Here’s an example, when it comes to discipline I can send my son to time out and it’s done. He hates time out, that or he hates getting caught, either way it usually solves the problem. My daughter on the other hand sees time out as a joke, literally. She will sit there and laugh and carry on as if it’s a game. I’ve noticed with her you have to talk her down and really explain a situation to her, not that it always works, but it gets a point across. Sometimes she just needs time to “calm down”, and by this I mean she yells “I mad!” and slams her bedroom door closed and after a few minutes she’s a new person. It works though, she has a moment alone to pull herself together, I have a moment to calm down too and we start over.
I had a chance to talk to Dr. Fran Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and she said one of the most common discipline mistakes a parent makes is that they do not recognize their own discomfort with being the target of their childs’ anger. When kids express angry feelings often their mothers and fathers try to quell their child’s powerful feelings by distracting, denying, punishing, or other means of making kids go under with strong emotions. Dr. Walfish teaches parents to invite their children to directly express angry feelings toward their parents. In other words, you should not accept disrespectful, inappropriate behavior, but you do acknowledge, validate, and accept your child flaws and all.
Dr. Walfish also promotes “calm down” (time-out) time, like I mentioned before. For children ages 4 and over you can send your child to their room to have a chance to calm down. Dr. Walfish does not recommend leaving a child under the age of 4 alone. Toddlers need their parents help in learning how to hold and regulate powerful feelings. Rather than leaving an out-of-control toddler alone in a time out, Dr. Walfish suggests that a parent stay with the young child and even hold or contain the child in a specific way to help the child expel his rage while being held in a safe calming way. In my case when my son is in time out I’m only a few feet away, and he is in my line of vision, and even though my daughter runs into her room and slams the door, I’m right on the other side. You need to do what works for you and what makes you and your children comfortable.
Sometimes though, time outs, or calm-down time can be interrupted by your other kids. I call this “mob mentality”. Dr. Walfish suggests that you need to treat the “mob” as siblings versus as twins, triplets or quads. In other words, many parents feel like there is a mob mentality amongst their kids in families without multiples. So, your primary function is to deal with the child who needs your attention, discipline, or support. When the others chime in, talk out loud with them about what they are feeling. For instance you can say “When Mommy gives a consequence to you brother, I think you get worried. Sometimes you want to protect him and get him away from Mom. Your brother is not hurt, he’s just mad at Mommy because he wants more….”. Speculate out loud what you think the other children are feeling and doing. It will relieve everyone’s anxiety as well as take the power out of their behavior. Nobody is ever comfortable seeing someone else get in trouble, so this makes sense, especially if you are dealing with toddlers.
Now I’m sure you are thinking, what about when we’re in public? Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve been “that Mom” with the child that drops to the floor screaming because they don’t want to leave. According to Dr. Walfish it’s important to self-examine why discipline is an issue in public. Mainly, are you the kind of person who cares, perhaps too much, about how you are viewed by others? Your objective in handling discipline in public is to teach self control and inhibiting impulses in public. Prepare your child in advance for what is expected. Let her know if she gets too loud o has a particularly hard time, you will take her out of the mall and into the car to settle down. She will have one chance to go back into the store and try again. If she has another meltdown or can’t follow rules, you will leave and go straight home. Support her and always follow-though on the consequences you laid out. This approach has worked on both of my children, granted it is not a desired outcome for you as a parent to have to leave and stop what you are doing, but it is necessary. We’ve had to take both of our kids out of birthday parties to calm down in the car, sometimes they just need that moment away from everything.
Dr. Walfish also sent me some additional tips that can be found in her book, The Self-Aware Parent:
* ALWAYS BE CURIOUS AND OPEN ENOUGH TO LOOK WITHIN AND BECOME MORE SELF-AWARE.
* BE KIND AND NICE TO YOUR CHILD(REN).
* DO NOT STRIVE FOR PERFECTION. BE “GOOD ENOUGH”.
* DON’T GET CAUGHT IN POWER STRUGGLES.
* NEVER ENGAGE IN NEGOTIATIONS, BARGAINING, OR DEAL MAKING.
* BALANCE NURTURING, SETTING LIMITS, AND HOLDING BOUNDARIES.
* LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD(REN). INTERPRET BOTH VERBAL AND NON-VERBAL CUES.
* ENCOURAGE HEALTHY EXPRESSION OF ANGER.
* NURTURE AND PRAISE YOUR CHILD’S INCREMENTAL STEPS TOWARD SEPARATION.
* ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD’S UNIQUE AND INDIVIDUAL IDEAS, THOUGHTS, AND OPINIONS.
* HAVE SPECIAL TIME WITH YOUR KIDS EVERY DAY.
* SHIELD YOUR CHILDREN FROM HEARING MOM AND DAD FIGHT.
* ASK QUESTIONS OF OTHERS IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
* HAVE A WEEKLY DATE NIGHT AND DAILY TALK TIME WITH YOUR SPOUSE/PARTNER. THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR FAMILY IS BUILT UPON YOUR MARITAL RELATIONSHIP.
* BUILD SELF-ESTEEM BY USING WORDS THAT SUPPORT AND MOTIVATE WITH EMPATHIC ATTUNEMENT, RATHER THAN CRITICIZE.
* EQUIP YOUR CHILD WITH COPING SKILLS TO DEAL WITH DISAPPOINTMENTS. WE CANNOT PROTECT OR PREVENT LIFE’S DISAPPOINTMENTS. THE BEST WE CAN DO IS EQUIP OUR CHILDREN WITH COPING SKILLS TO DEAL WITH INEVITABLE LETDOWNS.
In the end the way you discipline your child is going to be house, and child, specific. The entire topic of discipline always reminds of a quote by Erma Bombeck (I LOVE her!), it goes “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” Thank you again to Dr. Fran Walfish for shedding some light on this topic!
How do you discipline? What are some tips that you can share?