Sunday, July 24, 2011

Laying down the Law

We have been struggling for some time now with disciplining our 3-year-old. Honestly, most of the time, she is a pretty good kid--very happy temperament, likes to help out, can be really nice to little brother. But she also shows plenty of whining, resistance, and downright violence which is often triggered by seemingly nothing at all. Sometimes she just gets hyper, runs into a room, and knocks down brother. Because there's no clear cause, it's hard to consistently punish her.

My husband and I agree on the big-picture of discipline--we want obedient, respectful kids, we are ok with spanking, and we try to enforce the same house rules. But since I am with the kids all day long, I tend to "choose my battles" and only react over the big things, letting lots of minor whining incidents slide, or just giving them a snack or toy if it will resolve the problem quickly. When he's here, Dan has more of a zero-tolerance policy. He thinks that some behavior is just not acceptable, regardless of their age, the fact that they might be tired, etc. He is quicker to react and send Sophie to her room, when I would have just spanked her or sent her to time-out. Of course, the kids listen better to Daddy. He only needs to say things once-- I usually say them 3 times before I get a response. He gets sick of playing the bad guy, and tells me I just need to say no more often.

Since Daddy won't be back for quite some time, one resolution I am making for this deployment is that I need to get tougher on the discipline. Sometimes I am just being lazy when I ignore minor problems or don't bother disciplining the kids. It seems easier to ignore the problem and get back to what I was doing than to stop, get the story, lay down a punishment, and listen to the inevitable crying and complaining afterward. But I know in the long run this is not a good habit for me! And it is certainly not encouraging the kids to respect me and be obedient in the long run.

So, after some soul-searching and a brief period of feeling like an inadequate parent, I decided to write down our house rules. I made a colorful page with pictures beside each rule:
Listen to Mommy
No hitting
No kicking
No throwing toys
No whining
Share the toys
Wait your turn
Eat with a fork or spoon
Talk quietly at meals
Say "please" and "may I"

I went over it with Sophie this afternoon. We crossed out the bad behaviors, and circled the good ones. If she shows the bad behavior, she will get sent to her room. The good behaviors will earn her stickers on our sticker chart, (which is for another post). It seemed to make a good impression. She asked questions about the pictures, and I explained why it was or was not allowed in our house. Then we put it up on the fridge. Immediately afterward, I asked her to put a ball back in the playroom. She said "I will ROLL it. I will not throw, I will not hit, I will not kick, I will not whine. Daddy will be so proud of me!" I was impressed by that! I'm sure it won't be easy, but having the rules written down reminds me I need to enforce if any of them are broken. I don't expect a fantasy world, but I am hoping for some improvement. I'll let you know how it goes!

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