A pet peeve of mine reared its ugly head on my flight home from Orlando yesterday. A parent “disciplined” his young (maybe four year-old?) daughter by threatening to leave her at the airport. She got quiet for a moment and then went back to pestering her brother incessantly.
Smart little girl. She knew that Dad was just blowing smoke. She knew she wasn’t going to be left at the airport so Dad’s threat was meaningless. He offered up “discipline” that could easily be discounted. The girl knew—at least for that moment—that nothing was going to happen to her, hence the continued bad behavior.
Parents, please take note: it’s not discipline if the kid knows it’s meaningless!!! I’ve heard close friends tell their kids “You’ll never see your Xbox again!” or “I’m going to throw the TV away!” or “When we get home, I’m locking you in your bedroom forever!” WTF? Even a four year old knows you’re full of it.
In today’s society, we don’t hit kids to discipline them–an excellent progression of societal norms. But time and time again it seems like parents have given up on disciplining their kids entirely. How many times have you rolled your eyes at your dinner companion because some kid at a restaurant created an obnoxious disturbance? Those kids behave poorly because those parents are not in control. And I would bet a whole bunch of money it’s because they offer meaningless threats instead of “discipline” in these situations.
When my kids were young, I threatened them with “You won’t watch Barney for three whole days!” or “You will have to take out the trash (or insert whatever dreaded household chore your kid hates here) for a whole week!” or “I’m going to cancel Saturday night’s sleepover!”
And here’s the key (too bad it’s buried so deep in this blog): AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH WITH IT!!! I never just threatened discipline; I always actually imposed it. So my kids knew with absolute certainty that if they kept doing whatever was pissing me off they would be without Barney, carrying trash cans down the hall and missing their friends if they didn’t stop.
My kids got complimented all the time growing up for their great behavior. Teachers loved them. One actually told me I should write a book on getting kids to behave. So while it’s not a book, just a daily blog, it’s really good advice that I wish I could have shared with Daddy at the airport yesterday while I picked from my hair the pretzels little four-year-old Sweetie Pie kept throwing at her brother.
Seems like the secret to success in pretty much everything in life is contained in the phrase, “it’s all in the follow through”. Easy to learn, hard to, ahem, follow through on.