I’ve read a lot of books about parenting. Some about how spanking is not a good form of punishment and others about how spanking should be used when a child is going to hurt themselves or others. I’ve come to the conclusion that it ISN’T about WHAT form of discipline you choose, but HOW it is done that makes the difference.
There have been a few times in my parenting life that I have not been able to move a whole lot. In those instances I have used the only tool I felt was available; my VOICE! I know plenty of parents that use their powerful voice just because it gets the FASTEST reaction. But does it get the BEST reaction? In times where I have used a demanding “do what I say” power play voice, I end up with two reactions: Fear and Rebellion.
Fear is not what I want my kids to feel towards me. I know that many parents don’t care as long as they get their kids to do what they want. In the long run, this will NOT be the case. When children do not feel loved or listened to, they WILL rebel or they will try to escape another way. It’s not to say that children won’t try ANYway, as all children will test their boundaries to see if you really mean what you say. But there is a difference between curiosity and rebellion. It takes TIME to listen to what your kids feel and in today’s world where we are a microwave culture, we expect our children to HURRY up and listen to US. It doesn’t happen that way. Kids NEED to feel that you care in order to care about others. They learn from your example.
My best advice that I can give is to watch your temper. Use time out not as a discipline, but as a place to calm down. Yes, even a time-out for you. When a child hears the frustration and impatience in your voice, most likely, they already know that you don’t care how they feel. After time-out, follow through with discipline immediately. I follow through with something we already agreed upon as a family: “When you disrespect, you do push-ups according to your age,” “When you hit, you are spanked.” Time-out gives us ALL the chance to calm down first, so that NO discipline is done in anger.
I’ll give you an example. When we first began spanking (and we avoided it with our first until he was 3yrs old), my son would turn around and try to spank my husband while he was being spanked. We were upset. Nothing else was working. My son was rebelling in his form of “punishment.” Fast forward a few years to when we had been talking about forms of discipline, my son was in time-out (sitting on his bed in his room) until he was ready to apologize and do the agreed upon discipline for lying. He waited a LONG time in time out, but after a while, came up to me and said, “I lied. I’m sorry. Can you just spank me already?” That is completely different from the first form to the last. In the first instance, my son felt justified in hitting back, because he felt it was hitting. The last example, my son knew it was the agreed upon discipline and I waited until he was ready to accept that he had done something wrong, apologize for it, and accept the consequences. He did not move on until I got the agreed upon response.
Other forms of discipline, I like to call “natural consequences.” A natural consequence for stealing is not only the fact that it was disrespectful, but that he also needs to repay what he stole. If he stole a toy car, he needs to give it back before the discipline is done. If he broke something, he needs to come up with a plan to replace it. If he criticized his sister, he needs to say 10 things nice to her.
The Goal of Punishment is to make them behave. They will constantly look to see if you’re watching to get away with what they want to do. It’s holding YOU accountable for what they are doing. You’re the bad guy.
The Goal of Discipline is to help them learn from their mistakes to not WANT to do it again. It’s holding them accountable for their actions. There are many ways to Discipline and we all make mistakes including us adults. If we are able to admit this with our kids, listen to them first, come up with discipline together, and follow through, we all have more natural respect for others and sincere apologies given. And while it may seem like a lot of effort on your part in the beginning, you will begin to see that you are actually using less effort by disciplining vs. punishment.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” ~Hebrews 12:11
Some of my favorite resources on Discipline have been:
Dr. Kevin Leman’s books “Have a New Kid by Friday” and “Making Children Mind without Losing Yours”