Thursday, February 10, 2011

Groundation Part III-My Discipline Style

My discipline style is mixed. I don’t like to be too strict but I also don’t like to be to laxed either. My idea is to set my children up for success, and when that fails, as it sometimes will, I try making them think.
Let’s first start with setting kids up for success.
My practice has always been to avoid putting my child in too many positions where they are unavoidably going to make the wrong choice.
·         I limit TV. and electronics because of the effects it has on them; saving them from the bored-zombie syndrome
·         I encourage good eating habits by only stocking healthy foods in the house, throwing in some marshmallows, fresh chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, etc., for deserved treats once in a while; avoiding sugar highs and lows
·         I set reasonable bed times to encourage good sleep habits so they are well rested; this helps them be focused and not cranky the next day
·         I try my best to encourage doing the right thing by being a good role model; not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.
·         Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. I give my time and energy to them more than I give myself, so that they see that they are important; this makes them feel worthy and special, and gives them no reason to be whiny, mean, disrespectful and rude when I am busy doing my own thing (it’s a known fact kids will act out because they want attention, even if it’s bad attention)
There are many more things I do to set them up for success, but the bottom line is, I work very hard to give them a strong foundation to start with, so that hopefully, their poor choices are at a minimum and their uncontrollable behaviors are close to none.
ALL children are good. ALL children have the potential to be wonderful kids; they just need us to help them. We can support them by setting them up for better behavior and by understanding what causes their ill will.
Here’s what I mean by this. My son is six and loves to stay up later during football season to watch Monday night football. He is usually allowed to stay up past his bedtime to see the first quarter to the first half of the game. But, he was consistently getting a warning in school the next day for talking. After two or three times of that, the light bulb went on and we took away the privilege of Monday night football. After about a month, we, gave it back, BUT, with fair warning and discussion, that he was allowed to watch again, though he would have to work extra hard the next day to control his behaviors, since he gets hyper when he is overtired.  He has done a marvelous job.
The poor kid probably couldn’t figure out why he kept messing up. But after we informed him, he was educated and could work on the problem. Now he knows he needs to work harder at controlling his behavior when he is in that situation.  (I use the same tactic when he is on his asthma meds. I inform him that ‘just because it can make you more active does not give you a license to act out. Practice self control’,
We know that common discipline starts here:
·         Kids have to know their boundaries; that’s why there are rules.
·         They have to know why there's rules; that’s why we explain the reasons behind them.
·         They have to know what the consequences are if they break those rules; hence the punishments.
But combined with some help on the parent’s part, as well as educating the child, we can take discipline to the next level and will most likely equip them to make better choices, thus making discipline much more successful.
Let’s now discuss the thinking part; teaching the lesson by looking inside.
I usually walk through a series of age appropriate questions with my children about what they did. Depending on the misdemeanor, the questions might get deep, but they are always thought provoking enough for them to see how what they did affects themselves and others, how they would feel if someone were to do it to them, and how they have full control of their actions.
If it is my teen, I allow her the time to realize that she is disrespecting herself and her future if she does not study and winds up with a poor grade on a test. It’s her self-esteem and potential for scholarships or rewards in school that suffers, not mine.
If my son gets in trouble at school and ends up missing movie night at home, well, that was up to him, he chose to talk out of turn and the result was a yellow from the teacher (a behave, or else, code).
If my nine year old daughter decides she is going to disrespect a sibling and gets punished, we walk through the reasons she did it and usually it boils down to her being wrong in the first place, and her siblings were trying to help her; she didn’t appreciate it so she gave them a nasty attitude. It will not be my problem or my fault that she is grounded. 
A nasty attitude in our house equals disrespect and that equals punishment and she knows it.
Once they are in the admittance stage, I want them to follow up with thinking. I promote this by making them read. They will read the bible, (that’s usually the only book they can read when grounded) or I give them character building stories to read.
This really makes them embarrassed because they realize that they are much too big to be acting the way they did and they often come to me later and apologize saying that they  deserve to be grounded because,  ‘I knew better, but I did it anyway.’
I love hearing that. It is a child free from angst and well into self-accountability.
On to the writing part of the punishment.
I go old school for the younger ones; write 100 times ‘I will not kick my brother’. (Yes, about a year ago, this was necessary.)
I might make them write the dictionary meaning of respect or honesty.
I sometimes make up my own exercises or questions.  Rather than just focusing on the action that landed them here. They might have to make a list of things that they were doing and rate how doing those things drags down their self esteem.
I feel it’s beneficial to stimulate them to go back into their minds and what they were thinking, because after all, we usually do something in our head before we do it for real.
While I have learned a lot about discipline through my childhood, I don’t always have all the answers. There are many websites out there for parents. But, as I scroll through them all, it’s hard to find just one site that answers all the parenting questions and concerns one might have.
Every child, every parent and every situation is different.
Go with your gut, trust that you know what’s best and if all else fails, count to ten and talk to your child.
If you ask the correct questions with the utmost sincerity and empathy, you will usually bring out the reason behind any of your child’s inappropriate actions. Be available and patient enough to listen.
Most importantly, get to know your child. The rules are not set in stone. Parents need to rely a lot on trial and error to find what works with their children. 
Case in point: I realized that although my 9 yr old is excited to be a bigger girl now and wanted to stay up later on school nights, she cannot do it and be a kind socially. She has a melt down by dinner almost every night. We figured as much, so at first we only ran trial runs on later bedtimes.  After a month, we put her back to an 8 pm bedtime. She has been much better at home and much more focused at school.
In the end setting our kids up for success, getting them to contemplate the moments, or days, just before the time that the wrongful behavior starts, helps them understand themselves. It can also teach them what signs to look for next time and maybe even help them identify how to stop it.
It’s all about thinking. Because parent don't want to hear ‘I don’t knooooowww’, when asking our kids why they did something wrong?
So what do you do with repeat offenders?  Reteach the lesson.  Don’t lose faith, be strong, you’re doing the right thing.
How do soft parents (ahem…like myself) stick to punishments?Tough love, baby, tough love.
We had to ground my son for the super bowl, at our friends house, without allowing him to play outside in the snow, no brownies, and no fun at all; it broke our hearts, but we had to do it.
That was tough love. And it stunk.
Today, he is reading his children’s bibles and we are discussing the lessons in it.
My discipline doesn’t always work and I don’t have all the answers, but I am just sharing what I know.
My strategy occasionally goes through changes because as we know, if you have three kids, not all of them will respond to the same type of discipline.
And when my ideas need freshening up, these are some of my resources:
The local library - there’s all kinds of parenting books by all different types of parents
I talk to friends for support. (It helps me to know that I’m not the only one being driven mad by my child.) (Lol)
www.focusonthefamily.com/
www.955thefish.com/
As I have explained about my childhood, I got punished frequently but the punishments never taught me anything, I hadn’t ever  understood the lesson behind having to sit in my room all week, I just had to sit in my room all week. I was never shown how to fix the problem, and like many kids, I didn’t even know what the problem was.
There’s a new book on the market that I will be picking up at the library this week; Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel (Blair from Facts of Life). I will let you know how it is, unless you beat me to it ;)
Don’t be afraid to share:
Give me your best parenting advice when it comes to discipline. What really works in your house?
Tell me about your most difficult discipline problems.

Truly,
Amber

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