Discipline, at it’s core, means to teach. I think it’s tempting to use the words “discipline” and “punishment” interchangeably. Especially when our kiddos are young, we want them to learn self-control and respect for others. It’s hard to keep that long-term goal in mind when there’s lipstick on your toddler and glitter on the dog.
It’s easy to turn to a punishment mindset when emotions are running high and energy for kids’ nonsense is running very, very low.
Our kids need us. They need us to teach and guide them; to help them understand how the world works and how to be a good citizen.
I think if we each took a step back and really considered what we want our kids to be like when they grow up it would look something similar to this:
Kind. Compassionate. Responsible. Respectful. Driven. Generous. Humble. Confident.
Ultimately, those traits are what I want for my kids. But, in the day-in-day-out monotony of parenthood those goals get blurry. How we, as parents, guide and direct our children takes great intention and keeping in mind where they’re at developmentally.
I want my 2-year-old to stop using me as a human jungle gym at 6 a.m. and learn to play with some sort of independence. How we accomplish that is different than how we teach our 7-year-old to treat others, work hard, and try new things. With Little, it’s a LOT of redirection and the dreaded “naughty spot” (fun fact, I was not prepared for Little. She thinks it is gut-busting hilarious when she gets put in the naughty spot or we have to get cross with her. Jesus, take the wheel). With Big, we have to get her alone and away from distractions to help her control her big emotions and process a problem.
Now, I know you’re reading this because you’re thinking “I’m WAITING for some strategies, lady!”
I try not to disappoint. Once you’ve considered your own parenting style and values, you can determine what steps and strategies work for you and your family.
Here are a few basics for discipline that works:
Holy Hannah, have a routine in your home. Kids get really dysregulated when their little worlds are unpredictable (and behavior issues skyrocket). Bedtime and morning routines are a great place to start. Put down the tablets and read to your babies before bed. Sing to them and tuck them in early. Repeat. Brushed teeth and hair, being dressed and ready for school is a must before having screens in the morning in our house. My kids know their routines and our collective sanity is better for it.
Simple Rules and Consistent Follow-Through.
How many of us have a list of rules for our home? They can be short, sweet, and positive. If you need a place to start, think about what your kids do now (that you don’t like) and what you’d like to see them do. A lot of parents in our program will say things like “I want them to stop fighting!” so a house rule may look something like, “We treat each other with kindness.” If you are struggling with kids leaving dirty socks in the couch cushions, a rule such as “We clean up after ourselves.” is clear and takes a lot less breath than “no more putting your socks in the couch!” When we develop rules in our homes, we have to remember the golden rule: consistency. Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither are good humans.
Time out is not always a bad thing.
Kids have big emotions. Really, they have the emotional breadth of an adult with the coping skills of a child. How do they see us manage our emotions (P.S. our kids will absolutely mimic what we do rather than what we tell them to do) and what makes us feel better? We seem to be in this phase in our culture where we have to validate every single thing our kids feel, but we don’t have to validate their actions. There are many times when I have sent Big to her room for time to calm down, not as punishment. She’s like me: a yeller. When her emotions bubble over into disrespect and screaming, I tell her she can go throw her fit in her room (where she can yell, scream, hit, kick, punch a pillow etc) and we can talk when she is calm. This works for us, because this mama gets a break to get herself together too!
For little ones who aren’t developmentally ready for things like time out, redirection is our friend. Like I said before, Little was not a child I was prepared for. She is wild. She finds my stern “mommy voice” hilarious, but she can also be redirected. She is super into her sister’s Shopkins and rather determined to make herself at home in Big’s room to play with them. Telling her to get out of her sister’s room and do something else is not super effective. But saying something like, “Those are sissy’s toys, let’s go play in your kitchen,” can do the trick. Sometimes I still have to physically take her out of her sister’s room kicking and screaming. Toddlers are fun.
We are here to teach and guide our kiddos. We want good humans who can regulate their emotions and behavior, that starts with present parents and compassionate guidance.
You can do it, mama.
Check out the first two posts in this series:
Discipline That Works: Connection BEFORE Correction
Discipline That Works: Understanding Temperament
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