Question: how do you discipline your children?

>> Monday, 15 November 2010

Always assuming, that is, that you live in the real world where - shudder - sometimes children don't always do what they are told and even, sometimes, are wilfully naughty...

Do you always carry your threats through? Or do you find yourself taking the line of least resistance, bleating hopelessly from the sofa 'don't do that little Johnny - cats don't like being carried around by their tails, he'll - oh, yes, well that wasalways going to happen wasn't it?'

Probably, if you're anything like me, you'll do a little of both, and more often than not which it is will depend on how much time you have to spare. For example, the naughty chair? All very well, but first thing in the morning on a school day I don't have 4 or 7 minutes spare to put the offending Boy on it; we're usually late already, so punishing the fact that my 10th request to put shoes and coats on has been ignored again is counterproductive. So the naughty chair tends to be a measure for the weekends, or after school (although obviously my sons are such little angels I never have to use it. Well, not for Boy #1, anyway).

The naughty shelf - the indefinite removal of a favoured toy / book etc to somewhere out of reach - gets pressed into service occasionally. Especially when we're in a rush. The only problem with that one is that whatever gets put up there usually gets forgotten about, as with a magnetic fishing rod stuffed on the top of my wardrobe when I had been hit in the face with it once too often by an over-enthusiastic child using it as a light sabre. It was banished in June, and rescued in September...

Then of course, there is the with-holding of pocket money. That worked for a while, but Husband and I are so rubbish about remembering to give it out that I think my children are under the impression it comes so seldom in any case that there's no point expecting to add it to their stash. Right now I think that I owe them each about 6 weeks, and since I don't have so much cash to hand it will probably be at least 7 before I'm in a position to remedy that...

Recently, with an increasing focus on Christmas (see this post), we've been using the 'If you don't behave Santa won't bring you your favourite presents' line, but Boy #1 is - I suspect - already doubting his existence, and Boy #2 doesn't really believe we'll carry it through. Or, he bucks up his ideas for all of 5 minutes before continuing with whatever he was doing before mum or dad inconveniently intervened.

So, in the absence of the ultimate Bad Thing - corporal punishment - what do you do? And I am of course assuming you will have given me credit and assumed that I have already exhausted the 'reasonable approach' method - talking it through, explaining why whatever it is they're up to is not acceptable / a good idea etc - before reverting to other forms of discipline.

Because, I'm looking for ideas here. Especially after yesterday evening when I was faced with a 4 year old who was blatantly laughing in my face at my increasingly annoyed requests he get. Undressed. And. Get. Into. The. Bath. Now. So I decided to carry through on the threat I had made 5 minutes earlier, and simply dumped him in there fully clothed.

It did have the desired effect - to shock him into getting undressed as quickly as possible - but unless I'm prepared to do an extra load of laundry every evening, it's not really a sustainable form of discipline. And of course, not every 'disagreement' we have involves a bathtub full of warm water...

Any ideas?

(Oh yes, and sadly not giving him a bath wasn't an option...)


Sparx 15 November 2010 at 11:29  

I love this! I use many of these techniques; the banish shelf in particular. We don't have a naughty chair or step but he has been banished to his room.

And, more importantly, I have twice in the past 2 years put my son fully clothed into the bath. He was appalled and the threat always works now because he knows for a fact that I will follow through!

I think following through is the main thing on threats; the perceived value of the threat is always going to change depending on circumstances...

Expat mum 15 November 2010 at 14:59  

I usually tell the 7 year old that if he doesn't do something, he won't get whatever he's looking forward to that day - usually a playdate with a friend. I've never had to follow through but I would if necessary.
Not to bring you down but - it's a hell of a lot harder when they're fifteen, 6 inches taller than you and weigh considerably more. Trying to get my son to practise his viola (because he signed up for high school orchestra, not me) is like pulling teeth. He just doesn't do it. My current threat (which he knows I will actually do) is that he can't play baseball in the spring if I get one more note from his music teacher. Mwa ha ha.

Milla 15 November 2010 at 16:39  

yes, sadly, Toni is right. Harder when older but still taking things away or removing what passes for a treat in our house is the only way. On the other hand, they do acquire a little more sense as they grow up. Really.

nappy valley girl 15 November 2010 at 17:47  

I love the idea of putting him in the bath fully clothed. Must try that on LB2, who refuses to get in every night (and then, once in, refuses to get out....).

