First, let me send a note of thanks to people who have sent parenting questions they would like answered on my blog this Friday. For anyone who would like to send a parenting question- feel free. My mind has not been made up yet as to which one I will answer. The email address is email@example.com.
Last Thursday, I wrote the Three Do’s of Discipline. Please check it out at http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/550 because it leads directly into this blog. Today, I want to flip the script. There are some things you shouldn’t do when disciplining your child at any age. I realize that all rules have exceptions. But, by and large, what you are about to read will save any parent from a lot of stress and headaches.
1. Don’t discipline your child if you aren’t thinking two steps ahead.
Any chess player knows you have to outwit and outmaneuver your opponent in order to be successful. Parenting isn’t much different. Any parent should be able to talk to their child in such a way to get them to open up, calm down, or discipline to redirect him/her. You never want the tail to wag the dog if you know what I mean.
What happens though is that parents get caught up in the emotion of the situation. When this occurs, they start to lose their composure which is one of the greatest advantages any parent should have over a misbehaving child. When a parent loses their composure, it’s much more difficult to think two steps ahead. Mark my words. Parents who discipline when they are not composed make mistakes.
2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
This is a common saying where I am from. I am using the phrase to mean to separate the overall good of the child from the bad behavior. If parents were to chart the good versus bad things their children did, many would be surprised to find the amount of good in a child perceived as poorly behaved. Sometimes, parents get so consumed with a poor behavior that they fail to see the qualities of the whole child. One of my strategies is to find (and file away) the good qualities of a difficult child immediately to combat the behaviors I may see down the line.
Let’s say that I see a child, who struggles controlling their anger, start to rev up. I want to catch them before the wheels come unhinged and remind them of another time they were able to control their anger. My theory is if they can do it once, they can do it again. This tactic has worked countless times but it does take some quick thinking, patience, and self control on my part.
3. Don’t allow children who struggle with discipline to stay idle.
This tactic is difficult and time consuming but is well worth it. Children who struggle with self discipline need to stay busy as much as possible. When they are idle, he/she is more likely to get into trouble. Therefore, at dinner time, for example, I won’t cook alone if I have a child in the room who struggles with behavior. The child may be helping me prepare the food, be put to a task (such as reading) or be sent outside to burn off some energy.
I can’t assume a child who struggles with discipline will magically “get it” one day. What I can assume is that I will put in the time and training to assist as long as I am needed. There are times, of course, when we have to let children go in order to evaluate what has been learned and what needs to be improved. Sometimes, the child will misbehave and we have to start over from square one. There are other times though they will do something right (help a friend, control their temper, etc). This feeds right in with point two which is very exciting.
Here’s a final thought I’ll make about discipline. Whether you are working with a “terrible two” or your teenager is testing his/her boundaries, discipline is essential. Though it can be really hard work, there’s a big personal satisfaction to the parent who watches their “little hellion” start to grow up and implement the discipline that was painstakingly implemented.
I wish you well and can’t wait for Friday’s question/answer post!