Discipline is one of those necessary evils. Once a person becomes a parent, they grow a little bit tougher skin. It may not seem like it at first because parents are loving and snuggling and adoring their new baby. It also may seem like quite the opposite since those hormones are still wild in a woman’s body. However, parents become tougher because they have now stepped into the ultimate protector role. They must keep their little one safe, kind, and appropriate. They must be the bigger voice when a role-model is necessary.
Parents must also wear tougher skin when they decide on discipline strategies.
“As parents, it’s our job to teach them,” Ari Brown, MD, and author of Toddler 411 tells Parents Magazine. “Discipline means having realistic expectations for your child’s behavior – and being willing to set gentle, consistent limits when you need to.”
Finding a successful style of discipline can be tough. Since every family dynamic is different, it means not ever style or strategy will work well for that mom or child. Taking the time to become knowledgeable of the unique methods out there is important, but what is most important is knowing your child. Once you have a grasp on your little child’s quirks and anxieties, you may figure out something that could work well for both Mom and the little one.
However, even when a mama thinks she knows her baby, her baby will up and change completely – that’s just the reality of motherhood. It is always changing to keep mama’s on their toes.
Redirection is a well-known form of discipline – especially for the littlest of little ones. Since infants (well, older ones) and toddlers get side-tracked easily, bringing a new focus into the picture can help switch a feisty child’s focus from one thing to something else. This may not always teach them a lesson in the end, but it does help shift their focus to something safer and more appropriate.
“Redirection works pretty well on her. She knows what ‘no’ means and throws a fit when she hears it,” explains mama of one, Alyssa Kurtzworth. “If I’m trying to avoid a headache, I’ll distract her with something else or lead her away from whatever she’s into with something ‘cooler.’”
“Time-outs didn’t work for us. Only escalated emotions,” says Michele Graham, mom of two. When a form of discipline makes a difficult situation worse, it’s time to stay away for a bit and find an alternative strategy. It takes a lot for a mom to face this kind of reality when they’d hoped the strategy would work.
For some families, time-out is not the number one choice of discipline. While it does work well for others, the “Time-Out Chair” or “Thinking Corner” tactics do not make a tough situation any easier.
This can be tough for a parent because many parents grew up with time-out being the main form of discipline. So when it doesn’t work well for a parent, they really do need to push their creativity and find something unique that works well for their little ones.
Books and classes can sometimes open your eyes to different discipline methods you may never have heard of before.
Even though it can be tough getting out to a class or finding time to read a book, if the time and effort is made, it may be incredibly worth it in the end.
“1, 2, 3 Magic: Discipline from 2-12. It helped for as long as we kept up with it,” explains mama of two, Stephanie Newman. When a mama discovers a unique discipline style and they stay loyal to it, it can end up being exactly the anecdote they had desperately searched for.
When Mom gets stressed, and burnt out, she may end up doing or saying something she never thought she would. She may be a woman who was always able to maintain composure during a time of strain. However, motherhood changes the mental and emotional mindset of a mom.
Sometimes, she may just have an unexpected outburst (or several).
Yelling is not something moms typically want to do. When they step back and reevaluate how loud their words were or how it impacted their little one, they often regret everything that occurred. According to Very Well Family, “Studies consistently show that yelling is one of the eight discipline strategies that can actually make behavior problems worse.”
When a mom has experience working in a classroom setting, they may find methods that meet their personal parenting style. It doesn’t always mean those methods will work just as well for their little one. However, it does give a new parent a good place to start when putting discipline strategies to the test.
“When I was still working in childcare, we had several beanbag chairs around the room. When a toddler would throw a tantrum (or a toy), we would set them in a beanbag and tell them when they were in control they could join their friends again,” says Kira Literalee, mama of one. “It eventually helped them all learn self-control and consequences.
Bonus for it being a soft space so they didn’t get hurt flailing around.”
