A friend of mine is writing an article on disciplining children, and she posted a call on Facebook for input from parents: what do we believe about discipline and how does it play out in our homes?
To my surprise (why surprise, Vanessa? Your favourite topic on your favourite forum. Words will follow. The end.) words followed. Many.
So I thought I’d share them here, since I’m lazy like that 😉
We believe in parenting MOTIVES, not actions. WHY they do something is so much more important than what they do. That means that sometimes what seems to be “good” behaviour deserves punishment, while what may seem to be “bad” behaviour is excused or even rewarded – it all depends on what motivated the behaviour in the first place.
We also believe in the punishment being commensurate with both the damage the behaviour may have caused (or could cause), and the degree of contrition.
In many cases, we let the girls choose their own punishments, though we moderate those because they tend to be a lot harsher than we are! Often, if the bad behaviour affects the other sibling, the one who was hurt in some way (physically or emotionally) pleads clemency for her sister.
We don’t measure actions that make us uncomfortable or annoyed as “bad behaviour”. Rather, those actions show us where we need to grow as parents, to become more patient and tolerant.
While we do believe that a smack has its place in a parent’s arsenal, we apply the following three rules:
- NEVER smack when you’re angry. Call a time out for both you and your child, explaining that you’re human and need to calm down before you punish your child.
- We never give more than one smack. Usually the meaningful threat is more than sufficient to deter bad behaviour.
- A smack should be a VERY last resort. We usually keep these for very dangerous situations. For instance, I think a smack on the hand is a lot safer for a child than an electric shock, so if the child is doing something that could result in an electric shock, a smack is both a deterrent and a life saver.
We have always used reasoned discussion to solve our problems. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, and a lot of my friends tell me our girls are “unique”. But it DOES work for us and so we will use it.
We never punish for a first offence, unless it’s something like the electric shock scenario I described above. We always explain why we don’t accept a certain behaviour, and the consequences of persisting in the behaviour (both in terms of conscience and punishment, in other words: if you do that, you’ll hurt your sister’s feelings. It’s not acceptable to hurt one another. If you ignore what we’re teaching you and persist in that behaviour, we will remove [a specific toy] or [a specific privilege] until you have made amends.
And finally, consistency is key. So we don’t promise a punishment we don’t think we’ll be able to deliver (we’d never say “do that again and I’ll leave you behind!” – because there is no way that would EVER be true, and it’s both cruel and meaningless). And if a thing is not okay today, it’s not okay tomorrow, and it wasn’t okay yesterday (unless they mature enough to make it okay, like watching Avengers becomes okay when they’re older).