Discipline 2.0: Executing It Properly

My Experience
Many people have assumed that since I suffered under bad discipline as a child, I must be totally against disciplining my own children. But the truth lies far from that assumption. I believe children should be managed in as tight of a virtual box as possible, so that when they rebel (because it will happen!), they don’t rebel that far. Set a high bar for your children, and they will rise to the challenge.

Where the children do not meet your bar, is quite likely where your fellow parent does not agree with the bar. If you want your children to get A’s in school and are willing to help them get there, you can make that happen – unless your fellow parent takes the approach that effort is what matters. Effort is not what matters. Effort is something easily faked and dodged. The proof is in results.

Another thing: We are teaching our children to survive a big, bad, ugly world where there are consequences for your actions. Now, we can’t dock their pay, we can’t fire them, we can’t demote them, etc. We can, however, devise a set of consequences for their actions that an employer can’t do: Place them on restriction/ground them, put tabasco on their tongues, put them in time out, flick them and smack their bottoms. They are learning to respect their elders, which (as Occupy Wall Street morons will never learn) translates to respect for your employer/manager/supervisor/boss/company owner. They aren’t learning a lesson to respect you as a marvelous human being, which is the warped definition of “respect” that the hands-off parents live by. We aren’t their best friends; we are their shepherds, trying to prepare them to forge out into the great, big, ugly world without us.

I believe most modern parents do not have the strength to discipline their children. And again, the point is not to hurt them, but to shepherd them into adulthood. That takes strength – the strength to deal with bad behavior even though they’re very, very cute. We are teaching them to think before they act.

I believe in time-outs, flicks, spankings, you name it. I think if your kid doesn’t respond positively to one or two smacks on the bottom, then you should try another method. I don’t think the answer is an increase in the number of times you smack that bottom. My schedule of punishment goes something like this:

First of all, and I’m surprised I have to say this – there’s no reason to ever close your hand and punch a child – anyone, for that matter, unless they’re a person of equal size/age who’s actually trying to hurt you (in that case, fight to win!). When I talk about smacking your child, it’s all about the open hand on their clothed bottom. I agree with threatening to do worse, but that’s a bluff and it’s totally allowed. Bluffing is one of our many parenting tools (example: a threat that you’ll “smack that look off their face” doesn’t actually mean you’ll smack their face, it means you’ve shown the strength to smack their bottom in the past and are convincingly threatening to smack their face instead).

Age 2-5: A child of this age doesn’t have a firm enough body to withstand the force of your hand. Keep your hands off of them. If they are being bad, however, they’re like dogs – they only remember what they’ve done wrong for a few seconds. You have to catch it and deal with it. You can flick their arm or leg with your finger. It shocks them like licking a 9-volt battery. But you should bifurcate your punishment between bad behavior and bad acts. If it’s bad behavior, then immediately send them to time out. If it’s a bad act – getting mad and biting someone, or purposely destroying something – flick them and then put them on time out. The pain is gone after a second, and the memory after their time-out minute is over. After all, with bad acts they can seriously hurt themselves or another person. And your damage to them is limited to the outward force of a single finger.

One tool, really only for public places, is pinching a part of your child’s arm that’s tender (like right behind the elbow). The nice part about this one (which yes, I learned from my mother), is that you don’t have to squeeze hard to get their attention – it’s very tender, and they respond without you having to leave a mark, which is what happens when you try to pinch a more calloused piece of skin, like their forearm or something. Then you just leave horrible marks that actually require healing, instead of getting their instant attention so you can correct bad behavior. Let me tell you: it is unacceptable that your child is lying on the ground throwing a 5-minute tantrum in the middle of the bank/grocery store/etc. That bad act of your child is the pinnacle of your refusal to act as their parent and deal with bad behavior (Translation: It’s your fault). I should add, if they’re spitting in your face, that’s your fault too. You can spit at an acquaintance; you’d never spit at someone you respect.

Another trick I learned is the impact of a very large movement that doesn’t actually hurt them. Somewhere in this age range, when my daughter was being bad, I would place her hand, palm down, on mine. Then I would reach way back with my other hand, and in a giant sweeping motion with the arm extended, I’d bring it up and over my head in an arc and meet my other hand – like a big clap. It makes a sound, it’s a big scary move, and it doesn’t actually hurt them. It snaps their attention at you and the lesson your’e teaching that moment.

Age 6-10. Your child is outgrowing the first phase. They realize at some point that the flick isn’t really anything but annoying and you can’t really scare them by clapping your hands around theirs. You have to safely utilize the smack. That means they must be clothed, because you’re not trying to denigrate them. That means you look very angry and make them stand up. You hold onto their arm so they stay upright and you don’t accidentally hurt them and you smack their bottom. I’m not against using a large spoon or a brush or something if your’e careful. Again: you’re the adult, you have self-control. They have not yet learned self-control, which is why you are exercising it and they are learning it.

What not to do: My parents decided they needed a terrifying implement for their spankings, and learned of the glue stick. If you know what a glue gun is, and how you can buy foot-long glue sticks for them, this tool was their whip of choice. And whip it is. You cannot break them on a bottom; they are indestructible except by heat. They are cheap and plentiful. If you’re ever in Wal-Mart, and happen to find an open bag of them in the crafts section, pull one out of the bag. Now hit your own palm with it. See how it whips back and feel the sting! My 45-minute spanking from the earlier post was with this. My parents would leave welts and it would sting to sit for days. It’s impossible to control this sort of thing – it really hurts, so you squirm, and you end up with welts on your back, bottom, sides and legs. Don’t do this.

Also between ages 6-10 you are learning to strip your children of the things they love. Even though you spent good money on their favorite things, you have to be willing to permanently rid your household of those things if they do not correct their behavior. I am all for doing these things in impactful ways – then they will remember the consequences for bad behavior. Some possible punishments:

– Taking a sledgehammer to their Playstation
– Making them carry their things to the Goodwill donation station
– Semi-permanently taking away the power cords to important toys/machines and not letting them have it back for a month.
– Letting a relative/family friend have the game machine (for example) with the understanding that you will ask for it back in a month/two months/etc.

My daughter doesn’t remember a single punishment I’ve ever meted out on her, except for some of these impactful ones, such as the time I cut the head off her stuffed animal with scissors as proof that it was never going to come out of the trash can. Again, if you make threats (such as throwing away stuffed animals) and then feel bad for them later, these sorts of punishments actually help ensure you will stick to your guns! After all, my daughter is precious; I am just as much a sucker as any other parent when she looks all cute and sweet.

Ages 11-17: It’s all about restriction, grounding and getting rid of their favorite things. There’s no law against making your child sleep in a bare room with a bed and clothes and THAT’S IT. They don’t have to have a door to their room. If they were living under these conditions, knowing that the key to their happiness will be turning around their bad behavior, then you will go far with your parenting.

Ages 18-30: Kick them out, please. There are plenty of cheap places to live, and it’s totally unacceptable to have 6-foot-tall children. They’ll respect themselves more if they’re out in the real world.

The important message here: Parenting is about exercising your strength which in turn builds their strength.

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  1. #1 by Tom the Parenting Guy on December 12, 2011 - 10:36 am

    Parenting can be the toughest job you\\\’ll ever have. Kids present new challenges continuously because they keep growing and changing, and the issues grow and change with them.

    As parents our most important job is to make sure our kids feel loved and valuable for who they are (not what they do). It\\\’s my biggest struggle, and my biggest joy all at once!

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