“What hasn’t worked is counting,” says mom of two, Cari Roraback. “If I say, ‘1… 2…’ she says, ‘3, 4, 5’ and runs away.”
Sometimes the counting down method simply doesn’t work. If you’re a mom who has reviewed numbers and counting with your little one, they may get more excited about counting than comprehending the disciplinary meaning behind it. This can be laughable as well, making it hard for a parent to follow through with the discipline.
However, if counting is something you believe will work out for your child in the end – do not give up on yourself or the method. However, if your little one is counting down along with you, it may be time to put on that “Supermama Thinking Cap.”
Children enjoy items and toys that are sensory-focused. This means they often are more attracted to toys with different textures, colors, and sounds.
If your child falls into this realm, making your discipline style sensory-focused could help calm your little one down as well as redirect them.
“We made a ‘Calm Down Bottle’ for her. It had glitter in a bottle with water,” says Mom of four, Ariana Brothers. “She would shake the bottle up and once the glitter settled then she would be calm enough to come talk to me.” Giving the sensory item a different name that isn’t connected to the actual negative behavior going on, can be helpful. It makes the activity not seem so “bad,” becoming more of a “learning experience.”
When a child is disobeying or behaving inappropriately, it is often looked down upon to ignore that behavior. Of course, parents want to make every experience (the good ones and the bad) a learning experience. Therefore, it’s important to focus on your child when they are doing something “wrong.”
However, it isn’t always that easy.
“I’ve found that if I give her attention, I get more frustrated and then we’re both upset,” explains Alyssa Kurtzworth. “When she’s done throwing a fit, I give her attention again.” When all else fails, sometimes it’s best to “wait it out.” Then, the parent can focus on the discipline strategy – or what could work next time.
“If they got to fighting incessantly, I would make them sit on the sofa and hold hands for as many minutes as the youngest was old,” explains mom of three, Rebecca Ames. “When they would bicker, I would put on a sad face and say, ‘Oh no, I haven’t been the best mom I can be. I haven’t provided you with the time you need to bond as siblings’ and so on and such. You never saw kids agree to get along so quickly.”
Sometimes when you tell your kids they need to sit and hold hands for a longer period of time than expected, they will agree to disagree and get along again.
“I feel like every kid is different. I would have one disciplinary technique that would work wonders for Gabby, but not work at all with Liam,” states mama Ariana Brothers. Even though it is great how every child is unique in their own way, it also means each discipline strategy a mama comes up with may need to be adjusted for each child.
That can make parents irritated and sometimes give up, in a sense.
However, motherhood isn’t just a game of giving in and giving up. Even when something continues not to work, parents must become creative and find something that does work – or, at least, works better. Remembering this before disciplining is important in case something unexpected does occur.
Even though counting down doesn’t work for everyone, some children it magically works wonders for. For those little ones who react well to the counting down method, incorporating an explanation with each number may help. Giving a reason for the strategy can sometimes make children understand their behaviors.
“There are many different ways to discipline. Sometimes, counting and giving them direction with each count helps,” says mom of five, Toni Vadala. Toni believes that not simply explanation, but also a description of the consequences or reward behind the counting may bring understanding to those misbehaving little ones.
“Redirection doesn’t always work,” says Alyssa Kurtzworth. “When it backfires, there’s usually no reasoning with her. At that point, I just let her cry it out.”
It can be tough when you’ve tried everything and your go-to method just isn’t sinking in. It may make you feel insecure about your parenting skills and about your ability to control your child.
This is a normal feeling that many, many mothers have. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There is always another method out there and you never know until you’ve tried – even when feel you’ve tried them all.
Children often become connected to their toys or other possessions. They may feel drawn to certain items out of interest and when that item isn’t there, they may feel like something is missing. Seeing your child grow connected to something without force is a wonderful thing for parents to watch.
However, sometimes the best form of discipline is paired with those beloved toys.
