First of all, I want to say. I’m no expert. I’m not a child development major. I’m not perfect. I fail all the time. What I am is a mom who has studied discipline, discerned what is right according to my faith, and I’m committed to doing it right.
What I plan to lay out for you in a nutshell is what I’ve learned over the past 4+ years about discipline and what works for our family. Again, I fail all the time at it. I succumb to all the common pitfalls:
- Mommy guilt
- I don’t have time to discipline so I’ll give in.
- I’m tired so I’ll give in.
- I’m busy so I’ll give in.
- They will grow out of [insert specific behavior]
- No one else disciplines this way so why should I?
- Today is a special occasion so discipline doesn’t apply.
Side note: Discipline will vary from family to family. We all have different backgrounds and values. Some things are probably the same across the board, however, and that is what I am trying to discuss.
You Reap What You Sow
The thing is with discipline, it takes patience. It takes focus. It takes time. It takes effort. You have to get up. You have to stop what you are doing. But the payoff is great because guess what? You are teaching your children you mean what you say and eventually you will only have to use words most of the time instead of always having to back up your words with a consequence. As Dr. Ray says, you know how much authority you have by how long it takes your child to do what you asked. I have found that this waxes and wanes depending on my consistency rate of discipline at the time.
Other benefits of sound discipline:
- Keeping your child safe.
- Teaching your child to sit still.
- Teaching your child to focus on one activity at a time.
- Teaching your child boundaries.
- Teaching your child respect.
- Less frustration, more good times and an overall better relationship with your child.
As you see, basically everything you teach your child depends on backing it up with discipline. I saw a funny quote the other day when I was exploring Columbia, California with my family. Inside a quaint little shop there was a sign that said “Insanity is saying the same thing over and over to your children and expecting them to listen.” AMEN! Children will only listen when they have consequences for not listening. I think most of us parents just assume we will have authority because we ARE the parents, after all. And so we get frustrated and end up losing our patience and sometimes yell in an a last ditch effort to regain control. But the fact of the matter is…AUTHORITY IS EARNED. There is no way around it. Children are not reasonable beings. They do not yet have the capability. Until probably age 6 or 7, you are just building habits. Their conscience is still developing. They have to learn the habit of saying sorry before they actually FEEL sorry. You get the picture here?
Hopefully You Love Them More
I am not of the belief that “kids are kids so let them be kids” because I believe it is my duty to guide them how to be adults. I do believe giving kids SOME freedom is important, but I have to set limits. If I don’t, the world will and who is going to teach them with love? I am. Hopefully you love your children more than a public authority does. You can rest assured that a teacher , principal, police officer, employer, and/or judge is not going to love your child the way you do. It is my duty as a parent to raise my children to be good people, who are enjoyable to be around and more so, set them on the path to heaven.
Stop Putting Up With Bad Behavior
I don’t know about you, but I am a very patient person and in my life I have had people-pleasing/codependent tendencies. This has resulted in weak/broken boundaries where I am prone to put up with disrespect because I don’t recognize it as such, whereas someone with healthier boundaries would automatically be in discipline mode. With this self-knowledge, I am practicing being sensitive to bad behaviors in order to not put up with them. Lists definitely help me, so I will provide you with a one in the hope that it will benefit you, but first a random from Steven Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families” – 50-60 years ago, common behaviors that were considered unacceptable in schools:
- talking back
- chewing gum
- talking out of turn
- Guns on campus
- Drugs on campus
- Teen pregnancy.
Guys, the small things become the big things.
Now, here’s the list of behaviors that are good to watch out for:
- Talking back
- Not saying please and thank you
- Not making polite requests
- Leaving an activity without asking.
- Touching other people’s items without asking.
- Generally not listening and following directions
- Not speaking in a calm tone.
I am going to lay out some key discipline challenges and how my husband and I have decided to handle them. Aside from the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these are the resources I’ve learned from:
- My husband’s background in education.
- Dr. Ray Guarendi
- Catholic All Year
- The Happiest Toddler On the Block
I require that my children:
- Say hello when entering someone’s household. It is okay if they don’t want to hug, I respect that but they need to acknowledge the other person.
- To ask to play with someone else’s toys prior to digging in.
- Say please and thank you.
- That they listen.
- That they respect other people’s property and rules.
- That they don’t beg for food.
I will be honest, I am always struggling with this. There’s a lot that goes in to meal time! But the expectation at meal time is:
- Please, thank you, and no thank you
- Use utensils
- Stay seated
- When you are finished, ask if “may I please get down?”
I do not tolerate hitting. My husband has taught me about considering the function of the behavior. Recently, my son hit my daughter because she was messing with his toys. So we made a box for her and a box for him and we are allowing him to have some time by himself to play with his toys. But if he hits, he will have time-out and/or a toy taken away which *I* decide if/when it comes back.
When my child hits, as a rule, they don’t just say sorry. I see this happen with some parents and I don’t think they realize that their child isn’t learning anything by not having a consequence. I see this happen repeatedly. We all have our weak moments , I know I do, but we have to take time and think about what we are teaching our children. As an adult, can I get by with a “sorry” for crashing into someone’s car? Np. There is a consequence, as their should be.
If there is a toy my child wishes not to share, I respect that. But I do require that they share SOME toys with each other/other kids. In the event my child doesn’t want to share a special toy, I help the other child find something else to play with. If there are still issues I take it away because it is clearly causing too many problems.
Generally, I want my children to listen to me, so when I ask them to do something, they do it without complaining, and they should say “okay Momma”. Most of the time the consequence is time-out. If they refuse time-out, they are in black out. Black out is when all privileges are taken away. This means no snacks, no dessert, no access to their room, no T.V., no favorite foods, just the basics. Water, meat, veggies, bread. They will learn real quick what Mommy and Daddy control and that it is in their best interest to listen. You can read more about Black out in Dr. Ray’s book, “Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime.”