Practicing discipline: tips for dealing with "strong-willed" kids
You know you've read a few too many parenting books when you realize the three books you've pulled out for help with an issue all say essentially the same thing. When I read them each the first time, they seemed so unique and profound.
Now I see they are merely different ways of saying the same thing. The books all share the same good, solid principles, just reworded by different authors. Maybe I should write a parenting book. I could repackage the same ideas in different terminology and voila! Instant parenting book.
Anyway, I'm looking for help with my â€śstrong-willedâ€ť children, and I'm learning from these wise books that I need to do a better job of backing up my words with appropriate actions to make my meaning clear and teach the right lessons. Sounds simple enough.
Yet, in the midst of a situation, so often the communication breaks down between my head knowledge and my actions for some reason. Sometimes I'm too soft and permissive and sometimes I'm too harsh, overreacting. This discipline thing is a tricky skill.
As a child, I was quite compliant, and I was an only child, thus lacking any sibling conflict. My parents had no idea how easy they had it. When they see my kids acting up at times, my dad especially gets very frustrated. He barely realizes this behavior falls within the realm of â€śnormalâ€ť since he never saw it from me. Therefore, I don't understand my children's choices sometimes, and I don't have an experience-based clue as to how to deal with them.
So here I am, flipping through these books again, hoping to get the message through my head this time around in order to get my message through to my kids.
Here's my key problem, I think... kids do not reason like adults, so mere words are meaningless. To me, in my adult way of thinking, it seems that if I ask my child to do something and they love and respect me, they should opt do it, especially if it's a reasonable request. Why would they not?
But kids are programmed to explore their world and test the boundaries. And they best understand concrete things (what they experience), so any words must be enforced by actions that convey the same meaning. Imploring the child to be nice to their sibling will do little to change their behavior. Consistently applying an appropriate consequence (like separation from the group) will work on that behavior.
Additionally, offering choices within acceptable boundaries is a great tool to use instead of lecturing. Explaining to the child the merits of keeping a clean room will not get the room clean. Telling the child they are free to play with their friend as soon as the room is clean according to your standards yields far better results. It gives the child a certain amount of power to decide if and when they get to play with their friend.
And so I understand the principles enough to share them. Now let's see how well I can apply them in the moment when they're needed. Then we'll see about writing that parenting book!