Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Three Little Rules.

What was/is your disciplining style with Cub and Mouse?
(Specifically referring to tantrums.)

Let me first say, every child is different. This we know.

But, just because every child is different doesn't mean that your tolerance for certain behaviors changes. There are a few general principles that I practice with both of my children, even though their personalities are different, so I will share them here.

1) Eye Contact

When I want to make a request or if I need to reprimand one of the kiddos, I get down to their level and say, "Caleb, look at my eyes." To keep it simpler for Naomi, I say, "Naomi, where are Mama's eyes?" I do this because I can't guarantee that they are listening to me if they are not looking at me. I don't believe it's fair for me to bark a command over their heads and then huff in frustration when they don't immediately respond--how do I know that maybe they didn't hear me? Here's the kicker--when the kids know they're in the wrong, they don't want to look at me. I get on their level, ask them to look in my eyes, and their little heads look down. Their eyes close. I ask again firmly and see a little sideways glance. It's hilarious, really! Once our eyes meet, then I speak. I make sure to use their real names, not their nicknames, so they know I mean business. If they disobey after we've made eye contact and they know what is requested of them, then I take it to the next step. I will leave that vague, since everyone has a different opinion of what the "next step" should be!

2) Leave The Room, Fussypants!

Kids throw tantrums. For Cub, it meant lying down on the floor with his eyes closed (think, "Occupy Living Room"). For Naomi, she'll say, "No!" and sit on her bottom. I'm a big fan of kids being able to express themselves ... but if it's in the form of a tantrum, I stick to the belief that tantrums are really only fun when there is an audience. So, I remove the audience. When a tantrum begins, they get a warning and if they do not listen, I escort them (when they're learning) to their room and tell them that they are more than welcome to be upset in their room, but they may not throw a tantrum in front of me. They must be alone. If they come out upset, they go back. Come out upset again, go back again. Once they are able to come out happy, then we're done. Naomi has thrown one tantrum that required going to her room (the other times a warning was enough) and it was a BATTLE. An hour long. It was rough, but she hasn't done it since (even though I know she will). Cub now knows to simply go to his room when he gets upset. When he's ready to talk about it, we talk. Two different personalities, but the method has worked for both.

And, when we're in public, I'm a big advocate for "going to the van" if a tantrum happens. I know that "going to the van" will mean different things depending on your method of discipline, but, again, removing the audience is applicable no matter what.

3) A Gentle Answer

I worked at a girls' home in Vermont one summer in college. There was a separate home for boys and one day at a co-ed volleyball game, one of the boys lost it. Just as violence was about to ensue, the home director was able to diffuse the situation without yelling or barking commands. We talked about it later and the director explained Proverbs 15:1, which says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Losing your head typically encourages others to do the same. I've held this Proverb close to my heart while parenting. If I want my kids to take me seriously, I need to speak them without sounding like a raving idiot. Don't get me wrong--there are appropriate times to raise my voice (when they are in danger, etc.) and, let's face it, I've raised it when I shouldn't! But, as a rule, when I want the kids' attention, getting down on their level and speaking calmly works infinitely better than yelling. It keeps both of us calm and helps me stay on track and say only what I want to say, rather than blabbing in anger where the chances are better that I will say something I will regret. It's true--a gentle answer really will turn away wrath...for both parties involved.

I hope that some of those things are helpful for you.

Have a lovely day!


  1. Loved this. I try to use these 'rules' as well, and it is amazing how poorly things go when I DON'T use them! E responds so much better to quiet reprimands than the times I lose it and yell. It is lightyears of difference. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love that Proverb! It's so true. Can be applied to any relationship - not just parenting. :-)

  3. I love your rules! I use the same ones, but the third one is definitely the hardest. When I really feel the need to yell, I have stepped outside and yelled at no one. One of the benefits of living in the country. :)

  4. Thank you, Katie! I like the "leave the room" part, and the Proverb verse! I think I'm pretty much on the same page as your methods, and know that I'm just in the "training" time of things. He's learning, and as I continue to be consistent, he'll get it! Thank you for sharing all of this with us! I've just really enjoyed reading your blog and feel like your mothering skills are wonderful! I wish I "knew" you, and that we lived close so I could watch you in action!


  5. Thanks for sharing this! We've been working on the eye contact thing and R fights it so much. Another friend also told me to start training him to say "Yes, Mommy" after I have given him instruction so that I know he has heard. I love the idea of going to his room for a tantrum, so I might start implementing that!

  6. That's a good point, Leslie, that I didn't mention. My kids have to say, "Yes, Mama" in response to instruction. Naomi cracks us up with this. Since she doesn't exactly speak clearly all the time, her "Yes, Mama" sounds more like "Ma Ma Ma". Eh, there are enough syllables. It works. :)

  7. perfect for this pre-school teacher to read today...:) thanks!