My Philosophy Of Discipline

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I know that this is a touchy subject for a lot of people, so I will attempt to tread lightly here. Each parent needs to approach discipline with their children in the way they see best for their family–and, with that, each individual child may require different approaches. I’m not suggesting that my approach to discipline is the best or the only way–if anything, discipline is the area of parenting that I struggle with the most! As a mom and a former teacher, though, I know how important discipline is for kids. In this post I will share a bit of my personal “philosophy of discipline” and how we handle discipline in our family.

Why discipline?
The Bible tells us that “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). We discipline our children for this very reason: because it is for their good, so they can become more like Jesus.

I have seen first-hand, in both the classroom and in my own home, how appropriate discipline can help children thrive. Kids not only need discipline–they want it! Kids expect boundaries and limits, and they learn life-skills from appropriate correction. Plus, discipline helps everyone live together in harmony. Nobody wants a chaotic toddler running the show. Trust me.

What is discipline?
The word “discipline” stems from the word “disciple”: to guide someone to become more like Jesus. As such, the purpose of discipline is to train a child for correction and maturity so they can follow in Jesus’ ways. The focus of discipline is on lovingly correcting the child and changing their future behavior. Discipline means that the parent applies appropriate consequences to encourage the child to make better future choices.

There is an important distinction between discipline and punishment. Discipline is NOT punishment. Punishment’s purpose is to inflict a penalty for an offense with the focus on past misdeeds–it’s basically “I’ll make something bad happen to you for your bad behavior”. Where punishment results in fear and guilt, discipline leaves a child with a sense of security and a positive focus for their future.

How Do We Discipline?
In our house, we have a tiered-approach to discipline: some offenses warrant lesser consequences than other more serious behaviors. Here are the discipline steps we follow with our son:

1. When our son does something that breaks a family rule (like throwing food at the dinner table) he goes straight to time out. There are no warnings, no arguing, no negotiating. He knows the rules and he knows that he needs to follow them at all times. We follow the rule of one minute per year of the child’s age for time-outs (David is 2, so he has 2-minute time-outs). His time-out spot is the first step of our staircase. When he is in time-out he is not allowed to play with toys or talk to us. I don’t mind if he talks to himself, moves his feet or plays with his hands. If he needs to move his little body a bit, that’s fine–I just want him removed from the situation–and our attention–that could instigate further inappropriate behavior. If he gets out of time-out before we come to get him or if he refuses to go to time-out, he gets a spanking (more on that in #2).

2. If the behavior is something that could harm himself or others (like hitting his baby brother or running into the street when I tell him to stop), he gets a spanking instead of time-out. Serious offenses warrant a serious consequence.

This whole spanking thing is very difficult for me. I was never spanked as a child and I never thought I would spank my own children. After a lot of prayer and discussion with my husband, though, we came to the conclusion that spanking is one tool we will use for discipline in our family. We use spanking sparingly and it is not our first line of defense. When we do use spanking, though, our goal is always to train–not hurt–our son.

When a spanking needs to happen, we wait until the parent who is giving the spanking is calm and collected. Sometimes this means David needs to go have a time-out in his room for a few minutes while we gather ourselves (or soothe the crying baby that he just walloped with his lego tower). Then we take David to a private place–we don’t want to add embarrassment to the mix–so he can get his spanking. Just one quick swat to the behind, then it’s over.

3. For all discipline, whether it’s a spanking or time-out, we always have the same “script” that we follow. Depending on the situation, we either go through this at the beginning or the end of the discipline time. I want little David to start learning the specific vocabulary of “sin” and “forgiveness” now. It’s so important that kids learn that bad behavior isn’t just “bad”–it is actually going against God. But, in that, there is always forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Our script goes something like this.

“David, you are in time-out (or getting a spanking) because you chose to do _____. That breaks our rules (and can hurt you/other people). When you do _____ it is also a sin. Sin breaks God’s laws and makes Him sad. Mommy and Daddy love you and want you to be more like Jesus, so we need to discipline you now.

