Raising Children - Discipline
|The Right Toys
|Emotionally Healthy Kids
Goal of Hands-on Parenting:
1. Take some of the guesswork out of parenting
2. Provide practical solutions from experts and real parents.
WHY IS DISCIPLINE SUCH A HOT TOPIC?
Parents want to do a good job! All kinds of contradictory advice from various "experts" is available. How do you know which is right? And what will happen if the parent doesn't do a good job and raise a good child? Maybe violence (Columbine) or a child with poor self esteem? Parents don't know and are fearful.
ARE KIDS DIFFERENT TODAY?
No, family life is. Much more active. Much over-scheduling. Up and out of house at 6:30 a.m. didn't happen in the "good ol' days." "Hurry up; we're late!" is common talk. Actually have to "schedule" family time. Fewer than four meals/week together is average for a family today.
YOU CAN'T TEACH DISCIPLINE AT THE TIME OF A CRISIS.
It's very common for parents to be concerned about disciplining children in public. It's important to set family rules for behavior BEFORE discipline situations occur. Once the problem occurs you just have to go into crisis control and then teach the desired behavior at a later time when things are calmer.
Discipline often feels like a difficult task for working parents who really don't want to come home after not seeing their children all day and then have to be "in their face" during the brief time parents and children do have together. By trying to avoid setting the necessary limits and boundaries, chaos often results and the evening is "ruined" for everyone.
GOOD BASICS ARE NEEDED
Parents need to get back to some simple basics of parenting as a good starting point for teaching discipline and enjoying family life together.
- Daily doses of fresh air and exercise. Nutritious, well-balanced meals with emphasis on fresh foods and plenty of fruits and veggies. A good night's sleep (Babies 14-16 hours, 12-14 hours for young children, 8-10 hours for school-age children)
- Predictable routines and downtime
(Example: If a 4-year old has been strapped in the car seat after a full day away from home, has not had a nap or time to run around outside and "play" or a chance to let off steam some way, then it's understandable why he/she might be uncooperative or "bouncing off the walls" late in the day when the family is all together.)
WHEN DISCIPLINE ISSUES ARISE, LOOK TO THESE BASICS AS A POTENTIAL HELP IN SOLVING THE PROBLEM.
MANY PARENTS WORRY ABOUT BEING CONSISTENT IN THEIR DISCIPLINE.
Peggy North-Jones suggests that if you are approaching 50% consistency then you're probably in the ballpark. Keep working to improve, but don't be too hard on yourself. Parents often discipline differently at home, in the park, at McDonalds, but the goal is to teach children the rules, so they know what to expect.
WHAT IF MOM DISCIPLINES ONE WAY AND DAD ANOTHER? ISN'T THIS A PROBLEM?
No, it's normal for parents to approach things differently.
What is important is that both parents show respect for the other's point of view and agree that for THIS situation, mom and dad agree to do it THIS way. The parents then present a united front.
WHAT ABOUT GOING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE PARENTS?
"Mom said I could eat a candy bar." Dad needs to double check with Mom and see if, indeed, this is what Mom has said. This way the children can't undermine the other parent.
PANEL PARTICIPANT MARIA: I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY KIDS QUARRELING WITH EACH OTHER.
North-Jones: Remember you can't teach discipline at the time of crisis. You can let the kids settle it themselves, you can separate the children, etc. THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO SIT DOWN LATER AND TALK AND TEACH IDEAS TO HANDLE THE PROBLEM for the next time it comes up. How children get along at home is how they will treat others outside the home.
(Sample solution of aggressive child rubbing the brother's arm or holding on a compress or putting band-aids on the sibling's "boo boos." Solution shows negotiation and caring and involvement vs. the too-easy, too-quick, inadequate "I'm sorry." If the children all laugh at the silliness of seeing all the band-aids, so much the better. Humor is good.)
PANEL PARTICIPANT DEBBIE: I TELL MY CHILD TO STAY IN BED AND HE DOESN'T LISTEN.
North-Jones: Set limits. Have a consequence if they don't follow that limit.
(Example: 8 p.m. - child in bed. Mom "off duty." If child gets up parent may have to put tape across the doorway if child gets up again. Maybe the parent will have to close the child's bedroom door, possibly even lock it until the child cooperates. This does not need to go on and on, just until the child understands he needs to cooperate if he wants to sleep with the door open. And parents can reassure the child that the door will be open as soon as the child is settled in the bed. It is the child's choice to get the door open, based on the child's own behavior.)
Don't give up with, "I tried that last night and it didn't work." Remember it takes from 5 nights to 6 weeks to teach a new behavior and ensure that the child is in a new pattern. Trying a whole variety of solutions often complicates the situation and confuses the child.
DOESN'T THIS TRAUMATIZE THE CHILD OR RUIN SELF-ESTEEM?
North-Jones doesn't think so. The child needs to learn that life has limits - better to learn
such limits at home at age 3 rather than in the police station at 16 when a car is involved. MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT THE CHILD LEARNS THE PARENT IS IN CHARGE OF LIMIT SETTING AND DECISION MAKING FOR THIS AGE GROUP. THREE AND FOUR YEAR OLDS CANNOT ESTABLISH THEIR OWN BEDTIME. THIS MUST COME ACROSS! AT THE SAME TIME THE CHILD LEARNS THAT CONSEQUENCES -- BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE -- ARE LOGICAL TO THE BEHAVIOR THEY ARE EXHIBITING.
PANEL PARTICIPANT PATTI: MY CHILD CALLS ME NAMES SOMETIMES AND ALSO SAYS HE DOESN'T LIKE ME AND THAT HE'S NOT GOING TO BE MY FRIEND.
North-Jones: The parent doesn't need to be "liked." The parent's job is to teach limits and to support the healthy growth and development of the child. Parents can expect to have their child be unhappy with them, because children don't want the limits parents set, if it gets in the way of what they want. A parent's need to be liked by the child at all times is an issue the parent needs to resolve.
(Example: If a child says he hates the parent, the rule in this house may be that we don't say HATE. If the child uses the word, there must be a consequence. The consequence might be that the parent chooses to leave the room and not be with the child when he/she talks like that. Later the parent can talk to the child about not talking that way in this family and/or offer other solutions for the child.)
Common at certain ages (3-3 1/2, 5-5 1/2). Kids test how smart the parent is and need to learn that parents come with built-in PARENT HUNCHES. If you think the child is lying and evidence is obvious, the parent can say, "I ASSUME you did . . . " It's also important for parent to apologize if he/she makes a mistake in assessing the situation - this is good role modeling.
NORTH-JONES SUGGESTS PARENTS READ A GOOD BOOK ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT which will help them understand what they can expect at the different ages and stages of their child's growth. She also suggests TALKING TO EXPERIENCED PARENTS who've "been there, done that."
HAZELTON: CONCLUDING REMARKS.
1. Set the rules in advance, not at the time of a crisis.
2. Children need the basics of exercise, adequate nutrition and sleep.
3. Your job is to be the parent, first and foremost, not a friend.
HAVE FUN WITH PARENTING!