Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Catch 'Em Off Guard!

My children, I believe, have come to expect my reactions most of the time. They know if they are whining, I am going to ask them to repeat it nicely--which may or may not happen. They know if they are bickering that I am going to give them one warning to play nicely and treat one another with love. When that doesn't work, time-out is next! I try to be consistent in my disciplinary tactics, and for the most part I think that is well and good. However, sometimes it seems as if the same disciplinary measures over and over don't seem to yield any real changes.

So, I am proposing an amendment to my steady rule of consistent discipline. Sometimes (when I am clever enough or the mood strikes me just right) I am going to change it up a bit! I am going to catch 'em off guard! Well, I remember doing this one time with Luke and it was like an immediate answered prayer--which is rare! He was having a melt-down of some sort and was in need of some serious discipline. Well, instead of beginning whatever course of discipline I would normally use, I said "Come here Luke." And, what happened next made a world of difference almost immediately. I pulled him close and gave him a hug, a nice big, squeezy hug (as my 7 year old would call it). I think I actually felt the tension in his body--and mine--leave during that squeezy hug. No discipline was needed!

This morning, on our drive home from taking my son to preschool, my 3 year old lost her shoe in the car (translation: she kicked off her flip-flop), only to ask for it a second later. For whatever reason, Ella enjoys a struggle, an argument; I think it's the red hair! When I told her I could not reach it and she could not unbuckle to get it, the fussing began. Now, normally, I would attempt to ignore the fussing (which never deters her). After I become frustrated listening to it, I usually warn her that she will be disciplined the moment we arrive home (which often does not deter her). What to do? So, as she began fussing, whining, almost crying for her shoe I said to her, "Ella! Tell me all the ways that crying will help you get your shoe! Go ahead!" I said this in the most upbeat, pleasant voice I could muster. It worked almost immediately! I think it just completely stumped her. She had no idea what to say and therefore was quiet--from there on out.

So the amendment goes as follows: When ye are tempted, once again, to begin the traditional methods of verbal correction and discipline (that often do not yield success), consider an unexpected--possibly shocking--new method of deterring your little angel! Sometimes it is for your own sanity, especially if chocolate is not within arm's reach! Sometimes it is for comic relief! One such story comes to mind: my son Luke was playing in the sandbox with his brother and sister and he began to become upset each time one of them invaded his area (in one of the largest residential sandboxes I've ever seen). He was just being a bit cantankerous. So, out of the blue I said "Luke! You have on a yellow shirt, and I have on a yellow stop fussing!" There is no logical reason why this should have mattered--it certainly made no sense--but it worked! He looked at me and smiled! Back to work he went without any more fussing or complaining. (My husband and I laughed about it the rest of the day!) So I encourage you to give it a whirl! Get creative! Have fun with it (I know I do)! When you catch 'em off guard, you just might get the exact behavior change you were hoping for.

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