Now, let’s pray together (we have him repeat phrases after us): Dear God, please forgive me for (_____). Please help me (obey, play nicely, share, etc.) so I can be more like you. Amen.”

We end the discipline time with David apologizing for the specific behavior (“Sorry I threw my peas at you, Mommy.” instead of just “sorry”). Then we give each other a hug. If he hurt someone else, he also tries to make amends with that person. If he made a mess, he helps to clean up the mess. Done.

4. Go back to “real life”. Don’t dwell on the bad behavior or keep bringing it up. If it’s been dealt with properly, then it’s time to move on.

Final Thoughts
Again, this is how we do discipline in our family. Every family has different children and different parents, so I know that this model is not the best fit for every family out there. In fact, it may not even be the best fit for our family 5 or 10 years down the road. The important things will always be important, though: lovingly correct your children so they can be more like Jesus. And try not to pull your hair out when that sweet little darling gets sent to time-out for the 480th time today.

How I Trick My Kids Into Doing What I Want Them To Do

I have this fantasy that some day I’ll wake up and my kids will just do what I ask them to do. Happily. Without running away or throwing an angry screaming fit about it (You want me to stop what I’m doing and wash my hands before lunch?! These sweaty sticky hands?! These grimy little hands that are busy throwing a basketball into my hoop for the 10,000th time today?! How dare you!!!). But, until that day, I’ll just trick them into obedience. Here are some of my favorite ways to throw them off guard just enough to make them do what I want them to do.

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When I’m brushing David’s teeth or helping him floss I’ll say something along the lines of, “I bet I can open my mouth bigger than you!” or “Can you roar like a lion?” or “Can you make your mouth as big as a wide-mouthed frog?”. Then, when he’s got his mouth gaping open, I’ll rush in with the toothbrush and get the deed done.

Reverse Psychology:
“You can’t smile for the camera. Don’t do it! Noooooooo! Don’t you dare smile!”. And he smiles.

Say What?
When David is getting too loud my first inclination is usually to get louder. But what actually works better is a whisper. I’ll start whispering random things to him in an “excited whisper”–like what I’m saying is really important. He usually catches on after a few seconds and starts trying to listen to what I’m saying. The cutest thing is that when I’m whispering he always responds in a whisper, too. Now we’re having a whisper conversation instead of a shouting match!

Give them “choices”:
“Do you want broccoli or green beans with your dinner?” versus “Do you want vegetables with your dinner tonight?” (because, duh, no they do not want vegetables with their dinner tonight–but that doesn’t change the fact that they will get vegetables with their dinner tonight).

Make it a game:
When we have a particularly messy house (OK, we have a particularly messy house by about 4:00 every day) we’ll play “secret scrap” (or, in David’s case, “secret ball”). I’ll find a secret item that he has to find and put away, and if he does he gets a prize (usually a sticker or a hand stamp).
*Note: I don’t actually have a secret item in mind when we start the game. I just wait until I’m satisfied that things have been cleaned up and I tell him that the last thing he put away was the secret scrap.

The other day David was having a temper tantrum in the car (this happens quite often–you know, if I don’t sing the correct song or I don’t sing it in the correct way or I quit singing songs or I sing them too loudly or…).  I just shouted over the top of his protests “Look! A schoolbus! What color is that light over there? Hold your breath through the tunnel (really just a freeway overpass). How many square signs can you find?”–and I just kept going until he started answering my questions. Then he wanted me to ask more questions. So I did. And he answered them. Temper tantrum: over.

David doesn’t have any older siblings and Jacob is still too young to be any competition yet. But David has an older cousin who he looks up to and adores. And sometimes I use that to my advantage: “Guess what? Cousin Noah uses a spoon and fork at the dinner table. He doesn’t even throw food when he’s at the table! In fact, I happen to know that cousin Noah keeps his face and shirt clean when he’s eating!”. Now David wants to use a spoon and a fork better than Cousin Noah and keep his face and his shirt cleaner.

