Friday, March 28, 2008

Be Prepared with the Proper Discipline

I was sent the following question in response to last week’s post:

“So what is ‘proper discipline’ when my 3 year old screams ‘no’ in my face or won’t listen to my request to pick up his toys? Is raising my voice to gain his attention appropriate? What are the alternatives? Thank you.”

I will describe a process that, if applied consistently, will greatly reduce this behavior. I believe it will have good results in the short term, and in the long term, the results will be profound. But it will take time, patience and consistency! You cannot be in a hurry each time this process takes place.

Last week I mentioned 4 steps for taking the anger out of discipline:

We are now on Step 2 , be prepared with the proper discipline. When (not if, but when) my 3 year old screams “no” into my face when I tell him “it is time to clean up toys …”

In a very calm, controlled, yet firm voice I say, “You will not tell daddy ‘no’. You will say ‘yes, daddy’ and you will obey.” Then I show him exactly how to say it, “Yes, daddy” and I expect him to repeat it.

He screams back “NO!”

I calmly say, “then you will have a time out.” I pick him up, take him to a corner and set a timer for 3 minutes (1 minute for each year old of the child). If I have to hold him in the corner for the entire three minutes I will. But I will not say a word for this three minutes, I let the consequences do the teaching at this point.

Then I say in a very calm and positive tone, “It’s time to pick up toys.” And again I model the appropriate response out loud, “Yes, daddy” and I expect him to repeat it and obey. He has a choice at this point: obey or not.

He screams back “NO!” I do the same thing again. I say, “You will not tell daddy ‘no’. You will say ‘yes, daddy’ and you will obey.” Three minutes on the clock. If I have to hold him in the corner I do. But there is no talking, no yelling, no anger, no arguing, I am completely silent.

Each time this interaction takes place the child has a choice. He can say “yes, daddy” and pick up the toys, or he can get another time out. If you use spanking, this could be added to the process (we will talk more on this later). You continue this process until he obeys.

Important points:

You must be in control of your own emotions. You are modeling that for him every step of the way. Don’t get angry, let the discipline speak for itself.

This process MUST be repeated until the goal is achieved. If it takes an hour, it takes an hour. If it takes two hours, so be it. The child must learn that you are in control.

You are teaching self control. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.You are on his side. He is wrestling with his own disobedience and you are his greatest ally in this battle against wrong choices. You are not mad at him, you are on his team helping him conquer his tendency to disobey.

Each time you model for him the appropriate response, “yes, daddy.” This is important.

When the episode is over, it is over. All is forgiven and you can ‘love on him’! Don’t bring it up again. Don’t say, “Why couldn’t you have done it the first time” (more on this later).

Next week: Step 3: Put the tension where it belongs.

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