Like many parental practices, discipline is one of those where you setup core principles, but also have to adapt as your children grow older. For instance, physical discipline is off-limits in favor of time outs and taking treasured toys away.
While these are still the primary forms of discipline, I’m also now forced to recognize that I’m raising a pre-teen. Holden (my oldest son) is about to become 13 years old. While excited for him, I’m already counting down the days before I’ll be sitting in the passenger seat of a car with him, or meeting his first date. Yes, I’m white-knuckled terrified, but I digress. The traditional forms of punishment are quickly becoming archaic in our lives.
Instead, when I need to discipline, I think of three primary objectives .. yes, I actually think about these and do not just throw out some canned punishment, like taking his phone away:
- Take a breath – Despite feeling frustrated, never discipline feeling that way. Take a deep breath. These are kids .. they laugh, they smile, and they sometimes push those buttons so well.
- Be original – Try to think of a creative way to make a point to not rely on the same punishments. This can actually be a little mental game of making the point in an unexpected way. This is really at the core. I try to think of punishments which may actually make the child think, or even make them feel involved, so they can internalize what they’ve done.
- Keep to your guns – When thinking of how to discipline, be ready to completely follow though. If you’re going to take something away for weeks, be ready to follow through. Despite approaching discipline from a good place, it still needs to be centered in authority.
One example of a creative punishment that came to mind was during a walk through the grocery store. The kids had not had as much sleep as they usually get the night before. Archer was out of sorts while Holden was obsessed with his phone occasionally popping out like a little prairie dog to poke at his younger brother. After a couple times of asking Holden to stop, I decided it was time for one of those wonderfully satisfying parental moments. I had Holden hand his phone to me, and then went on to give it to his brother. I went on to tell him that he’d get it back when Archer felt like it, so it may be worthwhile to be nice to his little brother. Both children smiled about it, Archer snapped out of his mood, and both of them got along better for the remainder of the day. No tears, no yelling, and better behavior. Win, win, win!
To be fair, I also don’t come up with all of the punishments. When they complain about their punishments, I leverage one other tactic which helps the situation. Both boys have a voice in their punishment. This may sound absurd; however, it actually helps them switch roles to understand why they’re being punished. Oftentimes, this is as simple as explaining my point of view, then asking “If you were me, what should I do?“. Ironically, most of the time, they give a punishment that is even more harsh and are willing to follow through. By the way, I rarely hold them to their own punishments, but it does help them understand.
Until next time, happy fun parenting!