Question: Until recently, rules and the consequences for breaking them have been pretty easy. I could just take away a favorite toy, gadget or something pretty simple. Now that he's maturing, I would like for discipline to be more thought provoking and helpful than just "punishment." Any ideas?
Jan: As a single parent, discipline has always been a complicated issue, being both the good and bad guy. Right when I think I have a good system in place, my son grows out of a certain stage and it’s not effective any more. I remember when he was a toddler and I tried the time-out method. He could have cared less, was perfectly happy with it (like it was a game) and left me trying to devise fair, effective discipline that would capture his attention.
For a long time it was a collectible Batman car that did the trick. I could just mention that car and he would straighten up. Then it was the Power Ranger phase. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that even an order of Chicken McNuggets was a bargaining tool at one point. Saying "Because I SAID so" never worked for me either because he would invariably ask "Why" after I said it and we would go around and around with it. For the last several years the discipline was more focused on restricting time on gaming systems and/or cell phone/texting.
My baby boy is turning 16 in October, gaming is less important to him and……I’m going to have to start all over again. In finding relevant consequences that will mean something to him, I’m thinking out loud here, so bear with me. I think the cell phone restriction will still be effective for a while, but if he is to have a cell phone on him at all times for safety purposes, that can’t really be monitored. A light bulb just went off in my head: His 16th birthday this October means acquiring the teenager's Holy Grail -a driver’s license. Hallelujah! – this is perfect timing. If a driver’s license is a privilege, then there’s a standard of behavior that must be met in order to keep that privilege. That sounds good. I’m sure the enticement of those keys will help both of us get him through this slightly sarcastic, sometimes annoying 15-year-old stage. I bet just dangling of those keys in front him will inspire immediate respect and manners. I hope so.
I know I sound like the Wicked Witch of The West, but hey, I need all the help I can get in managing all that testosterone and attitude. In all seriousness, I think the best discipline method of all is the one that’s been used for all time: being grounded. At my son’s age, it’s all about what everyone else is doing, going or planning. Grounding a child is actually an opportunity to do more than just punish. It can serve as a tool to reconnect him to the family and reinforce the values he needs in making better choices later on. I have never been one for punishment for the sake of punishment. If there’s not something learned by it, what’s the point?
From birth until they leave us, our children need the safety and structure of rules, consequences and discipline. It’s what helps them stay in the middle of the road of life. And though they certainly wouldn’t agree with us at the time of discipline, they’ll appreciate it down the road when there’s no safety net for their mistakes and choices. Hopefully the consequences they’ve experienced will be a reminder and help in making good future decisions.
Kim: With a near-grown man in my house that now towers over me at 6’4”, the last thing I want to do is have to climb him like a tree, but I will if the situation were to ever need such.
The younger days of the past are all fading, but one thing that my grandmother told me still rings true. “Get hold of him far and between, but when you do, make him a believer.” His dad worked out of town most of his elementary school years and was gonefor long periods of time, which made me not only mom, but dad, until dad got home.
I was not one of those women that would tell their child, “You just wait until your Dad gets home.” My justice was swift and calculated. There is a fine line between discipline and abuse. Counting to ten and making him go think about what was going to be taken from him carried me through the roughest of moments. Abuse isn’t just physical but can be verbal and emotional as well, and I have taken this into account through ages and stages with him.
Time outs, the loss of loved character toys and no video game time worked fairly quickly, but now that he is grown and makes his own money, I really have to be offended (or hormonal) to take something away he worked hard for. He has even tried to argue the point that he earned it so I can’t take it away, but when he pushes me, I do, and he reacts with following through on what I asked of him, or not continuing the behavior. He doesn't want to lose his ability to travel and perform and we still pay for his music lessons
Driving is a whole other puppy. I remember dating a guy back in high school that had this beautiful 442. He was an idiot and decided to behave badly and drive like a fool in it. His dad solved that problem by welding a governor onto the gas pedal. My son is aware that I can also weld, I can even weld doors shut if needed
I have told him since he was 13 that he is accountable for his own actions. Privileges are earned and not given. Some days I am a super hero, some days I am just a pain in his behind. The unconditional love we share gets us through the roughest patches. If you ask him who the meanest one is, I can proudly say he will answer, “My Mom.”