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We’ve reached our last post in this series of how to create a calmer family life. We can’t end without thinking about how we can discipline our children with more ease.

It’s been extremely helpful for me to re-think discipline in our home after listening to The Soul of Discipline by Kim Payne. As a parent coach and educator I’ve participated in numerous parenting workshops and programs.  All these curriculums  led me down a path of setting limits and providing my children opportunities that supposedly helped them learn the wisdom of making good and bad choices.  These common parenting tools include behavior modification and behavior management, systems of consequences – both logical and natural.  You could hear me often say, “We’ll go to the park as soon as the toys are cleaned up.”

It didn’t happen every time, but on occassion, one of my children would “buck this system” and say, “Okay, I’m not cleaning up because I don’t want to go to the park anyway.”

Meanwhile, the other child would start crying because he would be ready to do his part in cleaning so he could be “rewarded” by the trip to the park.

Essentially, I was giving my children the choice to clean up, a chore that is something I expect them to do because it’s just what we do after we are done playing.

Many might say my daughter’s behavior is high-spirited or willful for twisting the situation into something so self-serving and seeing the loop hole to get out of cooperating.

Hmmm…or maybe she just learned the great art of manipulation from a master – her own mother! Isn’t it manipulative to offer a reward “only if you do what I say” kind of choice?

So, obviously, I don’t promote nor do I believe that manipulating my kids is good parenting.

My young children need my guidance, wisdom, and clarity to help them behave appropriately so that one day, they will be able to be self-disciplined enough to make their own healthy decisions.  Essentially what I’ve come to understand is that negotiations, rewards, consequences, and deals have no place in disciplining young children.

My parenting-with-choices-approach was confusing because they really weren’t choices at all.  When I linked cleaning up with a “deal” of rewarding the kids with a trip to the park, I was implying that if the reward wasn’t something they wanted then cleaning up wasn’t something they actually had to do.

So, instead of using “If, Then” parenting, I simply provide my young kids with my expectations and my instructions.  Providing them with skills to complete tasks and having expectations of responsibility, is simply allowing them to see what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

Now you can hear me say, “It’s time to clean up, guys.” I know I need to stay close and I show them that we are all in this together as a family, by helping and directing until the task is complete.  Cleaning up is just part of our family chores and there are no deals that need to be created in order to convince them to do it.  I direct them through the process by providing them with small, do-able tasks one at at a time – “Put all the silks in the basket.”

If there is resistance, which there was in the beginning, I merely repeat myself, stay calm, believe in my authority and guidance and insist on compliance without yelling.  “Yes, Keats, this is what we’re doing right now. Let’s get it done.”  It’s about being a good supervisor and knowing that it is my job to guide them.  I’m not worried that my kids don’t like to clean up and that it might make them angry when I insist that they do it.  It’s not about being a bully or a dictator.  It’s about teaching my children responsibility and co-operation.  Confidence and clear expectations really do go a long way.  It’s SO tempting to bribe or threaten when your authority is doubted by a 3 foot being with a loud “No!”  But mama, it is your job to put your experience and wisdom into practice and stand your ground with a gentle firmness.  I really am a rock and without the “deals,” I am seeing the fruits of my clarity – there’s a lot more cooperation happening around here in a lot less time.

Because I recognize teaching my children that they will follow through with each request, I am noticing the following …

  • I make fewer requests – which means I don’t get sick of my own voice as much!
  • The requests I do make are heard and there is 100% follow-through.
  • We spend more time together – since I can’t make a request and walk away – my job is to be there to help them put their shoes on or take their bowl to the sink or get their clothes on in the morning -it may sound exhausting, but I only make the requests that I have the energy to ensure follow-through, if I don’t, then I don’t ask.
  • A lot less power struggles. Since I’m not rewarding the kids with a story or a dessert or an outing…etc. if they complete xyz task, discipline is just easier. I don’t have to make any promises and a story or a dessert or an outing is its own reward and a task is something they do because I requested it.

Mama, there’s a lot here to think about. A lot of this is in my Free Report that you received when you signed up for my Free Tool Box.  If you never received it (be sure that you’ve confirmed your opt-in when you registered – you have to click on your subscription in that first email you receive from me to become confirmed) or if you haven’t read it, be sure to check it out!