Let me begin by saying that I am by no means a arenting or discipline expert. I'm only speaking from experience. I have two children and both are completely different from each other. Brennan, my oldest, thrives on competition and positive rewards. He's very similar to me in what motivates him and how he processes the world. Kendall, my youngest (until the Gummy Bear, #3, arrives), is much like my husband. She doesn't want to be nagged and she likes the feeling of control. She's also incredibly stubborn. I'm hoping this will be a good thing when she's older; hopefully she'll be like my husband who rarely felt peer pressure as a teenager.
For Brennan, I quickly learned that what motivated him more than the threat of a time out was the thought of earning rocks that went in a jar for making wise choices. I wrote about it once on here. As he's aged the motivation has changed from the Wise Choice jar to being able to reason with him about the consequences he'll encounter should he choose to disobey the rules. For example, being the oldest sibling, he'll often see Kendall playing with a toy that's "his" and even though he's had no interest in it for the past week, he'll decide that he must have the toy. Not tomorrow, or in an hour, but immediately. Rather than threaten him with a time out, I simply remind him that if he does not share then he will lose his screen privileges. Yes, screen time is a big motivating factor for my five year old. As much as I sometimes want the break that my Kindle Fire (*cough, cough* baby-sitter) gives me, if Brennan's acting out it's the first thing to go.
Kendall, on the other hand, thrives on choices and doing things "myself." When Brennan was her age (two-and-a-half-years-old) I tried letting him make choices but it just overwhelmed his little brain. If I said, "You can have Mommy read you a story now or you can directly go to bed," he couldn't comprehend the choices that came with that' it's like he became paralyzed by the possibilities. He over-thought every decision. Kendall gets it though and she likes to think that she's the one who's in charge. We've been having problems with her quieting down for her nap time lately. I can give her a choice like I did with Brennan to either read a story or go to bed and she instantly chooses a story. I noticed the same thing with potty training her; I had to stop asking her if she had to go potty every 20 minutes because she just wouldn't go. Once I stopped asking her, she went on her own. Once she was able to choose her underwear and put them on herself, she stopped wetting her pants because she had chosen them. She is totally her father's daughter: Don't tell me what to do because I will resist if you push me too far. She needs to own it.
As far as consequences go for Brennan and Kendall, time outs work for both them for the big things. We consider big things for our kids to be anything that puts them in danger or harms another person. If you hit your sister, it's to the "bad behavior chair" you go. (We call it the bad behavior chair because we want for the kids to know that they're being punished for their behavior, not for who they are as a person.) You run out into the street after a warning, we're going inside immediately and to the bad behavior chair. We definitely pick and choose our battles wisely and not every act of misconduct warrants a time out. Save the big consequences for the big offenses. One of my favorite parenting books about discipline is Love and Logic. The approach is very realistic; the consequence does fit the "crime" in a logical way. It's not over-dramatic.
Most importantly do what works for your family and remember that our job as parents is to raise children who will grow up to be capable adults living in this society. Do you discipline differently for each of your children?
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