Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Discipline for kids - how to have kids you like to be around

One thing I think Eric and I do pretty well is disciplining our 2 year old, Kenny. The book that influenced me most in this was 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan. The title of the book refers to the main technique, which is that of counting misbehavior (1, 2, 3), and then when they hit 3, they get a timeout. But even though that's the title of the book, it's not the main theme. The main theme is that discipline needs to be straightforward, unemotional, and consistent. I know, easier said than done, but this book has some great guidelines.

One of my favorite sections is the distinction he draws between treating your kids like little adults (long detailed explanations of what they should or shouldn't do, lots of words) and treating them like wild animals (don't expect them to be at your mental/emotional level, use one or two words, especially when they're upset). Needless to say, he favors the parent acting as the wild animal trainer.

Our take on discipline is pretty much as follows:
  • If there's something he shouldn't do that involves an object (i.e., banging something that shouldn't be banged), he gets a warning, "No banging, Kenny". If he continues to do it, the object goes into toy jail (the fireplace mantle), and he doesn't get it until the next day
  • If the offense was particularly bad, like throwing something hard at someone, the object would go into toy jail, and he would get a timeout.
  • A timeout consists of him sitting against the wall for a minute or so. If he doesn't sit against the wall, he gets put into his crib. Before, we used to put him in his crib for timeout all the time, now we can generally just tell him, "Sit against the wall", and he'll do it. Again, it's not a long timeout.
  • We never threaten without following through with the threatened consequence. I see this a lot, usually in the parents of misbehaved kids. I was just in Target the other day where a girl that looked like she was about 5 had a screaming fit to get another toy (they already had one in their cart). The dad threatened to put the original toy back if the tantrum didn't stop. It didn't stop, but the original toy didn't go back, either. I know it's easier in the short-term to give in, but long-term, you have big problems.
  • This is beginning to be a big one, and I really need to be firm about it - whining. I need to just start treat it as regular misbehavior, and give him a time-out when he does it.

That's it in a nutshell. Either it works really well, or Kenny is just in general a kid that's very easy to get along with.

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