So many people ask about discipline these days… probably because so many little kids are totally out of control! Twenty years ago, it was embarrassing to have a toddler screaming in the library because no-one else’s did. Now, you don’t have to feel bad because it happens dozens of times per day. Same for tantrums at the grocery store. Clearly, our American parenting style is out of whack. Discipline is a lost art. Or science. Or something.
That said, no-one seems to agree on much about discipline. I can’t even talk about it without someone saying, “I don’t believe in that.” So I find it hard to offer specifics, even on my own blog! We know behaviors we don’t like, but we don’t know how to fix them. I can’t tell you how many moms I talk to who say something like, “I am so frustrated with my three year old. She won’t listen to anything I say, and I end up yelling at her all day. Nothing changes–she still does what she wants–and I hate yelling and being mad at her.” I think I hear this several times a week, honestly.
So let me tell you one thing I have learned, definitely: you have to stop yelling at your kids. Pick whatever discipline methods you want, but yelling can’t be one of them. I talk about this subject in other posts, but it is so important that I have to restate it here, all by itself. You have to stop yelling. You have to stop yelling. Once more: You have to stop yelling.
Now, when I say “yelling,” that includes other drama such as nagging, whining, complaining, threatening, scolding, mocking, writing off, and being snide. Think of “yelling” as any dysfunctional coping mechanism you’re using all the time to respond to Suzy’s brat nature. The first step in discipline is casting off the coping mechanisms and facing reality. You don’t want to cope, you want to change things. Changing things requires action. And it requires calm, reasoned patience.
I promise you: if you can change this, whatever discipline methods you are using will work better. You have to stop talking (relying on your voice, volume, word choice) and start acting. Get up. Move closer. Intervene. Think of alternatives. Take away. Separate. Set a timer. Replay. Do SOMETHING! But don’t yell. Not across the room–go over to them. Not up the stairs–tell them to come to the top. And not when they’re disobeying–stop the disobedience. If you pretend you have a sore throat or laryngitis for the day, you’ll probably stumble upon the correct ratio of action to talking. And once you’re not yelling, being dramatic, or acting snide with your children–guess what? They can learn to not be so rude with you. Children really do work by the Golden Rule. So get a calm warning voice and get ready to follow through, and that’s all you need to start getting results. Peace and order starts with you!