In my last article – Reconsidering Beliefs About Spanking – It’s Time Now,http://leslittles.com/blog/reconsidering-beliefs-about-spanking-its-time-now/, I explored the practice of spanking – the negative consequences; what the experts advise; and the real message that spanking sends to the child. I asked parents to rethink their beliefs about spanking. Great Beth – now what? No one is suggesting it’s easy. So, if you’re committed to discipline without spanking what should you do?
Aside from the difficulties for parents of kids with special needs, one of the keys is to start early and stay focused and strong. Consistency is queen. Have a plan and an agreement with partners and caregivers. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
As soon as baby is mobile, it’s time to start establishing boundaries. It’s tempting to be lenient with little ones. It’s funny when they do something naughty – when they’re small and cute. But, when do you start teaching them about boundaries? It’s confusing to start with unclear boundaries but later hold them accountable for the rules.
My 1 year old grandson understands what “no, no” means. Of course he pushes it but when I don’t give in, he moves on to something else. It’s really adorable when he comes upon a “no, no” and waves his finger in front of his face to let me know that he understands that it’s off limits.
Have a plan
One thing that I found challenging as a mother was each new situation that came up. I felt like I was constantly making decisions about what was permitted and what wasn’t. As a result, I got it wrong sometimes. I gave in when I didn’t want to. Or, I ended up being too strict because I didn’t have a plan.
Of course plans and situations can change so we have to be flexible. But, having a strong structure for what is okay and what is not will save you time and arguments. Make sure everyone knows what the limits are. Involving kids in discussions can be surprisingly successful. However, make it clear that a discussion doesn’t mean you’ll change your mind. Kids need to know that your decision is final – even if they disagree with the outcome. You’re the one in charge and that’s okay because this is your job.
You’re the parent; not the friend
When my kids got home from school, the rules were: have a snack, do homework, don’t leave the house, and no friends over. Oh, and answer the phone every time I call. My son was angry about not being able to join his friends who went biking after school. This was one rule that I never had difficulty sticking to. The thought of my adolescent son roaming around the city with absolutely no supervision or guidance kept me plenty strong even though it was a tough spot to be in. We weren’t “friends” as a result but he was safe throughout those years.
Years later he told me that he was angry about it for a long time because I wouldn’t let him join his also-unsupervised friends. But, he then proceeded to tell me that he understood why I made that decision and that he knew he would probably have gotten into a variety of types of trouble if he had been allowed to do as he wished. He also told me that I had made the right decision.
Stay consistent and strong
This just might be the hardest one to be successful at. Kids are clever and are not above being manipulative. There are decisions to be made constantly. It’s tiring! Each new situation requires a review and a decision. Guess wrong and there will be fall-out. Or, an angry, uncooperative kid. But, guess right and you may get a happy, grounded, successful grown-up.
Always remember that you are making an adult. An adult who needs to understand the rules of society and the expectations of others. If we fail in this responsibility, who will suffer? They will. They may fail in relationships. They may fail in employment. They may even fail in the legal system. Teach your kids to be a great adult.
I always told my kids that the greatest compliment I could ever receive is that my kids had been raised well. I have been thrilled every time someone said that to me.
And, relief. It was worth all of the hard parts.
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