Disciplining Children is Not a One Size Fits All Subject

6/27/2012 12:21:00 PM Posted by mommy2twincesses

Recently on my Facebook Fan Page there was a bit of heat stemming from the “Hot Topic” of discipline. (If you’ve not found me there yet, please do @ https://www.facebook.com/#!/mommy2twincesses) I was honestly shocked at some people’s opinions of discipline.
I am fully aware that my opinions on the matter are not the popular ones, so I’m just throwing that out there on the front end.
First of all, as the title of this post states, there isn’t a magic “one size fits all” approach that is going to work for all children and all families. Like with most matters of parenting, finding the perfect fit in terms of discipline is trial and error and needs to be tweaked from time to time to remain effective.
In our house, discipline started from the very beginning when the girls could do simple things like pull hair or pinch. They were so young that they didn’t really understand what they were doing, but that didn’t mean that we just let them hurt us or others, discipline began. We would do things such as pry their fingers away from whatever they were hurting and redirect them by giving another object to grasp, such as a blanket or toy. So, I guess you could say that the first “tool” in our “discipline belt” was redirection.
With age comes all sorts of new abilities and therefore, new ways and things to discover. When they were mobile and were drawn to things that could potentially hurt them, such as the fireplace, we began incorporating distractions into our discipline repertoire. We would be clear and concise about what the wrong behavior was (going near the fireplace for example) and offer a distraction (come to mommy/a toy/or different room instead).
Still, when the girls were a bit older and clearly testing limits, we began to also incorporate the discipline of subtraction. If there was a particular item that was causing an unacceptable behavior, we would simply take that item out of the equation. For instance, after an object had been intentionally dropped for the 12th time (no, we didn’t actually set a number limit, just whenever the game got unbearable and we had given clear warning) it was put away. The same thing happens when an object is being used inappropriately (think hitting with toys or crayons in the mouth). The action is corrected a number of times, a final warning is given, and then the object is taken away, or subtracted from the equation. This is a great method that we still use almost on a daily basis and our girls are 3 years old.
Time Out
When the cords of your sanity are wearing thin and you’ve tried everything else I’ve mentioned so far, it may be time to try a good old fashioned “time out”. Time outs are tried and true, and often times very effective. Separating the child from whatever it is that is causing you stress offers several positive outcomes. First, it signals to the child that you mean business. It gives them the chance to slow down and think about what it is they’re doing, that it produces a negative reaction from their caregiver, and also allows them to calm down. Many times after just a short (1 to 2 minutes-time depending on age and of course escalating with age and/or offense) time out the child will get up and have literally forgotten about whatever it was getting them into trouble and just move on to other activities.
Time outs can occur anytime, anywhere, and simply mean removing a child from a situation and placing them in an environment more calming. I’ve found it to be effective at home to have a designated place for them to spend their time out, for us it’s in a chair by the front door if they’re quiet or in their bed if they’re crying or whining. When we’re out and about and I need to remove them from a situation we “go to the bathroom”. Often times they regroup just on the walk to the loo and then once inside I can look them in the eye and talk calmly but very firmly about whatever infraction was taking place, and our problem is solved.
Here’s where my personal beliefs usually leave others gape mouthed. When all other methods of discipline have failed to correct a behavior that is dangerous to themselves or others I will spat/spank my children.
At very young ages (1-2 years old) I have found that a firm, yet gentle, spat on the hand will work wonders. Most parenting information outlets discourage this greatly by claiming that it teaches children violence and to hit, but I personally think that’s a bunch of hooey. As long as it’s clear to the child that they are being spatted/spanked as discipline to stop or correct a behavior I believe that its highly effective and not in the least confusing.
A perfect example of when I’ve used this form of discipline is when my children tried touching candles or other sources of fire. After being redirected, distracted, subtracted, and parked beside me (time out implemented), when they continued to reach for flames I lightly smacked the hand that was causing the infraction (and possible harm to my child). Upon receiving the spat on the hand the usual result was: the child yanking the hand away and gazing at me. I would again affirm that fire is hot and would hurt/burn them and that’s much worse than a simple spat from me. 99.9% of the time the problem was solved and the message would finally sink in.
Now that my girls are older, 3 years old, they occasionally receive spankings, or firm yet not painful spanks or swats on the bottom (although there is an “s” on the words, at this point one spank/swat is effective for us). This is always a last ditch effort to correct a behavior and is almost always reserved for possibly dangerous situations (venturing into the street, climbing furniture, etc.). They know that when they get a “spank” as we call it, that I absolutely mean that whatever was being done is over and that it’s final. It hurts their feelings much more than it does their behinds, but I’m positive my message of “no” is made clear.
After a “spank” and after the girls calm themselves, I show them affection, tell them I love them, and again reaffirm that because I love them whatever behavior got them in that situation was absolutely under no circumstances ever allowed and will result in a spank from here on out. I know things are different with different children, but my children respond to and understand the principle.
Other Methods
When I don’t feel that a spat/spank is appropriate, but all other methods of discipline have been implemented to no avail, I have to get creative. I try to tie my discipline methods as closely as possible to the infraction to keep confusion to a minimum, as well as in hopes of retaining effectiveness.
For example, we have several mottos in our family and one of my favorites is “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. This is a miracle worker in public settings because I can remind them of this, they can repeat it with me, and if they’re still dissatisfied they simply lose whatever treat it was and will not get another. If taking something away prompts more misbehavior we move directly and swiftly to the restroom for a “time out” of sorts, or if possible (which it’s not very often) we’ll just leave immediately.
Another example (and this is the one that caused such outrage on my Facebook page) is “washing their mouth out” when they say naughty words that are not allowed. After trying everything I could possibly imagine and my daughter still dropping curse words, I finally took her into the bathroom, requested that she stick out her tongue, and I ran a bar of regular bath soap over it to “clean the dirty words out”. It was simple, she understood the concept of “cleaning out her dirty mouth”, and it hasn’t happened since. Though I was called an “abuser” for this, I do not feel guilt nor regret for using this as punishment. At 3 years old, the typical child puts far worse things in their mouths than bath soap, each and every day, and it caused her no harm-as I knew it wouldn’t. In fact, it was effective enough that I’ve heard her tell an adult that used the inappropriate word that got her into trouble that they needed their “mouth washed out” ;o) Can’t say I disagree! LOL
To wrap up this terribly long winded post (my apologies), discipline is not something that can be implemented in the exact same way for every child in every situation. To see what is effective, you’ll have to try some different things and use the strategies that best reach your child where he/she is.

What are your views on this subject? What methods work best for you and what age(s) are you parenting?


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