What to Do When Discipline Methods Stop Working
Recently I’ve shifted the way I look at things. As a result, I’m seeing the world through what feels like fresh eyes. My understanding of many things and how people relate to each other has changed. Has that ever happened to you?
Did you know that the same thing happens to your child? At first it happens every few weeks. Then it stretches out to every few months. Then it settles into about once a year. What am I talking about? I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I’m talking about developmental changes.
When your daughter emerges from a developmental cycle she seems like a “new child.” She has a new set of skills and fresh eyes to see the world. She also seems to have a deep need to re-look at the rules and boundaries you thought were already mastered.
I know you’ve experienced it. One day you realize that the way you’ve been dealing with your child no longer seems to be working. As soon as you experience that, you begin wondering what to do.
Some parents think, “Maybe I should get louder?” Or, “Maybe I should be firmer?” Some even think, “Maybe I should use more punishment?” Don’t get me wrong; there are probably some situations where that line of thinking may be valuable. Usually, however, that line of thinking only causes things to get emotionally more intense, instead of better.
A New Way of Looking
Just like a computer gets an upgrade when you install a new program, parents need to upgrade their parenting when their child gains a new perspective. Here are three well know times when a child’s perspective changes.
When a child moves from the terrific two’s to being a three year old, most parents wipe their brow and say, “I’m glad that’s over!” What they don’t realize is 3 ? is a lot more complex!
Most children are pretty compliant during the preschool years. It may not feel that way, but for the most part your child realizes that you’re the boss and what you say goes. And then comes the age of negotiating! Parents can begin to feel as if they’ve lost all control.
Then there’s the moment when you see your child openly testing your boundaries and blatantly defying you. Most parents tend to rush toward a heavy punishment to stop that from ever happening again.
Would you treat all three scenarios the same? If so, consider a change of perspective to match your child’s new perspective—a parenting upgrade, if you will.
I believe parenting methods need to include who your child is yet to become. Using the same parenting methods you used before your child morphed into a “new child” doesn’t allow that to happen. It makes her feel as if she’s still a “baby” so she tends to act that way. She doesn’t stretch and grow to match her new understanding of the world. She doesn’t begin taking responsibility or mastering the rules you’ve laid out for her either.
A perfect way remedy that, or upgrade your parenting, is to slowly begin letting your child experience the results of her choices, as long as the situation is completely safe. When she gets a lesson from the results of her choices, that lesson can be far more of a teaching than your words could be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way saying not to use boundaries, rules and consequences. What I am offering is a blend of the two.
Have a family meeting and create a list of scenarios you’re dealing with and the resulting consequences. Use the list like a family mission statement. When you think a life lesson isn’t enough and a consequence needs to happen, simply walk up to the already agreed upon list and say, “Sweetie, you did (fill in the blank) and now I have to do (fill in the blank). I know you don’t like it, and what you did wasn’t okay. My job is to teach you, and I will never stop doing my job. I love you.”
Sometimes a life lesson is all that’s needed. And sometimes making a bad choice means there’s an agreed upon consequence that needs to happen too. As this is all unfolding you get to show your love, support, empathy, and I think that’s a great upgrade for the whole family.
The best way I know of to have a child learn about her behavior is teach her How to Turn a Mistake into a Lesson. As this is all unfolding you get to show your love, support, and empathy. I think that’s a great upgrade for the whole family.
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and The Authentic Parent Series. Go to proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.