Finding Your Discipline Style

Gosh, what a busy weekend!

Much of Saturday was spent on the road—we went out to lunch before heading to Dyer, then realized there was a time change where we were headed, so we drove around downtown Indianapolis for an hour to stall.

Dyer was great, though! It’s always nice to see family, and we celebrated my husband’s GREAT GRANDMOTHER’S 101st birthday!

It’s so amazing that my girls still have a great-great grandparent. That’s nearly unheard of!

While there, we had a second birthday party for another family member, this one was a surprise.

So needless to say, there was lots of food, beer, toys, kids running around.

As our kids were running around, playing with their cousins, my husband and I realized how well they were behaving. This was the first time we’ve been to any sort of event without having to get up every two seconds, or reside to following them around to make sure they’re not terrorizing some other kid, or stealing someone’s food.

It was a breath of fresh air being able to actually relax and let them play without having to get up and be the bad guy. I know I’m not the only one who has gone through this!

So when your child misbehaves on a consistent basis, what’s the best way to administer discipline?

Well, as you may be aware, there is a wide range of thought on this subject. One school of thought teaches essentially hand’s off, and says, the little darlings are very intelligent, so let them figure it all out on their own. No punishment or reward systems. Still another extreme says that the Singapore model of “caning” people for littering is a good one.

Most of us find ourselves in between these two extreme positions.

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The fact is that anyone who actually watches children behave – without preset mental filters – will almost certainly come to the conclusion that different children respond differently. Some kids could care less about spankings. It’s like they don’t even feel it at all. Or if you use a reward system, it doesn’t phase them—they could do with or without whatever you’re offering.

So how do you find out what method of discipline will work for your kid(s)?

In a word: experiment! Here are six ideas for proceeding.

#1 – Put on your “scientist hat.”

Research what’s out there. No author knows your kid better than you do. But many researchers have seen thousands of kids and had opportunities to try various strategies with kids and their families. So knowing what’s been done before is a very good strategy in and of itself.

#2 – Once you have a sense of what is possible, start interacting with your own kid(s).

Bear in mind that we live in societies that are increasingly filled with busybodies who do everything they can to blur the lines between discipline and abuse. So be careful as you try different discipline ideas.

Important note: as you try these ideas, it is critically important that you (a) remember your main goal: raising good, intelligent humans that are no a-holes. If this isn’t your main goal, well, shoot. Not sure why you’re reading this, then. And (b) be patient. This is as much an experiment for them as it is for you. They’ve never been where they are right now. It’s their first time being a kid at the age they are. And remember, you’re not dealing with lab rats here. You’re dealing with *your* children. Never lose sight of that.

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#3 – When you find something that seems to work, don’t think you can finally relax.

Sorry, Charlie.

Don’t confuse short term hits to the bull’s-eye with long term success. Your child may be responding to novelty as much as to the discipline. When the novelty wears off – and it will – your child may very well revert to the old behaviors that you tried to change. Novelty has a tough time lasting more than a few weeks. So give things at least three to six weeks to see if the changes are enduring.

#4 – Tweak before you make major changes in your efforts.

For example, suppose you are rewarding your kid(s) with pizza at the end of the week if certain things are done right. And suppose you have reason to believe they are responding to novelty rather than the measures themselves. Rather than junking the measures, tweak them a bit to determine if your suspicion is valid. For example, you might vary the food rewards and say, “Look – if you do the right things, you get to pick what we have for Friday dinner.” You might be on the right track and tweaking gives you a chance to really find out.

#5 – If tweaking doesn’t work, then by all means try new approaches, keeping in mind all of the above.
#6 – Finally, be humble enough to know that you might need professional family help in the form of therapists and other counselor types.

This does NOT mean you are a bad parent, or that you have bad kids.

However, you’ve got to be careful here because these professionals vary widely in terms of competence and also in terms of appropriateness for your family. For example, some therapists suggest Ritalin as the first line of therapeutic intervention if the child is having trouble in school. You have a right to be skeptical in such situations. Listen to your own inner voice here. No matter how well-intentioned, many therapists simply get things wrong. If the one you’ve initially selected isn’t right for your child or your family, try another.

Note: there are professional organizations that can help you find a decent therapist if there is a need. America and many other nations are rich in resources to help families. Look to them if your problems grow too intense for you to handle on your own.

One last little bit–use common sense.

Sounds strange perhaps, but the fact is that no matter what professional help you may seek out, no matter what books you read, and no matter what online forums you participate in – YOU will be making the decisions. You are responsible, like it or not. Use the best intelligence you can and proceed with caution.



3 thoughts on “Finding Your Discipline Style

  1. Janice Berger says:

    You and Derrick, have well behaved, well rounded girls. However, they are still young, and will try your very last nerve. Just know your on a journey that takes, patience, endurance, and knowing that every child is different, and what works for one, does not work for another. Just keep doing what your doing, they are beautiful,,

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