perfect some days, I have to say I think The Coach and I do a pretty good job with day to day discipline with our boys. I am often proud of their behavior when we are out in the community or at friends' houses. I really believe these positive choices are partly a result of some choices we make in parenting.
We have three rules for us as parents that The Coach and I try hard to stick to. Our top three tips for effective discipline are:
1. We follow through on what we say. We don't believe in idle threats. If we say there is a consequence for a behavior, then the boys will absolutely get that consequence. If we tell them they don't get dessert if they don't eat more dinner, then they don't get dessert when they don't eat dinner. If we tell them they don't get to go somewhere if they don't pick up their toys, then they don't go if the play room is still not picked up. Sometimes this really stinks for us. I spent a whole day a couple weeks ago looking forward to going to the park with a picnic dinner and enjoying a beautiful day with my littles. I got to daycare to pick them up and they acted awful. We've said before if they don't listen and do what we ask at pick up time, there will be a consequence. So there was no picnic in the park. I was bummed, they were bummed, but pick up from day care has gone well since then.
2. We use logical and meaningful consequences. We try to make "the punishment fit the crime." If Roo does something mean to his brother, his consequence is often that he has to apologize and do two nice things for his brother. If Monkey is playing around at the dinner table and makes a mess, he has to clean up his mess, and do another cleaning chore. A time out is really not effective for Roo very much anymore, so we hardly ever use it. The exception is when we need a minute to calm down or to think of a good consequence! Instead, time away from friends makes a big impact on Roo. So instead of a time out that means nothing to him, we might say no playing with friends the rest of the day. He hates this and it makes him think about his choices the next time around.
3. We teach the right behaviors, instead of just punishing the wrong ones. The conversation we have after a bad choice or a naughty behavior, is as important to us as the consequence the kids receive. We don't just talk about what the child did wrong, but we talk about what they could have done that would have been right. We also try to be proactive, and talk about choices before they are facing them. On our way to a gathering with notoriously wild and naughty children in attendance, we will talk about what would be good choices and things the kids could say if someone is making bad ones. We were at a graduation party earlier this summer and Roo was standing on a wooden game. Instead of yelling at him to get off it, I called him over to talk to me. We discussed what could happen if he stood on it and he was too heavy. He knew it could break, so we talked about his friend who was graduating and how she would feel if her game got broken, and discussed that we wouldn't want to make her feel her sad, because that stinks. A problematic behavior was stopped right away by talking about the consequences and reasons before it was a problem.
By doing our best to stick to these three tips for effective discipline, I think we handle most of the behaviors our kids throw at us, and even better, are able to stop many before they even occur. Do my kids still act naughty and embarrass me in public at times? Of course, they're kids! But once they realize they made a bad choice, they know exactly what is going to happen and it is not often we have a meltdown in public. And they certainly push the limits at home at times, but they also quickly learn what is acceptable and what is not.