I am a big believer in discipline. If you want to have kids who behave you need to not be afraid to be a parent...and being a parent means not being afraid to discipline your children from time to time.
Let's get something clear right off the bat, I am pretty old school when it comes to my views about discipline, especially corporal discipline. But before I get all sorts of emails and comments about the evils of spanking, it is important to point out that I am not talking about the "somebody gonna get a hurt real bad" kind of old school, but if you have been paying attention, you would have noticed that I have been using the word discipline instead of punishment. Punishment and discipline are two VERY different things. And for the record, I have had my share of well deserved ear flicks.
The key to disciplining kids is first and foremost self discipline. Your kids are only a mirror of you when you are stressed out. If you want them to learn self control you need to learn self control. If you want to teach your children that God is a loving and righteous father, you need to be a loving and righteous father. If you want your kids to behave under stress, then you have to show them how to behave under stress. Sometimes it is important AND helpful for your kids to see you get stressed out....and to see how you (healthily) calm yourself down. In other words, to share your humanity while reflecting God's divinity.
However there will come a point when the three year old has gone beyond rational thought...at that point it ceases to be a teachable moment and authoritative parenting needs to happen. Take manners for instance, there comes a point when it is no longer productive to wait until the three year old says please or thank you....teaching manners is important...but you have to ask yourself whether this is the hill you are prepared to die on....and really, in a battle of wills against a three year old, who is the adult????
I often tell people that parenting gets easier after three kids, because you have to change your game plan from man to man coverage to playing zone defence. Part of this strategy is knowing that discipline is not about punishment, but about modifying behaviour. You are not trying to get even, or prove that you are smarter or stronger than a two year old....rather you are teaching said two year old that putting a knife in the electrical outlet is not a good thing....better they learn that with a flick to the ear than with a shock to their system.
If you want to teach your kids how to behave at a restaurant, you need to take them to a restaurant once in a while. But teach them table manners at home. Our kids are not allowed to misbehave at the table at any time. If they have not cooled down by the time we finish grace, they are given the chance to cool down away from the table.
Also I can NOT stress the importance of CONSISTENCY enough!!!!!!!!!! Nuff said. Be on the same page as your spouse. Figure out your game plan before the situation arises...because in the heat of the moment, things can get well.....heated.
So while I will admit that I am still figuring some of this discipline stuff out, here are some ground rules that I have found very useful over the years. By the way, while it is a lot of work at first I have to say that I am finding that I don't have to discipline as much these days, because the older ones tend to model for the younger ones....however I still get to use my "asian dad" voice from time to time.
Here is the game plan:
Never discipline when you are angry...ESPECIALLY if you subscribe to corporal punishment.
Always ask your self what is the lesson you are trying to teach.
Ask yourself: Will it matter in five minutes, five days, five weeks or five years?
Discipline MUST be carried out dispassionately...it is counter productive to be freaking out when administering discipline...because your freak out undermines your authority.
The child needs to understand, to the fullness of their capacity, why they are being disciplined.
Never threaten a consequence that you are not prepared to carry out.
Never joke about consequences...sends mixed messages
Discipline needs to fit the crime AND the child. Two kids with different temperaments will react differently to the same punishment....sometimes it is unjust to punish with the same consequence. One child may learn from a flick on the ear, the other one may just laugh it off...and another will spend years n therapy blaming that flick for all of their failures....
As a martial artist I like to employ discipline exercises that have physical benefits...like wall sits or plank pose...if two are at fault sometimes I make them do wall sits side by side...sometimes I will join them.
At the end of the day, teaching a child self discipline is just as important as teaching them math or science. After all that is how we get them to be disciples.
Next week: Zero budget? Try a "Zero Budget"