I’ve never read a parenting book in my life. I sort of hate the idea of them. All this different advice from all these different sources – it gets so confusing. Instead, together with my husband, we’ve discussed and developed the ways we would parent when it comes to our children. Nowhere is our style more apparent than when it comes to disciplining.
I’m going to tell you straight out of the gate here that we don’t hit in any way. Both of us decided early on, even before we were married, that hitting/spanking wasn’t the direction we wanted to go. Obviously there are tons of studies out there on this subject, but instead of reading them we decided against this form of punishment based off personal experience. Neither of us saw it as effective and it just made us resent our parents, even if it was only for a short time.
Instead, we decided that we would rely on time outs, which have also recently been vilified by studies. Once we had a child that was old enough to actually need a time out for bad behavior, we decided that the time out alone was not enough.
We evolved our approach to disciplining to be a sort of combo that includes a time out, a talk-it-out and a hug-it-out strategy. Lastly, we also require the use of the words, “I’m sorry.” And, these words are not just for our daughter. We say them too.
The whole scenario usually goes something like this:
I repeatedly ask my daughter to stop doing something that is incorrect. I give her warnings that if she doesn’t stop she will get a timeout. Sometimes I get lucky and she listens. Other times we move on to the time out.
Now, I will tell you that I’m pretty strict about this whole routine. I believe that consistency is important for kids and I also believe that kids need to understand there are consistent consequences for bad behavior. I am stricter about this than my husband, which often makes me the “not nice” parent.
There are two types of time outs that might happen in our house. 1. A time out in the corner of the family room. 2. A time out alone in her bedroom. Usually, we start with a time out in the corner of the family room. She serves her time for four minutes if she behaves in timeout. Then we move on to the talk-it-out stage.
However, if she screams, cries and pulls a temper tantrum, which happens often lately, or physically acts out (tries to hit us, throws a toy, etc.) then she moves on to a time out alone in her room. Usually, we have to carry her there and the temper tantrum ensues.
We have added this step in the last 6 months or so. We didn’t need to do it prior to that time (and I don’t know that we would have used it) because timeouts in the corner and the talking had been working. Since about 3 and a half, her temper tantrums have sometimes escalated to the point where she is completely disruptive of anything else happening downstairs. Plus, her 1-year-old brother often goes and giggles at her in the corner, which doesn’t help anyone. It’s funny, but it doesn’t help.
Once in her room, we tell her that she can come back down after she calms down and is ready to talk. We close the door because at that point, the whole house is over the screaming. Sometimes she is up there two minutes. Sometimes she is up there for five minutes. It has almost never been longer than five minutes.
I’ve found that this time alone usually gives her enough space to take a few deep breaths, think about what she has done and eases the tension between us.
When she is done, she comes down the stairs on her own and we talk. We ALWAYS talk. The reason we talk is because my husband and I realized that time outs alone don’t really do anything. They provide a nice break between the actions involved with the bad behavior and allow everyone to calm down, but they don’t allow her or us to fully understand the situation.
We talk because we want her to understand what she did was wrong and, maybe even more important, how she can correct the behavior or avoid it in the future.
We also believe that talking it out will help to smooth things over between us. It makes everyone feel better when we understand her rational and she understands our’s. Since she is at an age where she often expresses emotion by acting out or crying, the talking helps us to understand what she was feeling at the moment that she started acting out and during the whole tantrum episode. I believe it is important to understand her feelings too.
Somewhere in the talking, we all say we are sorry. To me saying, “I’m sorry,” is very important on all sides. Once we have talked it out, she is at a place where she can sincerely apologize to me. Sure she might throw the words in as she is being carried upstairs to her room for her time out alone, but she isn’t sincere at that time and the sincerity is just as important as the words.
I also say, “I’m sorry.” I hate the whole time out process. I hate that she is mad at me throughout it and that I’ve done something to make her mad, even though I believe the discipline is worth it. I hate that I get mad at her. Apologizing as a parent helps me heal just as much as it helps her to forgive me. Whatever started the original incident, by the time it is all said and done I don’t want either of us walking away hurt.
Lastly, we hug and tell each other that we love each other. The hugging is healing for both of us and it reinforces the real love that exists. We always try to end on love.
I’m not telling you this so you follow “our” way. I’m telling you this because we have found something that works for us, something that I believe will help my kids to become healthy and happy adults that understand there are consequences for behavior. I fully believe you need to do what works for your family.
The experts out there are great, but they aren’t in your house. They don’t know your children. Take what they say, digest it and don’t worry if you don’t follow it to the letter. Find something, in all aspects of parenting, that works for you. Just make sure that each step of the way, it works for your child too.
P.S. – Just so you know, my daughter was not actually in trouble here and was just pretending to be mad. After we were done taking her pretend mad photos we went and jumped on my bed, which is totally allowed here. Isn’t she a good little actress? I’m in trouble.