Friday, June 3, 2011

Read With Caution

Most parents are great at identifying what their child does wrong.  The tragedy is that so many parents stop there. Identifying the problem is easy.  Taking the time to correct the behavior is what separates the men from the boys.

For example, I often hear parents complain that their child does not listen, but when I ask them how they are working on it they rarely have an answer.  They usually tell me what they are doing to punish the child but they are completely oblivious to the fact that punishment is not teaching their child what to do; it is simply letting the child know they are not pleased.  Let me say that again.  Punishment does not illustrate how to change a behavior.

When a child does something wrong you have a choice.  You may punish them or you may discipline them.  Punishment is a consequence for an action.  Discipline is disciplining someone in a new or correct way of doing something. I will illustrate the difference. Let's say your child is playing a video game and is not listening to your request to go clean his room.  What should you do?

If you are going to punish the child you make him turn of the video game and angrily send him to clean his room. The child may not like it that he can't play his video game, and he understands that you are angry but he has not been given any tools to become a better listener and you have no reassurance that he will do better the next time.  You think he is rude and, in turn, he doesn't understand why you don't want him to have any fun. Not an ideal outcome.

If your goal is to disciple/discipline the child you ask him to pause the game and look at you.  Once this has been done you tell him that he needs to pause the game any time someone is talking.  This will become a new standard of the home because it is respectful of others and in this home people are more important than games. Then you practice.  You read it correct.  Practice.  Role play is critical because it is the only way you know that they truly understand.  Kids are pros at the smile and nod game.  When you ask them to do the role play they will almost always have to ask you what you want them to do even though you just explained it to them in detail.  I know, maddening, right?

Turn the game back on have him pause the game when he hears your voice.  When he pauses the game you say, "Thank you for pausing the game.  I would like for you to please go clean your room."  The child is now aware of your expectations and knows the appropriate behavior.  I usually do not give a consequence for a first offense.  I assume that the child was unaware of my expectations and that he would have behaved differently if he knew how to.  

When I began taking this approach to my parenting I was dumbfounded that I had to model even the most simple behaviors, but now, I am shocked if I don't have to. Seriously, the little people really do not have a clue, and bless their hearts it is not like society is giving them a cinema of good examples throughout their day.  If you choose to man up and put the time and effort into discipline rather than punishing your kids you will be in a small and elite group. 

The good news is that this small group of families are the same group that can really enjoy their kids.  These families have an undertone of respect that permeates all their actions.  It is amazing what kids can propel to become if they are launched from a home that prepares them to communicate with rather than react to the people they will meet in their life.  I am excited for your kids just thinking about it!! 

I apologize for giving you something else to do, but I promise you will be soooo glad you did it.  Hugs!  You will need them!!!


  1. Great post and much needed as we are going thru this right now with Luke who is only 4 1/2! Do you have any tips for video game time limits and how to relay those time limits to a 4 year old. Need help.... :)

  2. PS - That is from Michelle Matthews - I can't get my blogger to sign in! :)

  3. Another wonderful post full of insight! I've often felt silly when we are arriving somewhere, and before I step out of the car, I go over my expectations and make them practice before they get out the door. If mommy says come here, what do you say? If something makes you mad what should you do? And practice. I've kept this technique to places outside our home only, but I see how much it should be used in everything! Thanks for sharing this! :)

  4. Love your insight Jenni. Thanks for taking the time to share with all of us who need it!

  5. I wish more mothers read this specific blog. Training our children is something that has been lost. My sister made me read "To Train Up a Child" (a little book written by an Omish woman) that talks about just this. It made so much sense. Right now I am needing so badly to spend time with my two little ones with training specific behaviors. Thanks for this reminder!