Okay, so this was a response I wrote to someone with a four year old. I felt it described part of our discipline to a great degree. It leaves out the “babying older children” and other relationship things I’ll talk about in other posts. But it does give some strong teaching based discipline, in my opinion. So I thought I’d share it here.
As for what YOU do?
Consistency is KEY. A lot of people tend to teach kids not to listen until they yell, get frustrated, punish. There is an easy fix for this (but it will take a couple weeks of exhaustion to handle it). Simply, say what you mean and mean what you say. When you give a directive, HAVE him comply. Don’t say things three times, don’t yell, don’t offer punishment instead, don’t spank or give a time out. Simply HAVE him comply.
“T-lo, please put your glasses on,” may need to include you handing him his glasses as you say it. Later, you may give him an opportunity to choose to comply, but you’ll have gotten his attention, given the directive, and be ready to usher him towards his glasses if need be. If you do those things with EVERY directive, in time, he’ll get that you have “mommy magic” and everything you says, comes true! Shortly after that, you’ll know he’ll just put it on because he simply complies with what you say. Of course, then a few weeks later, he’ll test to see if you still will follow through. You’ll simply usher him towards his glasses and he’ll see you most certainly do.
BTW, if you find that you are having to actually help him comply a lot or you try to move on and he doesn’t show he’s ready, take that as your mistake for misreading him and step back. He’s FOUR. Seriously, NOTHING he is doing or not doing now has ANY bearing on how he’ll be at 12 or 25. Promise. Just scaffold him the way HE needs. When he’s ready for the next step, he’ll just do it (kinda like potty training).
Another key tool is stopping the world. I had a five yr old foster son who didn’t want to do his peak flow meter for whatever reason. I have made it fun by letting everyone do it. I have given him silly goals like making it go through the window and being like superman. Seriously, come on kid. So it had to be set up in a way that he wanted to do it. “In order to do ANYTHING else (other than potty and breathe), you need to do this measure.” Now, you state it in the positive like that. Don’t say, “you can’t X until you Y.” You say “after you X, we’ll Y if we have time.” Or whatever.
Okay, but there were two tools I *really* liked in Love and Logic Magic (that is the one for 0-6yr olds).
One is to give the child an INSANE amount of choices. Give him as much control as you can give him in a way reasonable for him. And make a game out of it. How many times can you give him a choice? Do you want the red shirt or the yellow? Do you want the black pants or the blue? Do you want white socks or yellow? Do you want the light on or off while you change? Do you want the door open or shut? Do you want me to stay in here or go fix breakfast? Do you want oatmeal or omelets? Do you want berries with that? Blueberries or strawberries? Do you want a spoon or a fork? Do you want the spoon in the bowl or on the table or on your head? The point of this is to give him control over things that really should be in his control. We mamas have a BAD habit of saying no, making all the decisions, etc. Let him control his world. The other point is that the relationship is like a bank. You keep making these deposits and it’ll hurt less and less when you need to make some withdrawls (some of the choices yourself). Seriously, if you have $50 in the bank, then the $47 water bill HURTS. But if you have $5,000 in the bank, you don’t mind the $47 water bill so much. And once you have $500,000 extra dollars in the bank, who cares about $47 you forgot about til the last moment?
The second tool I liked was “uh-oh.” Now the book says you can say “bummer” or a number of other things. But I have found that I cannot say “uh-oh” in anything other than a toddler teacher voice. Seriously. You simply cannot sound abusive with it! Well, my kids LOVED it also. It gave them the feedback they needed without causing them to tense up (my kids have trauma histories so freeze and don’t hear another word when I try to correct them because they get scared). They could stay in the moment rather than falling back to their old lives all because I said, “uh-oh” instead of a sharp “Tony.” Pretty cool, huh? Now, the book pairs uh-ohs with punishment WAY WAY WAY too often in my opinion. It is short, gentle punishment, but punishment nonetheless. And unnecessary for the most part. Instead of punishing for making a mistake, fix it, figure out what to do better next time and move on. A great book to help littles learn how to do better next time is Raising a Thinking Child by Myrna Shure.It is basically a problem solving curriculum you can do as a “circle time’ of sorts (or at supper or whatever) with kiddos. It is FUN and easy (appropriate for ages 2-8).
So those are a few of our non-punitive, non-relationship, non-environmental based discipline strategies. Obviously I have some of those also. In fact, I’d guess that the environment and relationship aspects are much more important generally. But I was looking at his discussion for another reason so decided to write about this this morning 🙂