“Have you tried time-outs?” “I’ve heard the 1-2-3 Magic system works, well, magic.” “What your kids need is a good beating. That’s what my parents did and I turned out ok.”
Ah, God bless the GUAs. I think discipline is the favourite topic of these well-meaning folks. I’ve lost count of the varied styles of discipline that have been recommended to me, although most of them have involved duct tape and switches from the ole oak tree.
My kids aren’t perfect, I’ve never claimed they were, and as much as I want to blame the ADHD, I must admit, I’m not always as stern with them as I need to be. I spent a long time shielding them from their father’s rage and I’m still very protective of them. When someone else, such as my brother or a trusted friend, reprimands my children I literally have to sit on my hands so I don’t jump up and interrupt. Not only did I protect them but I also did a lot more for them than I should have simply because it was easier. It was easier to clean up their mess than have them whine about doing it themselves because if they whined he flipped and then no one was happy.
They also spent their formative years learning from their father how to treat me, and how to get what you want which involved sulking, whining, pouting, screaming, throwing things (from hot cups of coffee to vacuum cleaners), the silent treatment (which would have been my favourite option if it hadn’t been followed up by any of the other options). I spent 12 1/2 years as his wife and in that time I allowed him to dominant me in such a way that I had lost my “muchness” – I had eroded into someone I didn’t know and didn’t like.
Over the past few years I have remembered who I was and what I liked about me. I am recovering my “muchness“. I’m not the same as I once was, I never will be and I don’t want to be, but I am becoming someone I like again. Someone I can be proud of and that’s important. And that person cannot allow her children to walk all over her. In an attempt to be less of a door mat I have been implementing new discipline strategies into our home.
That’s not to say it’s all been a walk in the park, no, no, no. As difficult as the children find adapting to new discipline strategies, it’s just as hard on me. I’ve told you about my Etch-a-Sketch brain, so its no wonder I forget when I discipline them or I lose track of the chores I’ve assigned them. The worse thing for me though is the guilt I often feel when I discipline them. I know I’m being a poor parent when I fail to discipline them, but I feel like a tyrannical parent when I do.
I’ve taken parenting courses, listened intently while counselors gave me ideas for discipline strategies, taken notes, made reward charts, counted, grounded and taken away privileges until all they have left to play with is an old shoe box. Have these strategies worked? Sometimes. Do they maintain their impact after the first few times? Not usually. After losing the right to her iPod my daughter simply picks up a book and continues to stonewall me. When my son loses privileges he whines, cries, storms to his room and then accuses me of being too much like his father
So what does work? It’s usually hit and miss. The discipline that works successfully one day has absolutely no effect the next. I’m no child-discipline expert, as a matter of fact I’d say most days I’m a dismal failure, but what I have learned is to be as flexible as possible. Each child responds uniquely to different forms of discipline, that applies to “normies” as well as kids with mental health issues. What I’ve learned from my kids is that each situation requires a different form of discipline, a different level of consequence and sometimes, leniency is required.
What works for you?