Encourage them to exert their independence:
David is two-and-a-half, so feeling like a “big kid” is kind of a “big deal” these days. I’ll say things to him like, “Wow! You’re such a big boy now–I bet you can even help do the Velcro on your shoes like a big boy!”. And, you know what, usually he can.

Now, these are some handy little tricks of the trade, but they do not work 100% of the time. Even with those odds, though, I’ll take any help I can get!

Why Having 2 Kids Isn't As Hard As Everyone Says

When I was pregnant with Jacob I had a lot of people tell me: “Watch out! Having two kids isn’t just twice as much work…it’s more like ten times as much work!”. Now, granted, I’ve only had two kids for 5 months now, but it’s really not as hard as everyone said it would be. In fact, I’d say that having 2 kids is not even twice as much work as having 1.

When I was teaching, I had up to 22 kids under my care for 6+ hours a day.  So, having only 2 kids that I love unconditionally feels like a pretty sweet deal (plus, they both still take naps. That helps). In both the school and the home scenario, though, the only way I’m able to manage kids is through a simple formula of routine, organization, and discipline.

On Routines
We have routines for everything in our day: wake up time, meal time, getting dressed, getting shoes and coats on when we have to leave the house, nap time, clean up, bath time, bed time.  We have David so well trained now that all I have to say is “it’s time for snack and story” and he cleans up all of his toys and goes to sit on the couch to wait for his snack. This allows me to get his snack ready while he’s cleaning up, and it means we have no battles over how this part of our day should go. We’ve practiced it a gazillion times and he just knows what to do and what to expect. The funny thing is, if we ever stray from our routine David gets really upset and tells us the “correct” way to do it!

On Organization
Organization is a huge help when you have kids. Having children is like living in the middle of a tornado–everything and everyone seem to be in a constant state of upheaval.

One of the most important parts of my personal organization is our schedule. I keep a fairly strict yet flexible schedule. What I mean by that is that we have a set plan for how each day in the week goes, but we adjust what that looks like as needed. For instance, Jacob can still nap in his carseat if we’re out and about during the day. I know, however, that when he’s older and won’t sleep in his carseat any more, I’ll have to be home for his naps and we’ll have to adjust our schedule to accommodate his new needs.

I also sit down every Sunday and fill out a weekly calendar that includes our activities, chores I need to do, errands that need to be run, our dinner menu, and even when I’ll exercise.

My weekly schedule

My weekly schedule

I write my schedule out on a magnetic whiteboard and I stick it on the front of my fridge. I like this method because it doesn’t require me pulling up an app on my phone and Jon can see it just as easily as I can. Plus, the teacher in me still likes writing on white boards. Having and keeping to a schedule allows your routines to be more effective because everyone knows what to expect each day.

Built into my schedule are things like dinner prep. I always prep dinner during the boys’ nap so that when it’s actually time to make dinner everything’s ready and I can just throw it in the pan (or, even better, it’s already in the crock pot or roasting in the oven and all I have to do is take it out to eat it). Really, if there’s anything I can do ahead of time to make my time with the boys go easier, I do it.

On Discipline
I’m not going to get too into this subject right now, because that could really be a whole series of posts on its own. And, admittedly, discipline is one of my weakest areas as a mother. But, I do know how important it is and I work at it every day. Here’s how discipline relates to my theme of managing the kids, though. Kids NEED boundaries. When the kids know what is expected of them, they tend to live up to those expectations.  When kids know there are consistent consequences to their actions, they learn how better to control their behavior. By me not spending 4 hours a day chasing wild banshees through my house (OK, that actually IS how most days are…) I can focus on more important tasks. We can move through our day more quickly, with more sanity, and have more time for the fun stuff when behavior is (mostly) in check.

So, that’s it. Having kids IS tough. I’ll never deny that. But with a little preparation and consistency, your job can be a whole lot easier!