Discipline can be hard sometimes. Maybe it’s an internal struggle between how you want to parent compared to how your parents did it…or you feel guilty about a divorce or lack of time spent with your kids.
It could lead to not enough discipline or too much sometimes. Today I reveal how I deal with my 3 year old Caleb, when he misbehaves.
When should I discipline my preschooler?
As a rule of thumb, there are 3 general rules I follow when deciding if I should discipline.
- Have I told him before?
- Did he do it intentionally?
- Was it dangerous?
If I answer any of those questions with a yes, it results in discipline. The severity of the discipline will vary based off of how many of the 3 rules were broken:
1 rule = stern warning voice, take away toy(s)
2 rules = count to 3 and time-out
3 rules = spanking and time-out
Now, spankings seem to be phasing out with a lot of families. I am not here to judge anyone who doesn’t spank their kids. You may be judging me because I spank mine. I was spanked as a child and I definitely needed to be because I was stubborn and lacked respect for authority. Each child is different and requires different types of compliance techniques.
That’s why I use my own evolving discipline scale to keep myself in check and keep the spankings to a minimum.
If you choose not to spank your child, then time out may just work for you.
How should I use time-out effectively?
Find a wall
When Caleb breaks two or more rules, he goes to time out. I find a wall he can sit next to with nothing around him (hallway, corner). It needs to be a location where nothing is going on and is quiet. It gives him time to self-reflect.
Say “You’re in time out!”
I make sure that he is aware that he is in time out. Then I tell him the reason. “Your’e in time out for throwing your toy at the wall!” He has to be able to reflect on what he did and the result of his actions (time-out).
Once time out has initiated, I ignore Caleb completely until he stops crying or screaming. I don’t look at him, talk to him, yell at him from afar, nothing.
The only time I will intervene is if he starts to harm himself (hits his head on the wall) or if he starts to destroy something. If that happens, I say “stop that right now or your’e staying here longer” or “that’s it, I’m throwing your toy away.” It usually does the trick and makes him sit quietly.
Wait 3-5 minutes
After he stops crying/screaming for a few minutes and has calmed down, I approach him and in normal tone, I ask “why are you in time-out?” If he doesn’t answer, or says I don’t know, then I leave him in there until he knows why.
Talk it out
Once he tells me why he was in time out, I ask why he did it. It’s important for them to understand why they are in time out and more importantly why they even did the act in the first place. It is a good learning lesson for the parent and the child.
Once Caleb told me he threw his toy because I wouldn’t help him when he asked. It helped me reflect on my inattentiveness and I helped him understand that there are other ways to communicate his frustrations.
The talk after time-out ends is the most crucial step. It is what will prevent your child from breaking the rule again.
Hug it out
After you both have communicated what happened and how, the last step is to make your child feel loved and forgive them. They need to say they are sorry for being bad (repeating what rule they broke). After they apologize, you tell them you forgive them and you know they aren’t a bad kid, they just did a bad thing.
It is very important that they know they aren’t a bad child. If they feel that they are bad, they will continue to do bad things. If you believe in them and make them aware that they are good, they will improve their behavior.
After the apology and forgiveness, hug them extra tight and tell them you love them. Then let them go back and play!
How soon should I discipline?
Sometimes, you may be in an awkward public location or situation that prevents you from immediate discipline, especially for spankings (church, grocery store, theater, friend’s house). If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to take them to the bathroom or out to the car. Just leave your grocery cart there, tell someone to save your seat, tell your friend you will be right back.
You should always react right when the rule is broken. You don’t have to immediately spank your child in the middle of Wal-mart, but definitely react. Take them out of the grocery cart, leave it there and walk them/carry them to the bathroom. I always start the reaction off with “That’s it.”
If you wait too long, or don’t react because you are in public…your child will remember. They WILL repeat the bad action because they know they can get away with it. You will be left feeling helpless and defeated.
Don’t discipline your children out of anger
Discipline should be a controlled act. Without true emotion. You are the parent, they are the child. Their life experience is so small compared to ours. You can’t possibly expect they understand the same things as you as a preschooler. You have to TEACH them. The best way to teach, is through deliberate actions.
There is no easier way to lose control of a situation or overreact than when you are mad. Just put things into perspective before you take it out on your child. If you want more on this topic check out are you sure your child deserves to be yelled at?
These are general guidelines I follow that work for Caleb and I. Like I said, every child is different so take and leave what works for you and your child. Just remember that discipline is a controlled act. The more controlled you are, the more effective it will be…and the faster you can get to playing again!
How do you discipline?