Viewing entries tagged
consistency

20 Discipline Mistakes All Moms Make

Some of you have seen my posts about common discipline mistakes even the best parents make.  Mom.me has just posted a re-working of those ideas as a gallery with pictures.  It begins like this: -------------------

Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed moms, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.

-------------------

View the whole gallery here.

 

 

Common Discipline Mistakes Even the Best Parents Make: Part 1

Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations. Common Discipline Mistake #1: We lay down the law in an emotional moment, then realize we’ve overreacted.

How Much Am I Screwing Up My Kids When I Don’t Handle Myself Well?

How well do you handle yourself when you’re upset with your kids?

Me?  Sometimes I respond extremely well, making myself proud of how loving and understanding and patient I remained.  At other times, I lower myself to my kids’ level and resort to the childishness that upset me in the first place.

My message to you today is that when you respond to your kids from a less-than-optimal place, take heart:  most likely, you’re still providing them with all kinds of valuable experiences.

For example, have you ever found yourself so frustrated with your kids that you call out, a good bit louder than you need to, “That’s it!  The next one who complains about where they’re sitting in the car, has to sit in that same seat for the rest of the year!”

Or maybe, when your eight-year-old pouts and complains all the way to school because you made her practice her piano, you say, with your parting words as she departs the mini-van, “I hope you have a great day, now that you’ve ruined the whole morning.”

Obviously, these aren’t examples of perfect parenting.  And if you’re like me, you beat yourself up for the times when you don’t handle things like you wish you had.

So here’s hope:  Those not-so-great parenting moments are not necessarily such bad things for our kids to have to go through.  In fact, they’re actually incredibly valuable.

Why?  Because these less-than-perfect parental responses give kids opportunities to deal with difficult situations and therefore develop new skills.  Here are some of the ways these moments, while not optimal, can still be valuable:

  • The kids have to learn to control themselves even though their parent isn’t doing such a great job of controlling herself.
  • They get to see you model how to apologize and make things right.
  • They experience that when there is conflict and argument, there can be repair, and things become good again.  This helps them feel safe and not so afraid in relationships.  They learn to trust, and even expect, that calm and connection will follow conflict.
  • They see that you’re not perfect, so they won’t expect themselves to be, either.
  • They learn that their actions affect other people’s emotions and behavior.
  • If we were perfect with them, the first time a friend or teacher was reactive to them, it could be shocking and terrifying to them.

Abuse, of course, is different.  Or if you’re significantly harming the relationship or scaring your child, then the experience is no longer valuable for either of you.  In fact, that’s going to damage you both, and you should seek the help of a professional in order to make whatever changes are necessary so that your children feel safe.

But as long as you maintain the relationship and repair with your child afterwards, then you can cut yourself some slack and know that even though you might wish you’d done things differently, that’s still a valuable experience for your child, even if it means he has to control himself simply because Mom is mad at the moment.

I hope it’s obvious that I’m not saying that we shouldn’t aim for the extreme good when we respond to our kids in a high-stress situation (or any other time).  The more loving and nurturing we can be, the better.  I’m just saying that we can give ourselves a break when we’re not perfect, because even those situations provide moments of value as well.  They give our kids opportunities to learn important lessons that will prepare them for future conflict and relationships, and even teach them how to love.

 

Does Your Discipline Ever Move From Consistent to Rigid?

There’s no question about it:  consistency is crucial when it comes to raising and disciplining our children.  Many parents I see in my office realize that they need to work on being more consistent – with bedtimes, limiting junk food, or just in general – when they interact with their kids.  But there are others who have placed such a high priority on consistency that it’s moved into a rigidity that’s not good for their kids, themselves, or their relationship. Let’s begin by getting clear on the difference between the two terms.  Consistency means working from a reliable and coherent philosophy so that our kids know what we expect of them, and what they should expect from us.  Rigidity, on the other hand, means maintaining an unswerving devotion to rules we’ve set up, sometimes without having even thought them through.  As parents, we want to be consistent, but not rigid.

Kids definitely need consistency from their parents.  They need to know what the rules are, and how we will respond if they break (or even bend) those rules.  Your reliability teaches them about cause and effect, and about what to expect in their world.  More than that, it helps them feel safe; they know they can count on you to be constant and steady, even when their internal or external worlds are chaotic.  In this way, we provide them with safe containment when they’re exploding because they want an extra scoop of ice cream.

So how do we maintain consistency without crossing over to rigidity?  Well, let’s start by acknowledging that there are some non-negotiables.  For instance, under no circumstances can you let your toddler run through a busy parking lot, or your older child swim without supervision or get into a car with a driver who’s been drinking.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t ever make exceptions, or even turn a blind eye from time to time when your child misbehaves.  For instance, if you have a rule about no toys in a restaurant, but your four-year-old has just received a new puzzle game that he’ll play with quietly while you have dinner with another couple, that might be a good time to make an exception to your rule.  Or if your daughter has promised that she’ll finish her homework before dinner, but her grandparents show up to take her on an outing, you might negotiate a new deal with her.

The goal, in other words, is to maintain a consistent-but-flexible approach with your kids, so that they know what to expect from you, but they also know that at times, you will be thoughtfully considering all the factors involved.

The biggest deciding factor when it comes to discipline is what you’re hoping to accomplish with your child.  Remember, the point of discipline is to teach, not to give consequences.  If consequences help you teach the lesson you’re wanting to teach, then great.  But don’t be rigid on this, applying the same consequence to all infractions.  Look for other ways to accomplish your goal, and to effectively teach what you want your kids to learn.

For example, try a “do-over.”  Instead of immediately offering a punishment for speaking to you disrespectfully, say something like, “There’s a much more respectful way to talk to each other.  I want you to try that again. You can tell me how you’re feeling, but use respectful words and tone.”  Do-overs allow a child a second chance to handle a situation well.  It gives them practice doing the right thing.  And that’s often much more beneficial than a time-out.

Or, if you do decide to go the consequences route, be creative.  Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t fix the broken Buzz Lightyear nightlight that was thrown in anger.  An apology note and using allowance money to buy a new nightlight might teach more.  Try asking them to brainstorm with you:  “What can you do to make it right?”

The point is that in your efforts to be consistent, remain flexible to other alternatives.  Kids need to learn about right and wrong.  But as an adult, sometimes you need to be able to see the gray areas, and not just the black and white.  Make decisions based not on an arbitrary rule you’ve previously set down, but on what’s best for your kids and your family.

 

 

 

Fairness: A Parenting Tip

“That’s not fair!” How often do you hear it? If your kids are anything like mine, you hear it a lot. One day I got sick of telling them that “Life isn’t fair.” It didn’t seem to be registering. So instead, we started to tell our kids that in our family, fair does not mean equal. If one of us has to get a shot, we don’t ALL get shots. Only the person who NEEDS the shot gets it. The underlying principle is that everyone in the family will get what they need, and that needs are different from wants.