One of my readers recently asked me to write about discipline. I thought that was a good topic so here goes. Let me preface this by saying that I am not an expert on child discipline (nor do I play one on television), and I think everyone has their own disciplining styles. Now that Angel is 2 I have faced many challenges in disciplining her. At this age children are learning boundaries and testing limits. For instance I previously wrote about how she likes to drink bathtub water. This not only grosses me out it became a contest to see who would win between she and I. Guess who won? The night started out like any other, she was in the bathtub playing with her toys. She has a cup she likes to play with and uses it by pouring water on herself. No harm right? Wrong! I would repeatedly catch her with the cup to her mouth. I told her once in my friendly mommy voice, “Angel don’t drink the water”. She would smile her sweet smile and pour it on her belly. A few seconds later the cup was back at her mouth. Me in a more stern voice, “Angel if you drink the water I am going to take the cup away.” Again she pours the water out. Of course she couldn’t resist the temptation of the pink water (it is pink because she likes the Crayola fizzy color tabs) and the cup ended back at her mouth. I walked over and took the cup away, looked at her and said in a very calm voice, “I asked you not to drink the water and you disobeyed so I am going to take the cup away.” 1 point for Mommy. She sits down and continues to play. She then picks up her orange dinosaur toy fills it with water looks right at me, smiles, and proceeds to drink the water. I am starting to get a little aggravated, but I remain calm, walk over to the tub and take the orange dinosaur as well as any other toy she could fill up with water. I said to her again, “Angel Mommy asked you not to drink the water”. She sat down and I began bathing her. I stood up to get her shampoo and in that split second she turns her head (she is laying down) to the side and drinks the water!!!!! No I am not kidding. I don’t say anything; I just let the water out until it is only about an inch deep so she can’t drink the water out of the side of her mouth. Mommy WINS or so I thought!!!! I wash her hair and use the cup to rinse her off. I stand up to get the towel and she rolls onto her belly and, you guessed it, begins to drink the water. At this point I am very frustrated and know that if I give in I will lose this contest. So I drain all of the water out of the tub, finished rinsing her off, and get her out. I look at her and tell her she has disobeyed and will not have any of her toys in the tub for a few days. For the next few nights she didn’t have any toys and the water remained very shallow. I would not walk away from her and any time I saw her even attempt to drink the water I would say sternly, “Don’t drink the water”. I have said this so much that she now tells her doll, “Don’t drink the water”. Which is quite funny, but I don’t laugh, I just say, “That’s right we don’t drink the water”.
When it comes to disciplining our children these are the things that have worked for me (keep in mind I have a 2 year old. I am sure this will all change once she is a tween and later becomes a teenager).
Stay calm - Children can sense your anger and or frustration, and when you get out of control it makes them think they can too. By keeping your voice calm and collected you are the one that remains in control.
Be consistent! – If it is no today, then it is no tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. I have seen parents that will say no and then give in after the child whines, begs, and keeps on. By giving in you are telling them that if you bother me enough eventually I will let you have what you want.
Follow through – When I tell Angel to pick up her toys and she doesn’t I will tell her twice more, my voice becoming sterner each time. Then I will go make her stop what she is doing and pick up her toys. If she doesn’t do it herself then I will hold her hands and make her pick them up. Again consistency.
Look them in the eyes – Just like in most things in life people take you more seriously when you look at them in the eyes. Children are no different.
Love them – When Angel goes to time out and her time is up, I kneel down to her level, look her in the eyes and say, “You hit Mommy and we don’t hit, this is why you were put in time out.” I ask her to apologize then tell her I love her.
All in all I have learned to pick my battles and not sweat the small stuff; children are children and will get into things, make messes, and test your patience. That being said they are still the sweetest thing on earth….. until they tell you to shut up.
Here are a few books that I have read that have helped me.
The Strong Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson
To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl