So the verse above is taken from the Bible, Proverbs 13:24. Some people take this verse as a literal interpretation and use it to support spanking as a viable discipline option for children. While others interpret this verse in a figurative way, the child who is not disciplined will become selfish and entitled. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, we would all agree that discipline is important in molding our children to become productive, responsible, and compassionate citizens that contribute to the world in meaningful ways. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you want to discipline your child.
When you discipline your child, think ACTION not WORDS. There is an excellent book titled “Duct Tape Parenting” that talks about the importance of this distinction. What I mean by this is kids respond when we ACT vs. when we have a long TALK with them or YELL at them. When our primary discipline method is yelling at them they become desensitized to our anger over time and this has little effect on changing their behavior.
In terms of the delivery of discipline, here is a quick how to guide that may be helpful. I often hear parents say, “I sat down with my 4 year old and talked to him about lying and why it’s wrong but he keeps doing it…why? That’s like saying, “why do you keep grabbing for the Snickers when you know you shouldn’t.” Instead of having a long winded talk when you discipline, make your discipline talk be under 3 minutes. First, state the behavior and why it was wrong, “Don’t hit your brother, that’s hurtful and disrespectful.” Next, state what you would like to see change, “next time your brother is annoying you come and get us or go into a different room” and last, give a consequence, “your consequence is you need to make a treat for your brother and write him an apology note.” Let me reiterate, this should only take 2-3 minutes, refrain from having long winded “talks of life” to your 3-8 year old as they are not at the developmental level to understand these and will just tune you out.
When you do discipline your child address their behavior not their identity. Say something like, “I was upset when you did _________” do not say “you’re bad for doing that”. Also when you pick a consequence make sure you stick to it, consistency is everything. Some more creative consequences include “Make a Treat for Your Sibling” when one sibling is rude to the other sibling, make siblings hold hands for 10-15 minutes. The standards include give the child an extra chore, have the child write a letter to the person they offended, taking away a privilege, and timeouts. If you choose to spank your children, do so without aggression or impulse. If you cannot do this, your best bet is to try the other methods. Typically with timeouts, you want to do the time out equivalent to the age of the child and refrain from having time outs in rooms with toys or fun stuff. (A bathroom toilet is one of my personal favorites!) Also, don’t just catch your child being naughty, catch them being good as well and praise them for that. When you praise them try to praise them for inner qualities such as honesty, hard work, perseverance, humility, (when they admit to lying or apologize for a hurtful behavior) trustworthiness, and forgiveness.
Well I saved my most important point for last and I will not be able to emphasize this point enough! In your parenting, make sure your kids know that you are human too and make mistakes every day. When you act out of anger, hurt their feelings, ignore them, etc, make sure you apologize for your behavior and own it. Do not minimize your behaviors by telling them that “they shouldn’t be hurt” or that” they’re too sensitive”.
The best parenting book is the book of your life, your children are ALWAYS watching you. They watch how you treat your spouse, the cashier at the grocery store, the guy that cut you off, and the waitress that brought you the wrong meal.
Rodney Atkins hit Song, “Watching You” illustrates this point pretty good.
“I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
We got cowboy boots and camo pants
Yeah we’re just alike, hey ain’t we dad
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you”
Some parenting resources to help you along your journey include; Parenting with Love and Logic, Parenting Magic 1, 2, 3, and Daring Greatly. In our parenting practices, always remember that the “good enough” parents are the parents that will admit when there struggling and seek out resources vs. denial and pretending to be okay. I thought I would end this blog by sharing a funny story about my 3 year old son. My kiddos and I went to Claire’s the other day to shop around and low and behold the following day when I emptied my son’s jacket pocket out, I found a pair of earrings from Claire’s! Yep, the therapists’ son is a little thief 😉 Thankfully, the store worker was gracious when we brought them back the next day.
Now it’s time to get off your computer and get outside with your little ones! Need some ideas on how to have fun and get the creative juices flowing with your kids… I’ll be blogging on that next week.
Kelly Johnson, MA, LPC