Of late it feels as if I’ve been reacting to Gavin’s behaviour rather than disciplining him. What’s the difference? The goal of discipline is to educate your child. Reacting is simply placing a bandaid on the wound without identifying what caused the wound in the first place. If you don’t know what caused the wound, how can you prevent more wounds in future?
I’d like to say that the reason for this lapse is because I’m tired. No doubt I am, but that isn’t reason enough to stop parenting to the best of my ability. Being tired all the time comes with the job of being a parent. If I allow myself to do a half-baked job just because I’m tired, I’ll be doing a half-baked job for the rest of their childhood because the feeling of being tired isn’t going to end any time soon.
Now that we’ve addressed my underlying faults, what should I do about it? Well, let’s start by looking at what I have been doing and how it’s been going wrong for me. I think yesterday’s post on Gavin’s acting out in school is quite indicative that something needs to change. I could start pointing fingers or rant on about how I should have done things differently but I won’t. Being human means I am flawed so I should just accept that I will be prone to lapses and mistakes and move on.
Lately we’ve fallen back into the pattern of continually telling Gavin off. Instead of correcting his behaviours, it feels like we’re telling him off more and more. I recall a time not so long ago when we were having a lot of discipline issues with Gavin and I bought the book “The No-Cry Discipline Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley to get back on track. I’d even started listing some of her discipline solutions but never finished because we seemed to be getting through the worst of it before the list was complete.
Well, it seems like we’re falling back into the old ways and it is clearly not working for us. Is it because the “no-cry discipline solutions” aren’t working for us? To be honest, when I say I’ve been reacting, I mean I have been falling back to the old ways of discipline and losing my creativity with discipline. Although I read all the solutions that Pantley suggests, I often fail to implement them. It almost seems easier to get mad and yell than it is to think creatively. Being mad also lets off steam. Unfortunately, though it might do something for me, it does nothing for Gavin.
I’ve always known since Gavin was little that the hard approach never worked with him. The harder you attack, the harder he attacks back. Sure there have been times when I’ve screamed him into submission and it has worked (not that I’m proud of it), but I know in the long run this method of discipline will never cut it with my son. Of late, we’ve all be excessive with the negative discipline approaches and I believe it is losing it’s efficacy on Gavin (by negative I mean withdrawal of privileges and instilling punishments as opposed to offering rewards and praise). The thing about discipline tools is that you need to vary them. Use the same old tricks over and over again and they’re bound to lose their effect.
For instance, confiscating Gavin’s prized possessions used to be effective in gaining his cooperation. He gets upset when he loses his toys, books and TV time. These days, it has so little effect on him it’s almost pointless to threaten him. It almost seems like a game to him as he crows, “If I don’t listen, I will have no more books, no more toys and no more TV, ok?” He’s sucked the wind out of my sails.
The other reason why it is not working is because the punishment doesn’t come quickly enough. Sometimes his misdemeanours occur in the morning just before school. Even if we confiscate his toys, books and TV, he won’t feel it until he comes home from school. By then, the misdeeds have happened “so long ago” (half a day is an eternity in a child’s life) that it is difficult for him to connect them to his misdeeds.
Last but not least, Gavin has developed his own ways of dealing with no toys, books or TV. The other day, he turned the pillows into troublesome trucks and had a gala time pretending to be an engine. Did he miss his toys, books and TV while he was busy playing engine? I sincerely doubt it. Where then is the point in the discipline?
As Gavin grows, he adapts. As he adapts, we need to change our disciplinary methods. We can no longer afford to “react” to his behaviours because reacting means falling into the same old pattern of dishing out punishments that aren’t effective in communicating any messages to our son regarding his behaviour.
Well, it looks like that’s all we have time for today. Gareth is awake and it’s time to sign off. We’ll look at the solutions tomorrow. In the mean time, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.