Love your child(ren)? Of course, you do. So when he or she 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.
The fact is that anyone who actually watches children behave – without preset mental filters – will almost certainly come to the conclusion that each child responds differently. Some children have a very high “pain” threshold. They can take whatever penalties you set as they stubbornly refuse to do what they should. There are others who can be easily motivated by various token systems.
So how do you find out what method of discipline will work for your child(ren)?
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 child better than you do. But many researchers have seen thousands of kids and had opportunities to try various strategies with children and their families. So knowing what’s been done before is a very good strategy to start.
#2 – Once you have a sense of what is possible, start interacting with your children. 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 children. 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.
#3 – When you find something that seems to work, don’t think you can finally relax. Usually, short-term hits to the bulls-eye with long-term success are few and far between. 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 3-6 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. 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.
Finally, use common sense. It sounds strange, 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, good or bad. Use the best judgment you can and proceed with caution.
Do you have a difficult child? How have you been dealing with discipline so far? Leave me a comment about your experience with disciplining your children.
I hope you are having a wonderful week!