I am going to try and address how to stay at level zero before going into the tools for discipline. What is level zero again? It is the attitude you have when you are not frustrated, angry, or upset at your child. Why is it so important that you stay at zero? You can best teach your child at this point. Will a child learn if he is being yelled at? Yes, but mostly what not to do to make you so angry. (He is learning out of fear.) Positive discipline means that you are teaching out of love and teaching what to do instead of what not to do.
So how do you stay at zero when your child is driving you crazy? That’s just it–if you’ve made it to crazy, you have passed level zero. Look at the diagram above. After you ask your child to do something, watch yourself. As time goes on and the child does not do what you have asked, you get more upset. You have to act early.
First as I wrote about last week, fill their emotional bank accounts (ten positives to one negative). When a situation comes up where you have to discipline, they will be full emtionally. Then keep your word. If you tell your child that they can only check out three books at the library and they want to pick four and won’t listen, give them one warning (tell them what will happen if they don’t listen), and if they still won’t listen, carry through with the consequence. (Yes, this did happen to me, and I told Rachel that she couldn’t check out books if she didn’t put one back. She chose to not listen, so I carried a screaming Rachel out the door and strapped her in the car and listened to screams all the way home. Was this acutely painful for me? Yes…probably more so than for her. I really wanted her to check out books…I know she loves stories…but she also needs to learn to listen.) After you carry through the consequence, continually strive to be consistent. I can’t give in when I’ve told Rachel the consequences no matter how painful it is for me or her. If I do, she learns that if she whines loudly and long enough, she gets what she wants.
Here are the first two discipline tools. Remember that they are only two of about 10-12 choices. So if it doesn’t work for you or your child, try something else. And don’t rely completely on one tool. Use many as you discipline your children.
1. Choices. This is just what is sounds like. You give two choices and allow your child to choose. It allows them to have power over their decision. A couple of things to remember when you give choice. Both choice have to be ok with you. (aka you can’t have a predetermined answer. If I give Katie a choice of wearing two different outfits, but I really want her to pick a certain one, then choices doesn’t work.) If a child doesn’t choose, I have the right to choose for them. This has worked really well lately for Rachel. I give her two choices and then she usually mopes about it. I tell her that if she doesn’t choose, I will choose for her. That really gets her attention and she picks her choice really quickly.
2. Gaiting. This creates a win-win situation. An example of this is telling a child that they can watch TV when they have picked up their toys. For this to work, your child has to have a hot button. If the child doens’t care to watch TV when they find out they have to pick up their toys, it won’t work. You have to be careful using this one exclusively. You can create a manipulative child if they start thinking that everytime they do something around the house they “get” a priviledge.
(Remember, that I am no parenting expert. I am trying to do my best to implement all of these ideas given to me in my parenting class. And if some of you think I was harsh to not allow Rachel to check out books, I probably was. Does it really matter three books or four? Probably not, except that I have a hard time keeping track of all the books after they check them out. They sure don’t keep track of them!)