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  • Amy M.

Rearing Well-Behaved Kids

I am at the point in my parenting where I’m having to teach AJ the meaning of “NO” and to understand boundaries. I have to admit, discipline is my strong point, but it has to be a right fit for each particular child. As my husband and I were planning our family, one discussion was on discipline. We had already determined that I would be the disciplinary parent. Not by choice, we just knew it would be that way. My husband, like most dads, would be the “fun parent”. In this post, I will be talking about rearing well-behaved kids, and while it may not always be easy or a success, there are effective strategies to start using as early as possible!

My disciplining, honestly, started when I was teenager babysitting for family and friends. I had a child that decided he did not want to play right with the other kids and was upsetting the other kids. After the kids told me what was going on, I warned this child that if he did not play the way he was supposed to, he would have to put the toys away and come sit with me. A few minutes later, the other kids came and told me that he was not playing right again. I walked in the room, told him that I warned him and he did not listen so now he has to put the toys away. When I told him to put the toys away, he continued playing and simply stated, “No.”

This is the moment where you express your boundaries and expectations and consequences for when those boundaries are crossed and expectations not met. This is where you remind the child that you are the adult and the authority.

Now, I was surprised by this response because I did not expect it. I honestly expected full compliance. But I had to express my authority or otherwise, I would have lost control and that child would have been running the show. My mind was already made up that THAT WAS SO NOT HAPPENING!!!! Part of rearing well-behaved children is knowing your own tolerance level and what is absolutely NOT acceptable. Telling me “no” when you’re not playing fair with the other kids was absolutely not acceptable.

I simply walked out of the room without saying a word. At this point, the child probably thought he had just gotten away with doing what he wanted. He bullied the other kids and now told the authority he wasn’t going to listen and he’s still playing. Little to his surprise, I returned, but I made my point VERY CLEAR this time…

I came back in the room with a reminder of the consequence of not following directions and being outright disrespectful (let’s be real, it was belt!), and very softly said, “Now, what did I say to do?” The child looked up, saw what I had, and began cleaning up! I had him come sit in the living room with me quietly while the other kids continued to play.

I removed him from the room and the other kids to show him that if you can play cooperatively, you don’t get to keep that privilege. I didn’t use the belt, as a matter of fact, I’ve never used it! I still have it to this day, but just the visual of it helps make my point. I don’t say this to say that everyone needs to have a belt and to use it on your kids because I know that not everyone agrees with that or is comfortable with that. I look at it as an ultimate consequence. Not a first choice and not all the time. When a consequence is used over and over and for every single thing, it loses its effectiveness. Then you end up with kids that laugh when they receive consequences or go back to school telling their teachers that “ALL I GOT WAS…”

You want your discipline to teach your kids that crossing boundaries and not meeting expectations is NOT ACCEPTABLE. You teach them right from wrong by talking to them. Explain why they shouldn’t do certain things. Teach them how to handle certain situations. If they mess up on something you’ve never explained before, don’t punish them because they did not know. Teach them that what they did was NOT okay and what to do next time, and let them know right then that if it happens again what consequences will be coming to them, no exceptions because NOW they know better.

Some people think it’s traumatizing to whoop your kids, but there are things that are not whoopings but still traumatizing. For example (funny story), when I was little, around 3 or 4, I was looking at the reset button by the light switch in the bathroom. I asked my mom what was it for, and her response was (real dramatically), “You don’t mess with that because if you do it will shock you like THIS!” and she pinched my arm! I was stunned not by the pinch, but by the fact that there was something in the house that could electrocute you and I still didn’t know WHY it was there! My mom’s goal was to keep me touching things because I was a very curious little girl and learned and picked up on things VERY quickly. She didn’t want me to mess with those buttons and she knew that would keep me away from it. We laugh about it now, but we laugh because I didn’t touch a reset button by any outlet until I was in high school or college!!! Although I knew she was probably making that up, was never for sure and was too scared to find out! I only found out when I got a new hair dryer and it required me to press the reset button to get it going.

