How do you discipline your kids?
It’s a contentious subject if ever there was one yet it’s one we can’t escape. You see, I’m from the old school era where boys were spanked and being enrolled at an all boys school meant that I have many, many adventures and escapades avoiding and subverting the male teachers mostly carrying the burden of disciplining the boys sent from the female teachers. Every male teacher had his own unique style of whipping, ranging from the dreaded ‘chair grip’ to the unanimous favourite ‘spread-out-over-the-table-because-the-teacher-is-too-short-to-get-a-proper-backswing’ technique. Some of my most vivid memories were during those anxious moments of “behavioural correction”, and sometimes also the aftermath – not all bad mind you. You’d would walk into the toilets during class changes and find a row of boys, trousers on their ankles with their bare derrières pressed firmly against the cool wall tiles sharing and having a laugh at their recent roasting. I loved school, I really did and the tales of those rare spanking events are categorised as some of the best bits, but would I spank my own boys, or want them to be spanked by someone else?
Here’s why, I don’t think it’s really that effective. Paradoxically the boys in my school with the worst behaviour wore their lashings like a badge of honour by using “whiteout” or “tipex” to dot a mark on the back of their ties to document every run in with the whip. Some had to replace their ties a couple of times a year because they kept running out of ‘tipex’ space (our school was actually a very disciplined one, I’m referring to a small handful of individuals but you get the point) so in my experience whipping and spanking was a very blunt tool for a more delicate and complicated problem. In short it didn’t work.
“…it left me with instant regret and repugnance at my reaction – never, ever again!”
I must however come clean, there have been two instances with both my boys where I handed a single pat to the bum; it left me with instant regret and repugnance at my reaction – never, ever again! So often, there have been days when that old phrase “Back when I was a kid…” creeped into my head with the promise that it will all be over soon if you just “give them an actual reason to cry” – as parents and teachers of old would say – as you grind your way through a stressful, sleep deprived day but then I’m reminded of those dotted ties back in school and the fact that spanking is not the right tool, it just doesn’t work.
So, how do I set clear boundaries for my kids’ and how do I correct their behaviour? A benefit of living in a wealthy society is that our kids are spoilt, whether or not we want to, they are. They don’t need to walk miles to fetch water for the house, they have more than 5 toys and in most cases already have – or have access to – a tablet device before they turn 3 years old. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that our kids have so much when only 200 years ago children were working in coal mines is a miracle, but having a lot means the fear of losing intensifies and therein the mechanism for my method for discipline. When my kids misbehave I simply remove a privilege, a favourite toy, screen time or some other privilege they enjoy on a daily basis, and it works a charm. I once literally cleared out my eldest’s – then three years old – room after a sustained bout of tantrums to the point where he only had a bed and bedside table in his room. As he sobered up he realised the consequence of his actions and the behaviour stopped, fast. I told him that he then had to earn his toys back with good behaviour over time which he achieved in just three days; no really, the kid was a model child – he’s a kickass kid. The most potent part of creating such “loss consequences” is that when a tantrum starts boiling at the brim there is a clear message and warning I as a parent can call upon to set out the consequences before things escalate into carnage. I would simply remind my sons that should the decent into poor behaviour the consequences would be the loss of a favourite privilege and the subsequent toil to earn it back. The reason I like this approach is because it aligns well with adult life, when you behave poorly in the workplace there will be consequences, not a smack on the bum – well depending on where you work I suppose – but the loss of your job, your salary and ultimately your freedoms.
“…not a smack on the bum – well depending on where you work I suppose…”
It also really scratches my [*****] when parents do the, “I’m counting to three” threat without thinking it through! Expecting parents, a word of advice; if there is one thing I can guarantee it is that you kid will call your bluff sooner than you think and the worst thing you can do is stand there with a blank expression on your face–after reaching “3”–as your brain races for a half baked consequence to follow through. I see so many new parents handing out over-exaggerated punishment to make up for their bruised ego which is just not fair on the kid, or worse even, do absolutely nothing, just moan about the kid. I use “…count to three” but I specify the consequence [in a firm tone], “[Name], if you don’t stop the tantrum and use your words I will need to take your fire truck”, we rarely get to “th’” –– and best of all no spanking necessary.
Then there are those utopians who believe we should never discipline our kids, “They will raise themselves”, it’s a very noble but naive approach, we would all like to avoid being the ‘bad guy’ and have happy little buddhist monks giggling and flouting happily through the halls of our homes but here’s the rub – they are little animals, literally. Think about it, if I as a parent do not socialise and show my boys the correct way to behave, someone else will later in their lives and that, to me, is quite frankly a horrifying prospect. I would rather take a toy away today than have my child be ‘disciplined’ by some ill tempered adult in their later life where the consequences are so, so much more severe.
So that’s how we do ‘disciplining’ in our household, it sucks to do it but it is, in my view, insanely important. The world out there can be brutal if we don’t play by and understand the rules, rules that are important because it offers us the freedoms we enjoy today, however it has no mercy for those who do not know the rules or play nice and it seldom end in a kiss and a cuddle afterwards.
So that’s me on discipline, what do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and learn more on this matter so please share!