Recently I have had a few of the single moms, one in particular, from the church asking me about disciplining their children and how to do it. These ladies have absolutely no control over their children, who are constantly running off from them, hitting other children, destroying stuff.
My advice to them? Are you being consistent? Do you have rules/guidelines that are enforced or do you let something go time after time and then demand for them not to do it every so often? Are you one of those parents who tell your children 'if you do that one more time.' and then let them do it sixteen more times?
Most of the time they look down at their feet, a little embarassed, shift their eyes away from me and tell me that, yes, indeed, that is what they do.
Consistency is the key.
We have rules and consequences written on a paper in a binder at our house. If you break a rule, you know ahead of time what the price is to be paid for committing such an act. This also helps us as the parents to not respond out of anger when our children do something deemed unacceptable. We carry out the punishment each and every time our children do something wrong. Consistency.
The one mom who asks me for help all the time is a couch parenter. She will yell at her children from her couch (or wherever), demanding them to stop but there is no instruction or teaching or consequences for not listening to what she says. "If you do that one more time..." is her answer to everything and there is never any follow through.
I asked her one day if she thought her children took her seriously, if she thought her children hadn't figured out that "one more time" was never going to come. I told her that she needed to tell her children to stop what they are doing one time and that is the only chance they get; the discipline needs to follow. I explained that discipline is not neccessarily spanking your children because you get frustrated after the 16 bazillionth time of "if you do that one more time". Discipline is enforcing what you said through time-outs, taking away priviledges, things like that. Not neccessarily spanking.
Have I spanked my children? (hot topic here for some) Yes, I have. Very, very rarely and never a whooping, as I have heard some say. I have 7 children and I can count on my fingers the amount of "spankings" I have given. I have given my children a swat while speaking to them in a stern, serious voice, and by swat, I mean the "spanks" have never had enough force behind them to kill a housefly. I don't think striking my child is the answer to all their wrong doings. I believe teaching them and explaining to them the consequences or ramifications of what they have done are more important and discussing with them what better options might be and I believe in consistency. I am not saying that those discussions never end with my husband or I explaining to them that they are grounded from playing with their friends or that they are grounded from the wii or tv or something because most often they are.
And I find that to be the best discipline for our children. I think because we have spent their entire lives doing that. They know that our 'yes' is 'yes', our 'no' is 'no' and our 'stop it' is 'stop it'.
I asked that mom, if she ever carried through with what she said she was going to do and she, honestly, said no. I asked her if she thought that gave her any credibility with her children. Before you utter the words "if you do that one more time I will..." make sure it's your final answer. Children feel safe and secure when they have guidelines and boundaries, and when they have consequences to their bad behaviors. You don't teach them consequences and you will wind up with teenagers who can't hold a job because they have no honor or respect for their employer, they won't know how to follow the rules of the business and they will quit the minute they don't get their own way. Trust me, I work with a lot of those kids.
So, next time you begin to say "if you do that one more time I will..." ask yourself, "Is that my final answer? Will I carry through with this? Am I saying this out of anger and frustration and is what I am about to say the most ridiculous thing?". Be willing to carry it out. Out of frustration I told an 11 year old Rush that she would not be able to go to "the" birthday party of the year because of something she had done. I felt bad after but knew I had to stick to my guns. I got weak. I called my dad for back-up, for guidance, for reassurance that I was doing the right thing. He said I had to stick to my words. Above all else be a parent of your word.
So? Is that your final answer?
*Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to be an expert parenter. I am merely going by my experiences of raising 7 children and, thus far, living to share about it.