It’s important to be in agreement and have boundaries and rules for the way you discipline. Whether you are flying solo, or have a partner in this parenting journey, I believe it’s essential to communicate and write down your personal plan for discipline and ask yourself : Where do you draw the line? What is unacceptable? Having this tool will hold you accountable when you’ve reached your brink, and when your Ugly Red Button gets pushed.
We are NOT perfect parents (far from it), and are still learning and adding to our toolbox every day. Unfortunately, some of these amazing rules get broken. But they are there, and in place, and I know when I need to apologize to my little people for crossing the line we said we won’t cross.
In our house we have 3 Rules we’ve gathered in our almost 5 short years of parenting that we keep in our back pocket. (Yes, just three to offer up so far – we’re still learning as we go – waiting for that instruction manual to turn up – until then – we just do the best we can with what we have)
Rule #1: Don’t React, Respond!
Speak with love. If you are too angry to respond with the love and respect you yourself would deserve if you were in those little shoes, take a time out. Find somewhere you can just take a few breaths, perhaps a splash of cool water on your face, or maybe even just a good cry on your bed, revisit the situation when you know you can respond and model to those little people “self-control”.
Rule #2: Be Realistic and Offer Choices
Don’t make impossible threats. “If you don’t eat all of your supper, you won’t get supper for a week”. Well, that’s not realistic. They know they’ll be joining you at the dinner table for another roast to refuse the very next night. (We actually have very great little eaters who eat up all their brussel sprouts and asparagus on a regular basis, but mix a whole bunch of things in a creamy casserole, and it’s THE end of the world.)
Be realistic and if you’re going to take something away, try to make it a natural consequence.
“I see you’re having a hard time settling into bed this evening, your choices are to settle in with bunny and blanket now, or mommy and daddy will take bunny and blanket for the night, which do you choose?”
“It looks like you’re not really into your dinner tonight. We have a yummy dessert prepared for you. Your choices are to finish your supper and enjoy your dessert, or you can decide to be done with dinner and have no dessert, what do you choose?”
My favourite for grumpy little people.
“We want to have a happy time with you, but you aren’t seeming too happy at the moment. You can stay with us and be happy, or you can go to your room, which do you choose? Happy? or bed?”
By offering choices, you’re giving your child the power to make a choice. So when they continue to not eat the rest of their dinner, they’ve communicated “no dessert”. When they are still being a little monkey jumping on the bed, they’ve chosen to miss out on having they’re favourite blanket to sleep with. When they are still being grumpy, they’ve chosen to be alone away from the rest of the group.
Let’s face it. You may think you’re in control, but the only one that controls me, is me. Soon enough, the only person that controls these little people, will be themselves! I want to train them up to have the ability to make great choices for themselves!
Rule #3: Don’t Belittle The Offender
Remember the shame that comes with getting in trouble in front of someone else? The embarrassment? The ridicule?
Don’t squash someone’s spirit to make a point.
We need to remember that these little people haven’t lived all the life you have. There’s a world to discover. They are learning each and everyday how to do life. Treat them with love and respect, even when you feel they don’t deserve it. My best lessons have been learned through receiving grace rather than being shamed. I know it’s easier said than done. But sometimes it’s just a matter of having the tools to ponder on, so that at least you can go back and apologize when you’ve wronged your own child.
Does your family have Rules that hold you accountable?