Last week my blog suggested we take a different perspective on discipline, so this week I want to give you some tools to use if you are able to change the way you think about disciple and view your children's constant quest for understanding as a positive.
Take ownership of the situation. Remember you are the calm, confident and consistent leader. So use the first person. "I won't let you hit your brother." "I don't want you to dump all the Legos out in the living room." "I am not offering an R rated movie."
This does two things: it firmly presents you as the leader, and it takes all judgment of them. "Josh don't hit your brother.” (This gives Josh the power and makes him the bad guy, when who knows what his brother did to make him so mad.) "Please don't dump those Legos here." (With this construction you are at their mercy) "You can't watch an R rated movie, you're only ten." (While this may seem completely reasonable to you, this is a judgement of them -- as too young -- and will only serve to frustrate them.) Can you hear the difference?
Time ins. This is not a new idea. Rather than isolating a child in timeout when they have done something wrong, you take the time to sit with the child. If the child is sent to their corner by themselves they get the idea that your presence and love is contingent on their behavior. Many parents tell their children. "You know I love you no matter what." Well, actions speak louder than words. If and when a child needs time to reflect on their choices, you are there with them, supporting them so they will know that, no matter what they have done, you are there with them to try and help. This fosters trust, so that later they will come to you with embarrassing or difficult problems they are facing outside your home.
Set limits with choices. "Would you like to walk with me to the car or Would you like me to carry you?" When you offer a choice be sure that either way is fine with you, so that when you have to carry them to the car it is not a punishment.
Talk about their choices. Frame it as a choice, not that the child is good or bad, right or wrong. "When your little sister wouldn't get out of your room you chose to push her out. I don't think that was the most helpful choice in that situation. I know you were frustrated but what else could you have done?" Compare that to, "Jill, don't be so mean to your little sister. " It’s the choice, not the child, that gets judged.
Once again, consistency. When you set a limit you must continue to set that same limit every time if you truly want it to be observed. So no matter how tired you are, or how many times in the last hour your child has tried to eat the dog’s food, you must get up and walk over, put your hand over the dish and say, "I don't want you to eat the dog's food." Every time.
If you are consistent there will be a day that you realize you didn't have to block the dog food even once that day. And you can celebrate. However, your child you will move on to the next limit they need to test.
These are just tools. To truly be at peace with your child’s limit testing you must see it as a good thing. Take joy in seeing them explore. Take pride in their persistence and problem solving. Viewing their limit testing as a necessary part of their development, rather than a challenge of your authority will make it much easier to implement these helpful tools to set and keep your limits.
Yet even when you have done that you need practical tools to help you set and keep your limits. I hope these help.