A Game Changer: Consistent discipline cuts parent stress

By Sandy McDaniel

My child seems to have a mind of his own. Every time I turn around, he is upset about something I have asked him to do or is challenging me. I feel as if I am in a constant state of anger.”

Behavior that is rewarded continues; behavior that is not rewarded stops. This is a law. The question to ask yourself about a continuing behavior is, “How am I rewarding it?” Doing so will help you to understand that the child is constantly asking, “Is this how I use power?” It is an endless question. Your answer needs to be a calm “Yes” or a calm “No.”

When a child has been difficult all day, the tendency is to think, “Why is he/she driving me crazy?” By virtue of the words and the amount of anger in the thought, you are now in “get even” mode. If, instead, you think, “Wow! He/she is asking a lot of questions about power today!” then you become the teacher. You ARE your child’s teacher.

The use of boredom is your greatest ally. Children hate to be bored.

Let’s look at a specific problem to find a solution for several of your parenting challenges:

• “I can’t get my child to leave the park.” Children do not like to be jerked out of their reality. They don’t change channels quickly. Give the child a time frame by saying, “You are having such a great time. In 5 minutes (hold up your thumb and forefinger to indicate a small amount of time), it will be time to go. I will show you (thumb and fingers close together) when there is just a little time left; then the hard part is to come when I call you. We will (fly like a bird, hop like a grasshopper) to the car and then we will sing songs all the way home.”

Children live fully in each moment; they are immersed in whatever they are doing. To switch from something fun to something undefined is not a choice they make easily; review your plans with the child. Then move from something fun to something else that is fun, even if it requires you flying to the car like a bird.

One of my favorite stories to tell when I’m giving a parenting talk is about handling fighting in the car. My granddaughter, Hailey Kay (7), was visiting from California; she and Chelsea (5) and Nick (7) were crammed into the back seat of my car. A shoving brawl began to emerge, so I quickly pulled the car off the road, stopped, turned off the radio and ignition and just sat there. “What happened?” Hailey Kay asked.

It’s not safe for Bam to drive when we are fighting,” Chelsea responded.

What do we do now?”questioned Hailey Kay.

We promise we are going to stop,” Nick spoke authoritatively.

They all apologized, promised, and I drove off never having uttered a word. It you need to look into the rear view mirror to check out a disturbance in the back seat, pull the car over, turn off everything and sit there. When a child asks what you are doing, calmly reply, “It is not safe for me to drive when children are (fighting, screaming, roughhousing, etc.).” No lecture. Sit there. It is boring (and a little frightening) to be with a silent adult.

Another solution is to use the word “choice” with your child. “You are at a choice, Scott. Either come with me now or I will carry you.” If the child is older, you could say, “You are at a choice, Scott. Come right now or meet me at 8 p.m. tonight in the dining room for a long, boring talk about this problem.” Why 8 p.m.? That’s when their favorite TV shows air. One long, boring talk about behavior, how difficult it is to be a parent, and the child will reconsider balking at you when you give him or her the choice to mind or meet at 8.

If you meet your child’s anger with your own anger, the child wins. After all, the child who is asking, “Is this how I use power?” gets the message that he/she can blow your day by getting you upset. Be calm, use boredom, and breathe. Powerful children are the ones who are more likely to stand up to peer pressure and the pitfalls of youth. (They also give you frown wrinkles and gray hair!)

For more than 55 years, Sandy has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of parentingsos.com, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. Semi-retired, she speaks to schools, churches, and MOPS groups and provides parent coaching sessions in person and on the phone. She is available for parenting talks/trainings in the Treasure Valley and may be reached at sandy@parentingsos.com. Also, go to YouTube: Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel to see videos on specific parenting issues.

Idaho Family Magazine