So many things came as a surprise for me upon having my first kid. One of the most fascinating aspects about being a mom was the automatic induction into this club, this sort of members-only mommy union where we share classified information through conversation about our own lives. All of a sudden, whether I was on a playground, at the beach or in a boutique, another mom walking around with her kid would somehow find me and strike up a conversation, and we’d inevitably end up talking about our children in some way or another. It’s just what moms do. We talk about our kids! It’s funny, though: in all of the topics most likely to be mentioned, I can usually bet that “discipline” won’t be one of them.
It’s simply too polarizing. Most moms have strong views on discipline and what it means for their families. There’s the issue of spanking or electing not to spank. Then there are the various parenting gurus selling their own trademarked brands of discipline. If you’re not getting an earful from a family member on the subject, you’re being inundated with the numerous books on the bestseller list discussing it. In short, there will never be a shortage of information or advice regarding the subject of discipline. Unfortunately, all information isn’t good information; even when it’s good information, it won’t necessarily work for your child. After all, disciplinary methods must be as diverse as the children they seek to help. So where does that leave me? Well, after much exploration and experimentation, I decided on one particular approach that works well for myself and my boys.
It should be noted that while kids will be kids, I have pretty well-behaved ones if I do say so myself. I believe that is a result of a few things, one being that I expect a lot from them. I’m a mom, but I never bought into the idea that I needed to sacrifice my entire life in order to parent. I like to be out and about, go out to eat and run errands; those are not activities I wanted to forfeit because I have kids. My life dictated a need for my children to be able to take part in many tasks and events along with me, and that was never up for debate. If we were to take this on successfully, discipline had to be a priority.
I insist on good behavior, and they regularly rise to meet the standard. I employ the 1-2-3 Magic method. If you’re unfamiliar, I highly suggest looking further into the details of it. The gist is that you eliminate unnecessary talking and proceed immediately to follow through with the end result when needed: time out. I cannot stress enough how important the follow through aspect of this method truly is. I’ve learned to stick to what I say with my kids. Even during times when they’re testing me, I engage 1-2-3 Magic. I’ve done it everywhere, from home to Costco, and my kids have learned to trust that once I begin with “1”, I am ready, willing and able to carry out the anticipated disciplinary action.
Here’s the deal: Your kids will have moments when they’ll behave as angels; at other times they’ll make you question who poured sugar down their throats and caused them to bounce off the walls with reckless abandon. Moms know this to be a regular occurrence. I’ve been able to trust that Kingsley won’t grab things and run around when we go shopping. He knows I expect different behavior from him, and I remind him of that often. When he manages himself well (reasonably for his age, of course), I reward him with something simple that makes his little heart smile. It’s a win-win. I’m very mindful to give my children attention for positive things they do at random moments. For me, that’s the key. So many parents are so busy doing other things on their phones, finishing things on computers, etc, that the first time they’re triggered to pay attention to their kids is when they’ve done something wrong. It sends a message to the child that this is the way to get mommy’s attention. Moms, we want to avoid that way of thinking in their developing brains and encourage good behavior.
Children are going to regularly require help operating with decorum. They are children living in an adult world, not the other way around. If our goal is to lovingly guide their behavior and nurture all parts of them – mind, body and soul – at the same time, we have to be strong enough to use discipline in healthy ways when necessary while showering them with attention during positive moments with every opportunity possible. The result is something that will stay with them for a lifetime, and I like the idea of having that kind of beneficial impact. It will only happen if we as moms are regimented in our desire to develop and nurture self-managing behaviors.
After all, being disciplined isn’t just a novel idea for kids. 🙂