I was reading an article the other day about parenting techniques for discipline. For each one, I could think of reasons why their “fixes” would not work for our two. Theoretically, they sounded great. But in practice? They’d flop like a fish outta water.
Their first suggestion was to stop being so negative.
“Don’t hit your sister!” “Stop pulling the dog’s tail!” The number of things you tell your toddler or preschooler not to do is endless.
THE FIX: Ask for the behavior you want to see.
In theory, this sounds great. Redirect your child instead of constantly telling them no, don’t. However, especially with our two boys, this wouldn’t work. They need to know that what they are doing is not allowed. They need to know you can’t dance on the table because it’s not safe for them or the table. They need to know they can’t jump on each other because one of them will get hurt. They can’t jump from 5th stair, stay up late on a school night, or have cookies for breakfast. Without understanding the consequences they’ll do it again.
Their second suggestion was to show them, not tell them.
You’re sitting in church when your toddler shouts. As soon as you shush him, he does it again. Mortifying! Why doesn’t he listen?
THE FIX Play teacher.
In this case, the reason your toddler shouted was because they heard a sound they’d never heard before: their voice echo in large, open area. They didn’t do it to mortify and embarrass you. Sure you could whisper to them that they need to whisper like you. But whispering is not nearly as much fun as echoing. And I’m sure more than one person turned to see who shouted. When they see it was your adorable one they’ll smile which will, naturally, only encourage more shouting. Like the day I put our two boys in a racquetball room. Once they heard the echo they couldn’t keep quiet. After a minute they were being as loud as they could be simply to hear the echo.
The third suggestion.
When you drop something, you yell. A man cuts you off and you call him a rude name. But then you get mad if your kid reacts the same way when things don’t go her way.
THE FIX Apologize and take a do-over.
In their story, they tell us about a mom, Deena, who used this technique when her 5 year old protested so much about getting dressed that she snapped, “Just shut up and get dressed!” Realizing this was not how she’d want her son to react in a similar situation, she knelt down, apologized, then talked about how important it is to be on time for school. It worked: Owen got ready for school calmly after that. Owen didn’t ready for school because mom apologized. Owen got ready because mom went bat shit crazy. Bat shit crazy is a useful technique to get kids moving. They don’t understand seriousness until some one snaps.
The fourth piece of advice I can agree with.
You hear your children chasing each other around the house and immediately shout.
THE FIX Ignore selectively.
See? This one I sort of agree with. Essentially it’s let kids be kids. Kids are loud. Often times kids are busy. They go go go. Ours like to play rough. Crash outweighs Bang by 30 pounds or so, but that doesn’t stop Bang from trying to wrestle his big brother. I don’t necessarily ignore it, but I do selectively watch it. I’m a bit like the ref. I keep them safe and from hurting each other. It’s when they’re quiet and out of sight that worries me. Scares me, really.
The fifth piece of advice.
“Turn off the TV… I’m serious this time… Really!” Your kids continue bad behavior when warnings are vague for the same reason you run yellow lights — there aren’t consequences.
THE FIX Set limits and follow through.
Well okay. Got me again. I like this piece. I have seen on numerous occasions parents who say “5 more minutes” and a half hour later they’re still saying “5 more minutes”. Or “Don’t do that or we’re going home.” They do it again and again and again and they never went home. Empty threats. If you make an ultimatum, you stick to it otherwise all your child has learned is to not take you seriously.
The sixth suggestion.
When you send your 3-year-old to his room after he hits his brother, he starts banging his head on the floor in rage.
THE FIX Consider a time-in.
I don’t fully agree with this. Though they do say “consider”. Depending on the warranted behavior, this may work. Usually, for us, it only works when they’re tired, cranky, and over stimulated. So instead of sending them chill out alone, I’ll go with them and we’ll read. Sometimes it take two books sometimes it takes eight. However, if they’re arguing, fighting, being defiant, etc… they’ll be sent to chill by themselves. Then they’ll have to listen to me lecture to them. They hate that more being by themselves. Lastly, our two boys aren’t ones to be hugged when they’re cranking about something. Sad, sure. But when they’re hurt or cranky, frustrated or angry they don’t want to be touched. Hell, when teh four year old is happy he often has to be bribed for a hug.
Finally, their last piece of advice is quite contradictory.
The best way to deal with your son’s whining is to get down at eye level and explain how his actions need to change. But your daughter is more aggressive and refuses to listen.
THE FIX Develop a diverse toolbox.
After a thousands words offering advice on how to discipline, they ended by telling you that these strategies will work on every child. In other words, what they have told us, explained to us by professionals, may not be what is best for your child. No one knows your children like you do. Use some sense and do what is right for them and what’s right for you. Their final “fix” of developing a diverse toolbox is key. You will need have various forms of consequences, various strategies to get your children to understand what it is your trying to teach them. I could sit here and talk until I’m blue in the face and my thumbs fall off, but all I’ve told you are the discipline techniques that work for our two boys.
Read the advice, but ultimately, do what you need to do raise happy, healthy, and educated children. Even if you have to invent some of your own.
Sorry for the long read, but thanks for sticking it out. And if you’ve made it this far, know that I’m only a professional, expert dad. I have no degree in parenting. I didn’t even read the book. Like most of us, I’m just making it up as I go along.