It’s one of those days again. Your creative preschooler decides the bathroom looks much nicer decorated with toilet paper — the last roll of toilet paper found in the house — and then insists the guilty culprit is her imaginary friend, not her. Your tween age child looks you dead in the eyes and proceeds to inform you of all the things you should be doing (never mind that his chores remain undone yet again). Factor in the cookie crumb trail leading mysteriously to the cookie jar, the sibling bickering, and the uneaten meal (you know, the one you made specifically for the picky eater who never wants to eat what’s served) that still lies waiting for your toddler to eat, and you just know it’s going to be a long day. One glance at the clock tells you it’s only 8:00 a.m., and you wonder why you ever got out of bed. Your reminder comes quickly as your toddler’s now-jellied scrambled eggs fly across the room, smack you in the face and drop onto the front of your freshly pressed blouse.
Oh yeah, that’s why. You’re a parent.
So, how do deal with attitudes, behaviors, and stressful days like this? Well, I wish I had all the answers to that, especially when it comes to effectively disciplining children. I’m still a work-in-progress parent myself. What I have learned is that the punishment needs to fit the crime and discipline needs to be tailored toward the individual child.
Here’s an example:
A few years back, I was having repeated problems with my girls about picking up their toys before bedtime. Nine times out of ten, it turned into an argument over who was doing more and a tattling war of “Mommy, she’s not picking up. I’m doing everything. They’re not even my toys!” Honestly, half the time I got tired of listening to it and ended up doing the majority of the work…and I know they were not my toys.
One night I reached my max. A time limit of 20 minutes was set, and they were warned that anything not put away at the end of the limit was mine for the next few days. The first few minutes were spent with them debating whether mommy would really take the toys away, with the younger child saying I wouldn’t really do it and the older, more experienced daughter insisting that I would. When I returned from the basement with a large cardboard box, the message and intent was clear. You should have seen those kids move! When the time was up, there were still a few toys left behind. Of course, I HAD to follow through with discipline, despite their protests and tears.
I tell this story to emphasize my point. Yelling, using corporal punishment, sending them to their rooms, banning them from the television, etc. wouldn’t have taught the lesson I was trying to instill in my children. Discipline, at least effective positive discipline, should do more than simply make the child aware of the wrong-doing. It should also teach them a valuable lesson.
What was the valuable lesson I wanted my children to learn from this discipline? In life, we’re often given things for which we are responsible. If we don’t cherish them and take care of them properly, we may lose them. If something’s important to you, take good care of it. If you don’t, it may not be around long.
Now think of the last disciplinary act you took with your child. What were you trying to teach your kid? Did it work? Share it with the rest of us in the comments below.