I tend to use threats more than anything else. We do theoretically have the naughty chair, but unlike Supernanny I find it hard to keep them actually sitting on it - although the threat of it sometimes works. Sometimes I pretend to make a phone call to cancel a playdate - that usually gets them going!

planb 15 November 2010 at 19:47  

Mine are littler, so it may be easier (doesn't feel like it...) but what I've really found works, when I can manage it, which is not very often (bad mother) is carrot rather than stick. I'm not talking bribery as such, but I have managed to get all three of them tidying up every evening on the promise that whoever does the "best" tidying up (as adjudicated by me, bien sur) gets to choose what we watch on the telly after that. Similarly, we've had some success with rewarding good behaviour with extra stories at bedtime. On the threat side (which I'm much better at - I'm going to count to 3 - etc etc) we also tried starting the eldest off in the morning with the promise of 10 stories at bedtime, and gradually removing them during the day as she did something naughty. She tends to end up with two or three.... Don't know if either would work at 4 and 7 though....

ps loving the bath idea. That's definitely going to happen in our house one day before too long.

Iota 15 November 2010 at 20:33  

I'm a huge believer in just getting through whatever moment it is, and then having a talk about it later. Very 1970s I'm afraid. Depends on the personality of the child, but I have one who, when cornered, simply CAN'T think straight, and being pinned down with threats makes him 100% stubborn, and any bribe has to be so huge that it's laughable. So I go with the flow, and then say "I really didn't like the way x, y or z happened, because... and next time, I'll have to...".

I occasionally go with a huge threat, and then carry it out, and then for months afterwards, I can say "I mean what I say... remember when I....?"

Iota 15 November 2010 at 20:35  

I think one of my sons would be thrilled and excited at the prospect of being dumped in a bath in clothes! What fun, he'd think!

Like Plan B, we've used the punishment of deducting bedtime stories. "You're a story down" became a common refrain at one point in time.

Two comments. Is that allowed?

Home Office Mum 16 November 2010 at 07:32  

Beat them with large jaggy sticks? (oops did I say that aloud). Just kidding. Honest.

We've tried all your approaches. Going to their room is what tends to work at the moment. That and my approach of not asking more than twice. i.e. if I have to ask them a third time to do something, and they don't, they have to do it without help or get something withdrawn.

So if they don't want to get out of the bath after asking them twice, I drop their towel on the floor and leave the room which immediately results in loud cries and clambering out of the bath. Same goes for getting ready for school (and yes, i have taken them up to school in their pjs if they've refused to get dressed).

Everyday is a gamble as to what will work. My challenge: how to get over the post school hideous, unreasonably temper

Mwa 16 November 2010 at 13:28  

Good idea! If you threaten it, you have to do it. I sometimes invent treats at the time of an infraction: "Now you're not getting an ice cream." Works out great for the other one, who didn't even know they were getting one but now they are. And so am I. :-) I only use that if I'm out of other options, like not around the naughty chair.

Mwa 16 November 2010 at 13:28  

I've also put one in the corner in a shop.

Two comments is obviously the cool thing today.

Rebecca P 17 November 2010 at 16:05  

I have 2 boys, similar ages to yours (7 and 5) and I used to be tired of shouting all the time which is awful for parents and children so a few years ago I developed the 'Brownie Point' system. You could call it whatever you want. I use the element of competition as an incentive! The boys gain points for good behaviour - things that are above the normal expected stuff (acts of kindness, putting on shoes and coats without being nagged etc) and they lose them for bad behaviour, eg fighting, cheekiness etc. They usually get a warning before I take one off ("If you do that once more I'll take a point off" etc) I know it won't last forever but it's a great way of maintaining control withou losing your rag. You could award prizes for every 5 or 10 points if you wanted but to be honest I haven't needed to because they seem to love their points so much and just having them is enough!
Hope that helps....

Anonymous,  17 November 2010 at 22:20  

Ha! I love the fake phone call idea, definitely going to try that one. I have driven 6yo to school in his pyjamas before...

Michelloui 18 November 2010 at 14:17  

Well done for dumping him in the bath!

I try to never threaten anything I am not prepared to do, that way they always know the threats are real. But it's *what* exactly to threaten, isn't it?! I had one friend who very successfully used a sticker chart as a reward system instead of threats. It wouldn't have worked with mine.

When things have been very serious Ive told my daughter to go to her room. This is the worst punishment for her because she loves being with us wherever we are.

DD 19 November 2010 at 12:35  

Not easy - I remember once driving Child One to school in her pyjamas when she refused to get dressed. Of course we didn't get all the way there - the lesson was learned. As I bet the bath lesson was!I agree with Sparx on following through - vital!

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