My mom understands that that approach was probably a bit overly dramatic, but she did what she knew how to do. Sometimes we do things with our kids all because our parents did them to us. But the thing is, we know better now. Plus, every child is different. What worked on me may not work on my own kids. And, what may work on one of my kids may not work on all of them. I learned this fact from being an educator. Some kids, all you have to do is give them a look and they straighten up and fly right! Others, you may have to raise your voice a little to let them know, “Hey, I’m not playing. Get it together.” Others, you may have to take out in the hall and have a one-on-one talk. Others, lunch detention may work. And then others, you may have to just call a parent right there on the spot. Since they are all different and respond differently, calling every student’s parent on the spot may be overly dramatic and can cause the kids to lose respect.

I find that the most effective way to get kids to behave is to talk to them. Have a full conversation about the behaviors and let them explain and just express themselves. Then, teach them the right way and show them the bigger picture of their actions. What do I mean? Let’s say your child is outside throwing rocks. This needs to stop right way. Call the child in and ask them why they are throwing rocks. To them, they may be just having fun or trying to see just how far they are capable of throwing. Whatever the reason, take this time to teach them that if they throw rocks, it could break something like a window. If that happens, then Mommy and Daddy would have to pay money to fix it. It could also mean that it would be hard to stay warm if it’s cool outside or keep insects out if it’s warm outside. You get my drift???

Show them the bigger picture and that it’s not just about you yelling at them and not wanting them to do anything and they had better do what you say just because you said it. Sometimes, you have to go drastic and be all, “because I said so!” because sometimes there isn’t time to sit and explain and you need them to follow suite right then and there or they know what’s coming to them. But when you do get the chance, go back and explain. Not that you owe them explanations, but because you are TEACHING.

Now, back to the kid I was babysitting. I learned that day that getting kids to behave wasn’t that hard if you know how to get their attention. I got his attention and then was able to explain that I wasn’t out the get him, but that his actions were causing the other kids to now have fun and was stressing everybody out. If he played like he was supposed to, everyone, including him, could have fun! When I made this clear and made sure he understood what I meant and what he should do next time. I also explained that I would NOT tolerate being disrespected. As long as directions were being followed, I had no problem with them having fun and enjoying themselves, but it’s not okay to disrespect the person that can allow or not allow your fun! (Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!) He understood and I told him that next time he could play again and reiterated that there would be no more foolishness. No more problems from that point on!

When I think about my own kids, I want to be able let them know what’s okay and what’s not okay, how to handle all sorts of situations, and understand that I don’t tolerate mess. Part of doing this is, once again, knowing your own tolerance level. I know that I can NOT STAND disrespect or temper tantrums.

For disrespect, I find that the correction or “I dare you” strategies work best for me! The correction is simply correcting the child when they say something disrespectfully. For example, I say “Go clean your room” Child says, “I don’t feel like it.” I say, “Yes, ma’am.” (and repeat this until they say “yes, ma’am” and go clean that room! This is teaching them how to be respectful and follow directions despite how they feel.

The “I dare you” is like what I did with the kid I babysat.

I say, “Go clean your room.”

Child says, “I don’t feel like it.”

I say, “You want to run that by me again?”

Child knows what this means and goes to clean room.

There is something about telling children to do something they shouldn’t do that makes them behave. I do it to my students all of the time! If I say, “Okay, keep talking!” then it gets real quiet!

Another HUGE part of disciplining your kids is sticking to your word and being consistent. If you back down or don’t follow through, it can be a long journey!

My mom was definitely good at this!!! She would lay out her expectations before hand, warn you of the consequences if the expectations are broken, and she stuck to them to the “T”!!!! One day, we were going grocery shopping. My mom parked the car and turned around and told us what she told us EVERY time, “Don’t touch anything. Don’t ask for anything. And stay with me!” Do you know what that meant? Just what is says!!! So, once in the store for a little while, I forgot the expectations and messed around and asked for a box of cereal that looked really cool and yummy!!! My mom answered very softly, “No.”

