Friday, September 26, 2008

Handling Disobedience

In the last post, I introduced 5 different types of misbehavior: disobedience, attention-getting, breaking rules and routines, deliberately hurting others, and wrong behavior rooted in real problems. Today we look at how to respond to the first of these, disobedience. There are two tools in the hands of parents that are very useful for dealing with simple disobedience.

The first one is what I call the
kinetic assist. Kinetic means “motion” or “causing to move.” The kinetic assist is helpful when a small child is learning to obey simple commands such as, “come here,” “pick up the toys,” and “bring that book here.” Think of this as a teaching tool to help your child learn to follow your instructions the first time. Sometimes this can be as simple as walking over to a child (your motion effecting their response), sometimes it may be putting a hand on a shoulder helping the child do what is instructed (causing the motion), and other times it may be physically picking a child up and moving them to the required location. The idea is, you are using your motion to cause their motion. You do this with as little force as is necessary.

For example, you tell little Suzie, “come here,” and she continues to sit and play, or says, “no, I’m busy right now.” You calmly restate the instruction, “Suzie, I said come here now.” She is silent. Without any emotion you walk over to the child, place a hand on her shoulder and direct her to come over to where she was asked. There is no need for anger of frustration, or even any more words at this point. You are just teaching that when you give an instruction, you are going to make sure that it is carried out. If you are not willing to get up and make sure the child obeys, then don’t give the instruction.

Your attitude during and after the kinetic assist is key to establishing the tone of the relationship. There is no anger, no lecturing, no “holding anything against them.” You simply go back to whatever it was you were doing before, treating the child as if nothing ever happened. This way they know it was the behavior that was disagreeable, not him or her as a person.

The second tool to correct disobedience is
spanking. As foster parents, we were not allowed to use spanking so we had to work very hard on all the other tools for correction and instruction, but with our own children, I believe we were able to use it effectively. Some parents may shy away from spanking for a variety of reasons, but I believe, when used properly, it can be done appropriately, respectfully and effectively. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Understood properly, spanking is a tool for helping change the heart attitude of a child.

When a child fails to obey an instruction and the kinetic assist does not seem appropriate or useful for that circumstance, or if the child becomes more blatantly defiant, say to the child in a calm and controlled voice, “you are choosing to not obey Daddy, I am going to give you a spanking so that you will learn to obey.” Take the child to their room and administer one or more swats from your hand to their bottom. I am being very specific here so that you understand clearly what I mean (and don’t mean) by spanking. After the spanking has been administered, nothing more needs to be said about the offense. If the child has a task to complete, they may be given a couple minutes to stop crying, wash up, and then come back and complete the task. If not, you can just say, “You may come out of your room when you are ready.” When the child returns, once again, your attitude is key to establishing the tone of the continued relationship. The child should know that you love him, you have forgiven him for the offense, and that you are not going to “rub his face in it” or shame him.

Here are some further guidelines that should direct the use of spanking:
  • NEVER spank in anger. If you are angry, wait until you are in control of your emotions before you administer the spanking.
  • Spanking is a teaching tool, not a way for a parent vent frustration.
  • Don’t think of spanking as a last resort, it should be used as a direct response to blatant defiance.
  • Spanking should never be done in public or in front of others, even the other children. A public spanking allows shame to enter the picture and shame should never be a part of any corrective measure.
  • I recommend not spanking on a “bare bottom,” a diaper or clothing should be left in place. Once again, shame has no place in discipline. I would also recommend spanking on the bottom only, and never the head or face.
  • Never spank with a belt, and I recommend never spanking with any object.

The kinetic assist and the appropriate use of spanking are two tools to use when a child is disobedient. Next time, we look at how to respond to attention-getting behavior.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Have a Plan for Discipline Part 1

It happens to all of us as parents. We are at a loss for how to deal with a child’s behavior. Is it a time out, a spanking, a lecture, take away a privilege, give an explanation, ignore them, physically move the child to another room, put him on restriction … what is the right consequence for a particular behavior and how do I administer it most effectively?!

We have now come to Passionate Legacy Principle #6: Have a plan for discipline. Learn what consequences should be applied to which behaviors, so that when the situation arises you are prepared to act decisively.

Before we can respond with the best possible discipline we must first understand what type of behavior is causing the problem. In this post, we will examine FIVE types of inappropriate behavior and in upcoming articles we will look at effective ways of dealing with each one.

The first is disobedience. The child simply does not comply with something a parent is telling her to do. “It’s time to go home now,” says the parent, and the child simply ignores it. Dad says, “Put the toy away, please,” and little Suzie responds with a very polite “No. I’m not done playing.” Mom explains, “You may not take the cracker into the living room, we keep our snacks at the table,” and Joey keeps walking with the cracker toward the TV. This type of situation may be very calm and cool or they may escalate into angry defiance with screaming and tears, but the basic behavior is the same: the child refuses to do what he is being told by the parent to do. This is disobedience and this is more common with younger children who are beginning to assert their own self-will.

Next is attention-getting-behaviors. These are things a child does to bring them lots of attention. Whining, arguing for no apparent reason, throwing a fit, asking lots of questions that they know the answer to, pestering a sibling, being bossy to other children or even adults, or yelling things like “I hate you!” are all examples of attention-getting-behaviors.

Third is breaking rules and routines. Where disobedience is not obeying a direct request at the time it is given, breaking rules and routines is when a child fails to comply with something they should not have to be reminded to do. Examples are: failing to do homework, not getting off to school on time, not cleaning up after oneself, going into off-limits places, not completing homework on time, and playing on the computer past the time limit. This type of behavior is more easily recognized and more common with older children. Many parents fall into the pattern of constantly reminding or nagging the child to do what they know is expected, and it feels like the parent is working harder than the child.

Next is deliberately hurting others. Other destructive or aggressive behavior could be placed in this category as well, like throwing toys or yelling at another person in a fit of rage. Sometimes a child might even hurt themselves. Although pestering a sibling might be an attempt to get attention, especially if it is only when a parent is around, violent and aggressive behavior toward a sibling would fall into this category.

The last category is wrong behavior rooted in real problems. In this category there is a real problem, need or conflict in which a child needs help, but do not know the proper way to get the help or solve the problem. A child has a legitimate need, say hunger, and whines to try to meet that need, “I----I’m Huuuuungry." Or he has a conflict with another child over a toy and it leads to a fight. They are not trying to get attention or disobey, they need help resolving a real life problem.

So, the five types of inappropriate behavior are:

1. Disobedience

2. Attention Getting

3. Rule and Routine Breaking

4. Deliberately Hurting Others

5. Wrong Behavior Rooted in Real Problems

Next time, we will begin to look at specific forms of discipline and responses to each of these types of behavior.