Thursday, 14 August 2008
by Mama Monkey
It can be very confusing to try and sort through the seemingly endless array of discipline techniques that are out there today. Everybody seems to know what is right and is usually appalled if you are not doing things the same way. Whether it be the belief that spanking only teaches your child to fear you and to turn to violence as a way of solving a problem, or the belief that time-outs do not address the real issues, but are merely a band-aid fix -- every technique and style has its critics.
If you are too lenient of a parent, your child will 'surely' be a spoiled brat and get into any and all trouble imaginable, knowing that he/she could get away with murder and you would be right there to take the punishment for them. If you are too restrictive, your child is 'sure' to be an angry one, always having too many boundaries put on them. It is inevitable that they will eventually lash out at you, doing exactly what they were restricted from doing at a young age. So, you have to find a balance that works for you and each child. You can pretty much bet that what works for one won't work for the next. And where do you turn when you have exhausted all the possibilities, but have yet to gain any ground?
I actually coined the term 'creative discipline' for myself before even knowing that it was one of the many techniques out there. So I have not read any books or articles on it, and don't know whether or not my form of creative discipline actually matches up with what the 'experts' say it is. It is for parents who are willing to think out of the box, get creative, and may not be for the faint of heart.
I will use a recent example that took place in my house earlier this week. My middle son has a bit of a temper problem.. OK... this is just the jargon that us parents use to sugar coat the truth and not have our child's behavior reflect poorly upon us. The truth is that the child is easily angered and can be downright nasty when he is. In the past month, this comes in the form of smacking the perpetrator, or who/whatever happens to be within arms/foots reach. Naturally, this is not a behavior that I encourage. We have tried many things to curb his temper and all have failed long-term (some have worked originally, until the novelty of it fades away). We were having a particularly bad day in this regard and I was beside myself not knowing what to do. He had time-outs and had been taken away from the area where my other boys were playing (and away from the cat and dog, whom he also seems to enjoy smacking). He (and his brother) had already had video games taken away for fighting over them and he had the toy room taken away because he refused to help pick it up. What was I to do? As he sat in yet another time out, I tried to come up with something... ANYTHING! Then it hit me! I told him he could get up from his time-out and had a talk with him. "You are not using your hands for nice things", I explained to him. "I have tried to get you to stop, but you refuse. So, I have decided that if I see you hit anybody again I will have to tie your hands together for a bit (I was thinking 10 minutes or so). You can either use your hands for nice things, or not use them at all."
I couldn't hardly believe it myself when it came out of my mouth! You should have seen his eyes bulge. I know, we shouldn't use threats to get our children to behave but it wasn't a threat. I was 100% serious. Had he continued with the behavior, I would have followed through. On this particular day, though, it was not necessary.
Please, spare me the child abuse comments. It isn't like I was going to tie him up and leave him that way for long. My plan was, like I said, about 10 minutes and I was going to use my older son's tae kwon do belt, which is soft and wide, so it would not have dug in or hurt him in any way. It would have, however, served to teach him that there are both good and bad things that we can use our hands for and if he insists on using them for bad things, there are going to be consequences. I would never deny my child basic needs, including hugs, kisses, love and affection, as a form of discipline.
Other examples of 'creative discipline' that have been used in my house:(some are forms of natural consequences)
- If you complain about being bored, you will promptly be assigned a chore that needs to be done.
- If you don't pick up and take care of your toys, the ones left out will be put up in 'toy jail' until you bail them out by showing me that you can take care of your things. (And if I don't find them before the dog does, they often don't get them back at all! Sorry, not my problem -- they should have been picked up.)
- If you choose to draw on the walls or table instead of paper, you will spend the time scrubbing it up (this one also applies to other non-accidental messes).
- If you are going to fight over a toy, then nobody gets it.
- If you are going to choose not to get dressed in the morning, I will take your clothes to the car (you will have to walk out there the way you are) and you may finish getting dressed there. (You'd be amazed how fast a kid can throw their clothes on once in the car!)
These are just a few of the examples that I have come up with. Some things, I heard about from someone else and others I just come up with on my own.
I guess I can't say that I have one parenting style, especially since my children definitely have different things that work for them, and that they respond to. I spent my time wading through the research on different techniques and whatnot, and ultimately decided that what was best for us was to just do what felt right and worked. So I sort of took bits and pieces from different techniques.
How do you discipline your kids? Have you ever tried 'creative discipline'?