This week I was asked to review a great article called “5 Discipline Traps to Avoid” by Claire McCarthy, MD and discuss the subject of discipline on a TV show called Let’s Talk Live that’s broadcast in Washington, DC (you can see the interview right here).
Her five points are as follows:
1. Don’t think that there’s one “right” way
2. Be careful of overdoing it
3. Underdoing it (letting things slide) is also to be avoided
4. Try and be consistent
5. Focus on the positive, not just the negative
Pretty straightforward and reasonable suggestions, I think. And all of them important. To me, the first point is critical. I have three kids ages 3,6, and 8. What works for one rarely works for the other two — and not just because of the differences in their ages. As we all know, while the rules should be the same, different kids need to be parented differently. This is sort of like having to make them three separate dinners (something I refuse to do) in that it makes things a lot harder for me.
One of my children is extremely sensitive. Another is so reward-oriented that he burps gold stars. The third is pretty much a Nasty Ass Honey Badger and doesn’t give a schmidt. So I do the best I can, for each of them. Knowing that the stern, disappointing look that reduces my oldest to tears will cause my youngest to burst out laughing and continue playing with matches.
But I look at these efforts as an investment in our future mutual happiness. I’ve had a glimpse of the teenage years and I want the “knows the difference between right and wrong” and “respects and loves mom” stuff deeply ingrained before those years hit.
And of course there’s the question of consistency, my biggest struggle. When I say that, I don’t just mean in terms of discipline — I mean as a parent. As a human. There are times when it becomes hard and overwhelming and I just want to check out for a little while and regain my sanity. And those are usually exactly the times when all three of my kids are howling “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY” at me at the same time and doing things that they should not be doing. Things that result in getting my negative attention and causing me to discipline them.
If I’m lucky, those moments force me to take a deep breath and consider the fact that if I am more present, if I give them my attention when they ask for it (and do so consistently), they will often stop clamoring for it. They will remember that its always there when they need it, and they will go back to becoming the independent, somewhat responsible and respectable little howler monkeys I hope they will turn out to be.