“I used to take away a toy and put it in a box,” says Claudia Recinos Seldeen, mom of one. “Then when he was good, that would be his reward box. He’s seven now and we don’t need to discipline a whole lot. We still mostly use the ‘take away a toy’ thing, but now it’s privileges – like no laptop.”
If a child knows that their bedroom has some of their toys, blankets, and games, they may not see the “go to your room” phrase as disciplinary. Even though most parents do not want discipline to be an emotionally hurtful strategy, some children may take it that way because they are not getting what they want.
When this is the case and they are told to go to their room, they may start seeing their room as a place of negativity. Or they may see their room as a place where they can go play when they are supposed to be “thinking about their behavior.”
It’s tough deciding what route to take with discipline, especially if you want the bedroom and time-out to be involved. For some families, they are able to work as a team to make the bedroom a less negative place during a time-out. However, some children have a tough time separating the discipline aspect from the idea of play.
“Usually I just give her a look and point down the hall and she knows what I mean because she knows she was misbehaving,” explains Cari Roraback. “After time-out we get eye-to-eye. She has to apologize to me (or go apologize to whoever she needs to) including saying what she did wrong. Then she needs to say what she could have done differently, which sometimes takes assistance learning, but usually she knows.”
When a parent can silently communicate with their child what needs to be done, it can make the discipline process easier – most of the time. If your little one can comprehend most of the reasoning for their time-out or break, that too can easy up the process. It takes time, patience, and repetition for a method to work successfully.
Moms are not emotionless robots; Moms get mad too. When their baby is not behaving appropriately and continues to show those inappropriate behaviors, it makes sense for Mom to get annoyed. It can be extremely tough holding back that frustration and not expressing it directly in front of your baby. When your baby sees your anger, they sense that and can play off of it – sometimes without realizing they are. Trying to stay as calm and composed as possible during discipline is important.
It’s important, but not always easy.
When all else fails, find a creative way to make your little ones learn from their behavior and laugh with one another. It can make a tough, negative situation a more light and uplifting one.
Even though you want your child to see their inappropriate behaviors in a serious manner, lifting those spirits after discussion can help bring back a positive atmosphere.
“If they are fighting with each other and hitting and saying mean things, they have to say three things they like about each other,” says Ariana Brothers. “I always hear funny things like, ‘I like your skin,’ ‘I like your teeth,’ ‘I like your nose.’ It totally changes their attitude and they are laughing by the end of it. I highly suggest every parent try this.”
“Taking things away has not worked. If I tell her she can’t have a certain toy until she cleans up what she’s been playing with, she’ll say, ‘Ok, I don’t want to play with that anyways,’” Cari Roraback explains. “If I take a toy away after she’s been bad, it doesn’t even faze her.”
Again, every child is different. While certain methods work well for some children, other little ones will remain unfazed. It’s good when you are confident about what doesn’t work for your family when finding that ‘golden discipline strategy.’
It means patiently and diligently continuing your search for that successful one – which, of course, takes time and practice.
If a parent doesn’t follow through with their word, their child will most likely not take their instructions as seriously as they should. They may start seeing the actions of their parents as behaviors and words they can adjust until they get where they want to be. This can be frustrating for parents, which is why it is important to stick with your gut and stay loyal to yourself.
“I find sticking to my word is most effective for us,” says Michele Graham. “No electronics tonight, no going to a friend’s house – and following through.” Setting standards and limits and following through with them maintains structure and understanding for most children.
Again, most being the important word here.
When a little one sees that can of Puffs or that stack of cookies, it can be hard not to use those items as rewards. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “It’s common for parents to offer a “special” – and often unhealthy – food as a reward for good behavior or a job well done. They may also withhold those special treats as a means of punishment.”
Using food and candy as positive reimbursement is an ongoing discussion among parents and professionals. “Using food as a reward or as a punishment, however, can undermine the healthy eating habits that you’re trying to teach your children,” URMC states.
“Worse, it interferes with kids’ natural ability to regulate their eating. It also encourages them to eat when they’re not hungry to reward themselves.”