I thought nothing else about it. By the time we checked out and were walking to the car, I had even forgotten I had asked for anything. But when we got in that car…I was reminded vividly!!! She turned around and spanked my legs and said, “Didn’t I tell you not to ask for anything?!?!” We look back and laugh at this too, but I knew that when my mom said not to do something, SHE MEANT IT!!!! And that’s how I am. I’ve seen what happens when you tell a kid to stop doing something or they will get a consequence then they do it again but no consequence. No more control. The child won’t take you seriously. And when you snap and can’t take anymore, now you’re a crazy person that flips out for “no reason” (kids’ favorite phrase). Has the child learned anything? No. But you just got labeled a crazy person! So it looks like you have the problem.

But here’s the effective part, when we behaved in the store, my mom would let us pick a treat! And here’s the thing, she always gave us 2 choices. This gave us some say in our treat, but she got to be in control and keep a limit on it! The thing is, we were not suppose to ask for anything. So when we got treats, it was my mom that would have to bring up. We would pick our treat, check out, get in the car, and ride home enjoying our Starbursts or animal crackers, or cracker and cheese, or whatever we got!

My mom had a way of rewarding us for good behavior and letting us know that we did well. It was like her way of saying I appreciate you for hanging in there QUIETLY while I shopped and not embarrassing me! (LOL) Sometimes, that’s all we want, is for our kids to not embarrass us!

I hope you enjoyed my LONG stories about discipline!! Here are some summarizing tips for rearing well-behaved children. I only have child of my own at the moment, but I’ve already started setting in place the boundaries and how to get AJ to understand “No” and how to do certain things the RIGHT way. I had to make adjustments because what I thought would work, did not work on him!!! So you have to do what works for that child to correct misbehavior and teach good behavior!

1- Set boundaries and expectations. Explain what you expect your children to do, how to do it, and when! One of my classroom expectations is “Follow ALL directions QUICKLY.” I then explain what that means and what it looks like (demonstrate examples- let your kids participate).

2- Set consequences according to the action and the child. Give consequences based on the behavior and don’t be overly dramatic. Laughing at the dinner table doesn’t mean you pull their pants down and whoop them! The consequence needs to align with the behavior. They also need to align with how that particular child responds to discipline.

3- Be consistent and always follow through. When you warn your child of a consequence for a specific behavior, if they do not comply, follow through every time. This teaches them that you are serious and mean what you say (which cuts down on future problems because then all you have to do is say something or give a look!) and that the behavior at hand is not tolerated. It may take some kids once while others may take a few times, but eventually they will get tired of the consequence and get themselves together.

4- Use positive reinforcement. When your child had done well with an expectation, show them! Tell them! Kids love when you cheer them on, encourage them, and speak life over them! They NEED that! And although you have to discipline them, they also want to know that you really do care about them and that they make you proud! What I hated most about getting in trouble was knowing that I disappointed my parents. So I stayed out of trouble as much as I could. So, don’t hold back from telling your kids that when they do well it makes you proud and you will do all you can for them!

5- Talk to your kids! This is the most effective thing! You have to talk to your kids! Sit down and just have a family discussion. Get a better understanding of each other. Share what you expect out of them and what your hopes are for them! Have family game night and do things like, “Since you got all A’s on your report card, you pick the game!” or a special snack night and let them pick and explain how proud you are. Talk about serious situations and teach your kids how to handle them, like bullies, mean friends, scary teachers that yell all of the time, or when and how they need to get help when they feel in danger. Teach them how to speak up if put in dangerous situations and how to stay quiet when teachers give directions at school. Let them ask questions! If they ask, that means they WANT to understand. If you think your child is questioning you to be disrespectful, teach them how to ask in a disrespectful way so you will know the difference. I always want to understand things, but sometimes it comes off as an attitude. I learned to start my questions off with, “I’m asking this with love” or “I truly don’t mean any harm. I just want to understand” or “I’m sorry if this sounds bad, but I don’t mean it that way. Hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say” and continue on with my question. It lets the other person know that I’m asking an honest question so put your defenses down! Don’t attack!!! Create an environment where your kids don’t feel attacked for trying to learn. And not only talk to and with your kids, but LISTEN. Listen to their stories, listen to what’s going on with them, listen to their hearts. They may say something, but just told you something REAL DEEP that needs to be addressed but you missed it because you didn’t LISTEN.

Thanks for reading!!!

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Have a SUPER day!!!

Amy McCutcheon

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