16 December, 2011

Discipline Ain't Santa's Job

Family on Friday!!!

When you're in a store witnessing a parent attempt to correct their kids' behavior, you only need to pay attention to one thing to tell if the parent gives idle threats, or disciplines effectively - the kids' reactions.  (This time of year brings out the big guns, doesn't it?)

"Stop screaming/running around/getting in people's way/punching/biting/spitting/grabbing/whining/crying...  or Santa won't bring you any toys."

How much time does that give?  A few reminders per store?  Good on you if you can get a weekend out of saying it once.

What about the rest of the year?  I've heard threats of grounding, leaving immediately without getting anything, time out, and some degree of bodily harm.  It seems like neither the parent nor child even pay attention to these idle threats.  Some sick rote they developed out of desperation turned apathy.  Every now and again I'll hear a parent speak directly to the child and the child will cast down their pitchfork and shine their halo.  I love it when I hear "One... two..." and then nothing.

How is it that a few parents have managed to retain control over their kids?  It doesn't have to involve a swing, but it is all about follow through.  If you're going to bother making a threat to get your kids to behave, make sure it's something you're not only prepared to do, but can make an instant part of their reality.  And follow through.

They may cry, plead, correct their behavior, or do whatever it was that they didn't want to as a too-little-too-late effort to avoid the punishment.  No dice.  If they learn that they need to behave before the sentencing and gavel smack, they stand a better chance of knowing to straighten up after the warning next time.  And clean the slate after the sentence is served.  (Parole is for criminals.)

Personally, I advocate rewarding good behavior more often to avoid bad behavior becoming the only way the child can get the parents' attention, but that will be a different post.  At least idle threats are a step up from the parents who pretend like they have nothing to do with the kids until it's time to leave the store.

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