Fool-proof Discipline in a Thousand Easy Steps

“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?


About Holly

I hope you're able to glean something from this blog, a nugget of wisdom, a new perspective, a smile or even a laugh. I enjoy getting feedback so please comment, share your story with me too. After all, we're here to help each other.
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6 Responses to Fool-proof Discipline in a Thousand Easy Steps

  1. guittech says:

    OK, here’s my unsolicited advice!!!! (you asked i guess, so that makes it soliceted!)

    NOTHING WORKS! Nothing that worked on/for me will work with anyone else. Have you tried beating them WHILE on a time out? perhaps while yelling 1-2-3 MAGIC!!!! MAGIC!!!!!

    Anecdotal: Family friends lived across the street as a child. similar household to our own. When my sister and i were in “trouble” My mom would grab the junk drawer (Home of the dreaded “wooden spoon”) and just rattle it, we would hear it, run to our rooms, close the door and sit on our hands being quiet… THats all it took. Our friends across the street, were thinking up new ways to punish their kids, because beatings, wooden spoons, a wooden paddle, washing the mouth out with soap, had all failed to instill any discipline. I think it ended on a wooden paddle across the knuckles. I think i was “beaten” once a year, and they were once or twice a week… and we all ended up the same pretty much. Other kids in my neighborhood had parents that would NEVER have beaten them, from things like time outs to writing out lines of apologies… and we ALL turned out the same…. but i did live in fear a little bit, of the family friends across the street… didn’t want to be caught being mouthy in “their yard”!!! lol

    I guess all i am saying is reinforcing that nobody knows your kids like you, and as always, GUA’s (great acronym!!!) will always tell you how to do things “better” but they don’t live YOUR life with YOUR family!

    Maybe if you made them watch old episodes of “Studio Canadore” they would learn the error of their ways….

    • Holly says:

      I don’t know, making them watch old episodes of “Studio Canadore” that’s got to break some of the Geneva Convention laws.

  2. Beth says:

    In our family, each child is different and requires a separate approach to discipline. I expect your children are just as unique as mine, so I have no advice there.

    However, one thing that I have started doing to help with my “Etch-a-Sketch brain” is to attach a whiteboard to my kitchen wall where I write down all punishments so that I can keep them straight. Some people’s names show up more than others, but at least I can finally remember who has what extra chore or early bedtime. That helps me a lot with my follow through, and the kids like being allowed to erase the punishment once they’ve completed it. There is also a trust bar that I made near the bottom for one of my children whose first instinct in times of trouble is not always to tell the truth. Every time that he does something that builds trust I colour a little bit of the trust bar.

    I don’t know if that helps, but you DID ask. 🙂

  3. Holly says:

    Thanks, Beth!! The whiteboard is a great idea. I can see where that would encourage the discipline, but also emphasize positive reinforcement by allowing them to erase the consequence.

  4. Hi, Holly, thanks for signing up to my blog, by the way! I loved this write…I have struggled with discipline as a single parent, myself. And, after also enduring quite a rough period of time and transition with my child a couple of years ago, her acting out behavior became more and more challenging for me. However, a few things help me: consistency, persistency, and trying to follow through no matter how tough on ME it is. Consistency for us means sticking to a pretty tight schedule, especially with bedtime. The more tired my daughter is, the worse the possibility of an outburst. I also agree with trying new things, and often, as you are correct, what works one day, doesn’t seem to work the next at times. And then sticking what the consequence that is stated-the hardest part. Lastly, when it all fails, as sometimes it will, let it go, sleep on it, and begin the next day with a brand new pair of glasses on!

  5. Holly says:

    My favourite quote is from Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery – Tomorrow is a brand new day with no mistakes in yet.

    I think it’s the right way to start the day. 🙂

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