How to correctly discipline my kids has been a continual learning process for me. I worry about the effects of negative discipline and struggle to make change stick with positive reinforcement alone, and distraction techniques only worked up to a certain age before I felt the need to engage in discussion with my kids about the types of unacceptable behavior they were displaying.
What I struggle with sometimes is defining what is acceptable behavior? You might think you know the answer to that question without even thinking about it, but I’ve caught myself getting upset at my kids for things they do (or don’t do) but for all the wrong reasons.
I am notoriously impatient. This is a very bad character trait that I have struggled with all my life and I see it creeping into my relationship with my kids. If I call them to come to me, I expect them to drop what they are doing and come right away. If not, I get impatient. And I don’t want to punish my kids for my own weaknesses. I realized that I needed to adjust my expectations when I read this quote from Dadpad.org:
“I had lunch this week with Dave, a friend of mine and father of three adult children. The topic of this blog came up so I asked, “What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a dad?” Dave’s answer was profoundly succinct, “Expect less, love more.”
This phrase has stuck with me since 2010 when I first read it, but I still struggled to implement it in any real practical way. That’s when I had to develop my 3 and 30 rule. I may be completely off base (I’m no parenting expert, that’s for sure!) but I had to put some concrete numbers to my expectations. I expect that I will have to say something three times, and allow them thirty seconds to comply, before I start thinking we have a problem. It might sound like three is too much, and thirty seconds is not enough, but I have landed on this happy medium from trial and error.
Expect Less. Love More. ~ dadpad.org
Realizing I will probably be repeating myself has helped me think about the explanations and instructions that I’m giving. Am I being direct enough, is what I’m saying too vague? I try to repeat it using different words and phrases, after all, it’s not like they are able to diagram sentences or pronounce the word thesaurus without spitting all over themselves (and me), so maybe I need to be more selective in how I say what I say.
And thirty seconds is more time than you’d think. It has been enough time for me to tell if they have any inkling to obey (such as quickly finishing whatever activity they are in the middle of, or slo-o-o-wly sliding off the couch) or if they are clearly ignoring me. Also, keep in mind I have a daughter with hearing loss, so the extra steps help me check myself to see if she even heard me or not.
Like I said, I’m not an expert, and I’m nowhere near perfect when it comes to keeping this rule, but it has, at times, helped me remain calm and love more, which are two of the prerequisites to any type of discipline.
Any tips you care to share?