Just in case, you haven’t had enough of my thoughts on discipline, I thought I’d describe a few very typical scenarios in our house.
In the mornings when we need to get somewhere in a timely matter, it can be a little bit of a struggle if the children and I are not working towards the same goal (namely for me: getting ready and leaving on time; and usually for them: have fun & possibly also eat). Pro-actively, I will attempt to make our getting ready as much fun as possible. We might play a game of who can get dressed fastest or make a silly face while getting dressed. We might also sing a song about cleaning up or putting on shoes. In deciding what to wear, warnings and choices are of utmost with Eila. I’ll usually tell her: “We need to get ready for preschool, so in two minutes we are going to go to the bathroom and then get dressed. Would you like to wear pants or a dress?” She almost always chooses dress, so then we head to the closet and I pick out two and say: “Would you like the dog dress or the circle dress?” or she will immediately tell me which one she prefers, and I rarely care. If I want her to wear pants; I will specify why and give her the pick of the drawer. She is much more likely to be agreeable and cooperate with my goal in this way. The GBD 5 Steps are a great tool for when choices aren’t working. Step 4 is to help her and so I do. I’ll get out her clothes and help her put them on so that we can leave when we need to – hopefully, not in a mean way, but because she isn’t able to do it herself, just like I help Josiah.
Another troublesome issue for many folks is eating. I really like the idea that I control when and where my child eats and s/he controls how much. I choose what s/he can eat and she chooses what (from what’s in front of her) s/he does eat. For Eila, this works great because she likes to eat and is almost always hungry. She enjoys a wide variety of foods and is willing to try one bite (which is sort of a rule) of anything and almost always wants more after that first bite, but if not that’s fine. Josiah, on the other hand, does not eat well. So for him, I offer the same wide variety that the rest of us eat with at least one food that I know he likes each day. I offer him foods whenever he asks and it’s reasonable (this is the same for Eila), which is usually every 2 hours. If he wants to eat, he must do so at the table, but since sitting for more than 30 seconds is beyond his ability at this time, he can come and go as often as he likes until I put the food away (usually when Eila is done eating.) As for attempting to break the eating protocol, it’s very simply taking food away. In most cases, the kids are done eating anyway and if not, they can try again by sitting at the table and behaving appropriately and get their food back without much ado. It works very well. I tend not to stress about messes while eating, but if they are goofing off, they are done because I don’t like to clean unnecessarily (or really at all.) We try to act in the way that we want the kids to act and they want to act like us, so it works out.
When the kids don’t listen and don’t obey, when they hit each other, climb on dressers, throw hard & pointy objects and put valuables in the dirty toilet, when they whine, cry, yell, or act disrespectfully and unlovingly (is this even a word – you know what I mean), what happens?
Often there are several phases in the process.
Recently, Josiah has been going through a bit of a challenging stage – testing limits over and over again. He is climbing up the dresser and standing on top, looking out the window or just admiring the new perspective. At first I took him down and clearly told him “NO! You may not climb on the dresser. You can climb on the couch or on the bed.” Then, when he did it again, we repeated this with several “NO”s and put him in his crib for a bit. When he did it again, we repeated the admonition and he stood in the corner for a brief time out. When he did it again (the third time in just 6 waking hours), he went in his crib for a full minute with a simple “No!”. He now says “No, No, No” after he climbs up, which shows me that he at least knows that this is not okay, but isn’t able to stop himself, so if he does it again, I’ll move the dresser. I hope I won’t have to.
Now, Eila is an exceptionally whiny child when she is tired. Most of the time, she is extremely well-spoken for a preschooler, but when tired, she barely manages 2-3 words together and uses either a baby voice or a whiny voice, neither of which I have much patience for. As she has gotten older and I’ve gotten a little bit wiser, things have changed… I used to get really annoyed and just lose it. Now, it takes a bit longer for me to lose it, and before I do, I usually will do a few things to help her cope. First, I offer food or sleep or potty. If she doesn’t choose, I might choose for her by saying: “Do you need to go potty? (wait for answer) Let’s have a little snack or would you like to go back to sleep. If you can’t decide or ask nicely, I’ll just tuck you back in bed.” In the event that she is still cranky after a bowl of cereal- her favorite snack, I offer a little cuddle with Mama (which is often what she really wants, but can’t voice it). When Eila is whining at a store or friend’s house, I’ll simply talk to her calmly (sometimes) with two choices: speak with a nice voice and clearly say what she wants or play/sit/walk quietly. If that doesn’t work, we wrap up and head home as soon as possible because she needs to sleep! When we get home, I’ll put her in her room and let her change into pajamas if she wants (and she always does), then say: “You can read books quietly in your bed or sleep in your bed – I’d like you to sleep, but whichever you do is fine. We all need to take a break for a bit.”
Finally, the sticky issue of other people’s kids… I like the policy of each person taking care of their own kid. When someone hurts my kid, though, it’s really hard not to want to “help” the other parent. I have to resist because I know that each mom knows her kid best and what works with him/her, and plus, I need to take care of my own hurt kid. If I’m watching someone else’s kids, they are have the same rules and respect that my kids do – with a little more grace. The golden rule “Treat others as you want to be treated” works with parenting too.
Basically, where there is love, grace abounds and so do limits that have to be enforced. The more I learn, the more I have to adjust my expectations and know that I have more to learn!