So this is third in a series on discipline for your children. These build on each other. It starts with controlling yourself (the only person you will EVER be able to control, give up on everyone else!) Next you control the environment for more effective consequences and increasing your odds of getting through the day without screaming at anyone. Last, you need to give your kids an idea of what’s coming and options they can use. I call this being a mirror for them. It’s how you take control of the feedback. They’ll ignore you a lot and get themselves into trouble anyway. Smile, hand out a consequence or point out the natural one that already happened, repeat. It will take some repetition but it will work.
Control the Feedback
- I confront everything. Notice I didn’t say that I fight everything. You are NOT going to have a fight to prove your child left the toilet seat up, didn’t clean up their crumbs, or used a nasty tone of voice with you. You just need to reflect back. No judgement, no screaming, no emotions (from YOU!). Since you’ve already established control of yourself and the environment, they know your words have meaning. You do not need to add all the emotions to get attention. State what you see. Remain calm. Hand out consequences as necessary.
- I tell this child how he looks. “You’re wearing shorts and it’s 45 degrees outside.” “The look your making with your face right now is angry and sad.” “You were so sad last week when your friend didn’t want to play with you. And you just told your friend you didn’t want to play with him.” Describe the behavior and leave the judgement for later. These steps build on each other so you will get to say how the behavior ends out, just not at first. Describe first.
- I predict how this action is going to end up. This is for the immediate effects of behavior. You wore shorts on that cold day, “Your legs will be cold today.” You don’t have your homework done this morning, “The teacher may take your recess today.” I asked you to clean your room and that didn’t happen, “If your room isn’t clean in the next 15 minutes I will fill one bag with whatever is on the floor.” You yelled a mean thing at your friend, “Johnny will want to go home if you keep yelling at him.” Point out the natural consequences that are coming (the cold, the rain, the other kids won’t want to play) and the logical consequences that you will enforce (I take your toys because you took your brother’s dessert, I limit your electronics since you watched You Tube videos while you were supposed to be doing chores.)
- I make educated guesses. This is where parents get to talk about consequences that will happen in several weeks or months. It’s also a good time to talk to kids about where small choices and peer pressure can lead to trouble. Don’t try this if you haven’t already established that you control yourself and your words carry meaning. Kids tune out adults they don’t have to respect. Consequences for their negative behaviors help your children listen when it’s important later. Self-control allows you to maintain your composure when kids roll their eyes and try to tell you they KNOW! already. They are trying to end the serious conversation by having a stupid fight about their bad attitude. You have the control. So you don’t take that bait.
I will talk about the long term future. My husband and I talk to our son about college. He has to learn to take showers because there won’t be any bathtubs in the dorm. He has to learn how to fold his own clothes and make breakfast because your room mates don’t want to take care of you. There are so many skills your children need in order to fly out of your nest and get a real life. Be sure you are talking about the future and the reasons you have them unload the dishwasher instead of doing it yourself in half the time. Do not leave your children free to make up reasons for their chores and the rules of your house. Kids left to their own devices on this will tell everyone that you adopted them in order to have slave labor! They will be sure that all the rules, morals, and boundaries are set to make their lives horrible. Make the future a constant that you talk about. And make sure you have a solid reason for every chore they do, every rule your family lives by, and every moral precept you want them to follow.
Picture by LabrynthX “Mirror Clouds”