by Rachel Norman (Babywise Friendly Blog Network newest guest poster!)
Discipline can be such a nasty word, huh? It makes me think of military drills, punishment and a mother giving a dirty look while pointing a finger. But really, discipline simply means training, and training is a positive thing. It’s not always easy and it’s not always fun, but it goes part and parcel with parenting. In my short time of mothering (to a 25 month old and a 12 month old) I have also found that disciplining my children requires discipline on my part.
Thoughts on the discipline it takes to discipline.
(1) Consistency is key. If a hard and fast rule of parenting existed (and I don’t know about you, but I wish a whole lot of them did) then consistency would come in at the top. To properly communicate a message to our children without confusing them we must be consistent. A child must know what we require of them before we can expect them to follow through. If say “no kicking” but rarely discipline the act then they will start to wonder what’s going on. So… does mommy mean it? Does she not? Oh… only ever 4th time she repeats it does she really mean it. Being consistent with carrying out discipline, giving instructions, and our routines show our children that they can depend on our word. It is easy to give a directive and just hope – really really hope – that they do it, but then stay on the couch drinking our Diet Coke while they happily ignore us. Why would they listen to our instructions first time if we did this? Answer, they won’t. Consistency requires a large amount of discipline on our parts. Sometimes the absolute last thing in the entire planet I want to do is use time out, put someone in isolation or – don’t judge – stand up from where I’m sitting. Graceful mamas, we gotta mean what we say and say what we mean, don’t we?
(2) Discipline doesn’t take the short-sighted approach. Discipline and training, by nature, takes a long term approach. I’ve found that the majority of the time the best approach rarely allows for the short cut. Whether it’s sleep training, teaching a discipline concept (first time obedience, don’t walk in the road, don’t stuff bananas in your brother’s ear, etc.) or table manners discipline means that we put in the time now for the payout later (see my article on Credit Card Parenting). This takes discipline. If you have decided you will not nurse to sleep, but sleep train by putting a child in the crib drowsy then you’ll come across this dilemma. It takes discipline in the middle of the night to say “No, I won’t nurse her back to sleep for the 35th time since midnight” when we know it’s the quickest way to get her to stop crying and hit the sack. Sure, that’s a good solution for the next 45 minutes, but what about afterwards? Discipline says “this will require more effort now” instead of “what can I do to make the next hour easier.”
(3) Discipline requires forethought. My husband and I had this talk the other day. He says to me, “Ella Kate keeps standing up in the crib when I put her in there for nap time. Then I go back and lay her down then she stands up again and waves, then I go back, etc. She doesn’t listen to me” And I laughed and said, “Well, that’s because I don’t make her do that. She can stand up and wave at me when I leave. She still takes her nap.” See, we were requiring – or not requiring – two separate things and so our daughter was confused why daddy was making such a big deal of it. This was a miscommunication on our part, but the majority of the time we know ahead of time what we do in given situations. I wrote an article on Parenting by Strategy vs. Parenting by Instinct where I talked about the importance of thinking through our discipline choices before they happen. What will we do when our toddler does x? How will we handle kicking, biting or screaming? What happens when he throws himself down on the floor because we made him stop eating sand? Thinking through scenarios beforehand and having some solid and consistent disciplinary measures in place help make training go more smoothly. Plus, you can talk about them with your spouse or child carers so that within reason everyone is responding in similar ways to the child’s behavior.
Training and discipline requires planning. Flying by the seat of your pants only requires reflex. Our reflexes or first reactions will not necessarily be wise or appropriate. That’s why soldiers, athletes and other specialists do training and simulation manoeuvres over and over and over and over and over. They do it so many times that the right way and the best way with the highest chance of success become second nature. This is why disciplining our children requires us to be rather disciplined ourselves. It isn’t easy, but neither is labor… and it’s worth it.
I’m Rachel and I blog at A Mother Far from Home. Over there I write on parenting, pregnancy, shepherding our children’s spiritual journeys, lessons learned and some tips and wisdom when I can find them. Thanks for having me, Graceful Mothers!