I was going to make the next post in this series about our checklists, because that is the first thing we did right off the bat to change how things run in our home. But I think I’m jumping ahead of myself. I think it’s better off to set the ground work before I get into practical situations.
We all probably know the basics of good discipline — set a few rules, state them clearly, implement consequences matter of factly, and be consistent. We all know this, right? So where does it fall apart? Why do we end up nagging and and yelling? Most likely it’s because we don’t have a plan.
Having a workable plan is KEY to effective discipline. Otherwise, when we get into a situation where we need to implement consequences, we are at a loss. We don’t know what to do, so we resort to nagging, our frustration escalates, and before we know it we are yelling. What? You don’t know anything about that? Well, that’s the way it seems to work around these here parts. Or if I don’t yell, I get sarcastic and crabby. Neither scenario is conducive to happy home, and neither will foster the positive relationships I hope to build with my kids.
The key is to plan ahead. As best as you can, know what you are going to do before you get into a sticky situation. One book I’ve read even suggests role playing to get your “part” down pat. I have a mental list of the areas we need to work on (homework, picking up toys, morning routine, poky child syndrome) and as I’m reading various parenting books, I’m gathering ideas for ways to combat each problem in a way that will promote independence and responsibility in our children and will keep steam from coming out of my ears.
Of course every kid is different, and we know our own kids best, so the plan of attack may vary family to family and child to child, but the important thing is to have a plan. It’s also important to realize that as they get older, parenting gets different. I can’t expect the same level of responsibility out of the 4-year-old as I do out of my 10-year-old. Likewise, my 10-year-old needs more freedom than my 4-year-old. The point is, both have age-appropriate consequences for their various infractions.
Having a plain involves a lot of thinking ahead. I find myself thinking about what I want to happen next so I can prepare my kids for what I want them to do next. When we get home, before we get out of the car, I think about what I want my kids to do, and then I lay it out for them. When we are going to a public place, I lay out my expectations and make sure they understand what I expect. Yes, it takes a little extra mental energy, but it totally pays off because more often than not, they follow through. And if they don’t, they have no one to blame but themselves.
If, like me, you have a child who has a hard time staying on task and remembering things, it helps to make a little game of it. I will list three things I want her to do when we get inside (usually it’s hang up your coat, put your shoes away, and wash your hands.) Then I will have her say them back to me. I’ll hold up three fingers, and as she lists the tasks, I will count them on my fingers. If we do this a couple of times before we get out of the car, she has a much better chance of remembering to follow through.
Lastly, part of having a plan is modeling the behavior you expect from them. All too often I find myself yelling at the kids for not being ready to go somewhere on time, but I’m sitting at my computer doing “just one more thing” instead of making sure they have done everything they need to do. A good parent, like any good leader, will set the example of the behavior we want to see in our kids. If I want my kids to put their shoes away when we walk in the house, I need to put my shoes away when I walk into the house. If I want my kids to be ready on time, I need to get myself ready on time. Conversely, if I act like chores are drudgery, my kids are going to think chores are drudgery. You get the drift.
There is nothing new in the world, and nothing here is earth shattering, but I found myself in dire need of a refresher course in parenting and discipline, so I thought it might help others to share what I’m learning. Please feel free to chime in with any thoughts and suggestions you may have.
See all posts in this Raising Responsible Kids series.
Disclaimer: I am by NO MEANS a parenting expert of any sort. I am just sharing some things I’m learning as I navigate the muddy waters of motherhood. I figure, if they work for me, they may work for someone else. Good luck!
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