In a previous post, I described two of my children’s unique approaches to chores, and our philosphy on discipling. Now, I’d like to discuss what constitutes discipline.
With each of these children (and my other three), I have to employ unique parenting strategies. We have house rules that must be obeyed or end in discipline, which might be extra chores, timeout, or a spanking, administered by a well-used wooden spoon. The selection of the discipline is defined by a complex mathematical formula that looks something like this:
D = A(T x n) + P(f + m)²
A=attitude of the child
n=number of times transgression committed
f=frustration level of the parent
m=phase of the moon
Everyone has responsibilities and is taught how to perform them to reasonable standards. We use first offenses as teaching experiences, or discipling. We encourage helpfulness, cheerfulness, and quick obedience. The less time we use for chores, for example, the more time we have to play or read or do something fun.
Based on the child’s age and resistance level, we switch to discipline for poor performance or outright disobedience, thus the transgression multiplied by frequency, A(T x n). My husband and I are only human, and certain days may find one of us in a more (or less) resilient mood, amplified by the phase of the moon, which explains the P(f + m)².
Everyone has regular chores, sweeping, mopping, picking up toys/clothes, etc. So, what we might do for someone who is not performing well is add chores as a first offense discipline. Amazingly, if we take the chores from another child (with a better attitude) to accomplish this, the offender takes the punishment as a double whamy.
Continued attitude issues, such as complaining, whining, and arguing, warrant a time-out. We don’t have a lot of space, but any corner will do. I particularly like the couch so the child can watch her sisters play without participating. It’s a mind game, I know, but I must say it is highly effective.
Spanking has become such a polarizing issue in our positive self-image culture, but I’m here to tell you that I spank. There. Call CPS if you must, but my children are articulate, clean, well-behaved, and socially adjusted. When they are little, they get a thump on the hand for things such as reaching for a hot oven or an electrical outlet. If we say “don’t touch”, they must obey as a matter of safety. When they become mobile, they get a hand-administered pop on a diapered bottom to remind them to sit down in a high chair or not to run away in the store or parking lot. The next step up in safety awareness.
In our experience, spanking is needed less frequently if we have done a good job of training them early to obey. After the age of 4 or 5, a wooden spoon is used for 2 or 3 sound pops only for capital offenses, such as lying and outright disobedience (yes, I meant don’t play in ANY street). A good cry following a spanking is therapeutic, and then we hug and make up, clearly reinforcing the reason for the spanking and why it should not happen again.
Natural consequences do well for some transgressions, such as eating too much candy. “I TOLD you it would make your stomach hurt.” Spanking is reserved for well-defined offenses. In practice, we rarely spank, and when we do it is under controlled circumstances (not in anger) and after exhausting other appropriate disciplinary measures, such as the extra chores or time-out. Please hear me when I say that spanking should not be used for all offenses, should not be administered in anger (though frustration certainly accompanies a long fought battle), and should always be followed by reconciliation. Our goal is to raise capable children with a strong sense of right and wrong and who know we love them unconditionally, which is why we take the time to train and discipline them.
While in the throes of child-rearing, it’s easy to get swept up with the latest child development fad and too late to fix it when you realize it’s mostly hogwash. In the end, children need a caring and safe environment. That’s best provided with clearly defined expectations and consequences, and administered with a loving and mostly calm attitude.