Since I so generously shared with you that last picture of Blaire having a misbehave, many of you have wanted to hear some specifics of how to discipline. I wanted to clarify that there is a reason we don’t usually share them. While there are a number of helpful resources for these sorts of questions, I think that it is all too easy for parents to slip into trying to tick off the boxes of the discipline flow chart, and quit looking at the child they are actually dealing with. It is better that discipline be something you need to really think about. It is better that you feel a little lost sometimes. It is a wholesome feeling. You should never rush into discipline thinking you have it all, like your child is a computer and all you needed was a keyboard shortcut. People are complicated, and this is why principles are what we need to be armed with. Sometimes parents need to change it up. Sometimes you see that what you are doing isn’t working, and you need to reevaluate it in light of the principles you know. Sometimes the fool-proof method of another family will not even begin to help yours. That is all well and good.
One thing that is often mentioned about discipline is the value of consistency. Just be consistent, and it will work. This is true on some level. But it isn’t necessarily true that whatever you are doing will work if you just keep on doing it. Children need consistency, but the most important thing to be consistent on is caring for them. If you are faithfully dealing with them, then the consistent thing is you. Your presence in their life, you working through their issues with them. If your methods change, you are still there. If you try something different, you have not thrown everything out the window. It can actually be an encouraging sign that you are still there. That you are still engaged in dealing with them.
When your kidlets are little like Blaire, keep it simple. Use the same words. For Blaire, we say, “No, no” and “No flopping.” When she is rough with the other kids – scratching, biting, pulling hair, etc., we always say, “No, no. Be gentle,” and then we practice touching softly. When push comes to shove and a discipline situation is upon you, stick well within the child’s range of understanding. Even little children are very smart. But this doesn’t mean they will track with you as you talk a lot about self control, or change the command continually. It is easy to add frustration that wasn’t there before by talking too much. With Blaire (17 months), when she flops, I stand her back up right away and say, “No flopping.” If she has gotten carried away with it and this does not affect her, I hold her on my lap. This is usually not what she wants, and she will not take too kindly to it. But, she has to sit on my lap until she stops the crying and is willing to give me high five. The important thing is that she should be running into a wall of parent when trying to indulge herself this way. She will not give a high five unless she is in fellowship, and for her, sitting on my lap without fighting is letting it go. The high five is just something that we know she knows how to do, and know she is able to do.
It is a perfectly clear, baby-level lesson: “You are not in charge, I am. I love you, you are my buddy and you can’t get out of that. You may not be miserable, you may not be alone with your drama. Let it go, I love you.”