Discipline without Punishment:
How to Raise Kids to Stop Obeying and Start Behaving
By Anne Leedom
My parenting years have spanned six years. I feel like a fairly seasoned expert and yet I am humbled with the constant knowledge that I have only just begun. It’s kind of tragic that just as we master the baby and toddler years we are thrown a new set of curves. Our kids grow and develop a whole new set of not always desirable behaviors and we now have to learn how to cope once again. Suddenly, I am asking myself how to control a child who sometimes is just out of control.
This became ever so apparent with my kids as they became aware they actually have a mind of their own. They are slowly realizing they don’t really have to do everything I say, and they indeed don’t want to do as I instruct in every situation. The saddest part is the obvious joy on their faces as they see they have driven me to the brink once again. I realized I was losing the battle and unless I got a hold of things the years ahead were going to be challenging beyond measure.
My first plan of attack was to read everything I could. This helped in the moment, but it never seemed to eliminate the problems from cropping up again and again. So I set out to construct the perfect plan and I am proud to say it has stood the test, at least for now. Behavior battles seem to be at a minimum in our home. Based on information from a variety of experts, I have put into motion a strategy that should provide long term relief and a much happier and harmonious day.
The Set Up
Every parent knows when we have pushed our children too far. We have strayed from the routine to the point where even the most accommodating child will break. It could be preventing them from getting their rest, letting them get too hungry, asking them to be overly patient while we do our errands, chores or work, or providing so much fun and stimulation that they simply are on overload. This is a critical element you need to watch, or you will have the perfect situation for the ultimate tantrum.
Watch the Barometer
Without warning kids can suddenly hit their limits and patience begins to wane rapidly. Too often parents try to dictate in this moment how they want their child to behave. Unfortunately, the barometer is rising and our wishes will almost certainly fall on deaf and increasingly angry ears. As soon as you notice the struggle begin take the child aside to a quiet location and try to reason with them. For example, “I don’t want to take a bath” can become a conversation about whether to take a bath or shower. In these crucial early moments, giving kids a small choice can go a long way toward preventing a potential meltdown.
Change the Course
Even the most prepared parent will encounter those horrid moments when kids are just going to wail. The key in this moment is to move past the moment as quickly and quietly as possible. Deciding to give them a bath in the morning instead of right at that moment or letting your child read in bed with the door closed for five more minutes will almost certainly restore harmony. Sure, you may not be able to expedite the plan you had in mind, but the goal is to work together. It’s not about giving your child control; it’s about giving your child some control. Disciplining your child is a team effort. You need to involve your child in the solution so they are more willing to cooperate. Parents who raise kids in this manner have kids who will want to behave more often than not. The battles are over before they begin and you will not be caught wondering what to do when those difficult moments arise.
Keep in Mind
There are two key elements most parenting experts recommend. The first is the magic of transitions. Nobody likes having someone’s agenda thrown at them with an instant demand for a response. Kids aren’t any different. They need a few minutes to shift gears. A two minute warning is an essential tool in your discipline arsenal.
The second element that is important to remember is the kind of language we use with our kids. Once again, no one reacts well to the word “no”. There are dozens of ways we can say no without actually using this word. Simply saying, “Gee, that’s a thought. I will think about that,” has a completely different sound to a child, even though it sounds cagey to an adult. Kids know when we mean no. But once again, they like to feel they are being considered in the process. A little tact is another key ingredient to raising kids with at least a few less tantrums.
Ultimately, this strategy gives parents something we all long for. We want to feel like we can actually overcome the battles and feel like we have won, but not at the expense of our kids. Discipline that empowers the parent and the child is a winning formula for the long haul.
Anne Leedom is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of www.parentingbookmark.com. She has been quoted in national print including Parents, Redbook and Nick Jr. Magazines and NPR. She contributes regularly to online publications and lives in Northern California with her two daughters. She is also the Founder of AnneLeedomPR.com, a premier agency promoting authors, coaches, speakers and others who utilize her services to expand their media platform.