Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Of all the every day struggles we face in parenthood, discipline remains the most
daunting to me.  It is a necessary evil, a part of the mama and daddy package right
along with snuggling and enjoying precious milestones.  Children are born with a
natural instinct to test their boundaries, explore their options, and get into trouble as
a result.  And, even though it is our responsibility to show them the way and teach them
right from wrong, it doesn't make it any easier when they pout their lips and cry.
Because our girls are 6 years apart, they are at very different places discipline wise.
Isabelle is a typical 7 year old: she has just discovered the power of eye rolling, feels the
need to negotiate every request we make of her, and frequently gets in trouble at school
for talking to her friends during class.  In many ways, disciplining Isabelle is much easier
than correcting Brees because she can understand exactly what you are saying,
contemplate your message, and then put it into action.  This is also what makes parenting
her harder: she sometimes blatantly disobeys, knowing exactly what she is supposed to
do but then going her own way regardless.  She is very strong willed and
determined: wonderful character traits when used productively but not in the case
of disobeying your parents and family rules.
Brees, at 10 months, is quite the busy bee.  She is discovering the world and learning
new things each and every day, typically in the form of destroying every room of our
house.  She is an explorer, digging in every nook and cranny she is able to occupy.  She is,
in most every way, a very easy baby: rarely cries and has an overall sweet and
pleasant demeanor.  But, in the last month, she has begun protesting when we take
things away from her, sometimes to the point of screaming and throwing herself to
the ground.  She is learning the fine art of temper tantrums and the impending stage
of toddlerhood is right around the corner, bringing with it many tear filled episodes.  This
is a crucial age for her: the time to teach her that temper tantrums lead to negative
attention rather than getting you what you want (a lesson some adults never learn).
So what to do?  How do you control the chaos?  How do you teach your children to
behave themselves and be respectful yet still foster their vivacious spirits and embrace
their energy?  We struggle daily with the answers to these questions, trying to form
a strategy that works best for our family and gives our girls the skills they will need to
be happy, disciplined, well rounded adults.  Patience, consistency, and being on the same
page with your spouse is key.  Be slow to anger and discipline out of love.  My mother
once gave me the best advice: "Discipline is a form of love as important as showing
affection and paying compliments.  You discipline your children BECAUSE you love
them, because you care enough about them to want the best for them.  Guilt should not
be a part of the equation, you are simply preparing them for life and showing them that
limits are a part of reality".
What a smart lady, my mama.
For now, our discipline routine for Isabelle revolves around positive reinforcements and
time outs.  We follow Super Nanny's routine for time out and, as cheesy as those types
of television shows can be, it really works.  Jo Frost says to get down to your child's
height level and speak to them rather than hovering over them and be intimidating.
She instructs parents to be firm yet full of love, to be consistent and give positive praise
and encouragement.  We use reward charts with Isabelle and she is able to win prizes
each week for good behavior.  With Brees, we simply redirect her to another activity
when she starts crying in protest.  If we take something away that she is not supposed
to have and she begins throwing a tantrum, we move her to another area, give her
something that she IS allowed to have, sing her a song and try to take her mind off of
the heightened situation.  None of this is easy by any means, especially when we've
just arrived home from a full day's work and all we want to do is enjoy our children and
spend time with them.  It's so much easier to just give in and not go through all the motions
of setting things straight, but that's not fair to our kids.
Nor to our sanity.
This is part of parenthood, no matter how difficult and taxing it can be.  Shawn and
I constantly remind each other that by disciplining our kids now, we are preparing them
to be loving, responsible adults later.  It makes me cry sometimes when I have to put
Isabelle in the corner or cut out an activity that she really enjoys, but I have to
remember that I'm doing these things because I love her, I love Brees, and no one ever
said that this whole mama thing was all pink ponies and cotton candy.  It's hard work,
no matter how you look at it.
But I wouldn't trade it for the world. 


deanna@delirious-rhapsody said...

thank you for this post. unfortunately time outs don't work with gage anymore, and our disciplinary efforts are more trial and error around here at times. although gage has been a little better lately. (knock on wood.)

sometimes i feel guilty though, because i don't think gage fully understands why he can't do certain things, but owsley can and he won't get into trouble. it IS hard when your two babies are far apart in age and discipline for each of them is totally different.

deanna@delirious-rhapsody said...

i wanted to add that is also makes me guilty on days where i feel like all i'm doing is getting onto gage for one thing after another, and then he looks over and sees me smiling and playing with owsley. now that just breaks me heart. i don't want him to think that i love his brother more than him. :-/ ugh. mommyhood should come with a manual. :)

Jess said...

ahhh the seven year old stage. We're going through it right now with Owen. so incredibly frustrating, yet exciting to see them come into their own.

Anonymous said...

Look at that adorable smiles..

I think im going to be the disciplinarian when we have children. i can see that i would be more along the lines of a mix of what you are doing and the trial and error of deanna. my husband is a little stricter. Theres gotta be a middle ground.

Nesha said...

My daughter is four and I sometimes struggle with disciplining her too. I know that no matter how much it may hurt, it is very necessary and I have to remember that my parents disciplined me, and I turned out okay (I think). I am grateful for the boundaries, rules and discipline that was enforced by my parents. You sound like an awsome mom. There are so many people who discipline out of anger. I have been guilty of it, but I'm getting better. Like you said, being a mom is not easy, but so rewarding!

Nae said...

Great post!! I'm going to be storing this away for when Lachy starts heading to that stage!! The thought of discipline terrifies me, but i know how necessary it is!! Thanks for the guidance you provide through your blog!!

Megan said...

I LOVE this post! Definitely good for a non-mom to read!!

Lucy The Valiant said...

Right on!! I so completely agree.
Teaching high school has actually made me a lot more comfortable (and a lot less guilty and angsty) about disciplining my little ones... I see how miserable and wild the kids are who never WERE shown that reality includes limits, and I know I would never want that for my babies!

The Poole Family said...

Your mom's quote is GENIUS!! It's sooo true and so reassuring. I remember that even in the classroom, DISCIPLINE IS KEY! Children need, and believe it or not, WANT boundaries! They know they are safe and secure when there are limits. And it's funny how Jesus does the same for us... disciplines us BECAUSE He loves us. What a great example to follow. :)

KimBerly said...

Discipline is such a hard subject. Jake is almost 3 and he hasn't really had tantrums but he does so things to test us. We've tried time outs but he doesn't really understand them yet. I am a firm believer in time outs and will continue to try them with him.

Caitlin said...

I'm not a parent so all I can say is that I found this super interesting! And nervewracking, haha! Rob and I have talked a LOT about how we will discipline children and I generally agree with what you've outlined above. I think my struggle will be not giving in to every temper tantrum and not feeling bad all the time. In my (limited, secondhand) experience kids really know when you aren't operating as a team and when one of you is on the fence, so it seems like that is important. But again, I don't really know anything!

It's funny to watch my niece start to grow into the "testing boundaries" stage. The first time I saw her willfully disobey my sister I laughed out loud, it was so crazy to see! My sister told her not to go on the stairs, and she looked at my sister and inched closer to them, haha! Funny for me as auntie I guess, not so much for mommy :)

Good luck lady, sounds like you're doing an amazing job!

diane said...

Wow that is wonderful. I love my kids and I don’t want them to end up like other kids that are doing drugs, violence and other sorts of bad influence. The best way to bring them up is to let them grow with you. Discipline them well and they will just grow fine.