The Disciplinarians’ Rule Book

My mom took me out to dinner a few weeks ago. We had some spring rolls and white wine (with ice cubes – our signature cocktail). We talked about my kids; my mom is very close with them. She picks them up from school once a week and masterminds adventures big and small. They cook. They teach the dog tricks. They do crafts. They adore her.

And my mom adores them. Mid-spring roll-bite, she also suggested they are brats.

It’s cool. My mom can say this to me and I appreciate the honesty. She’s right. On the kid behavior spectrum – from bratmobile to singing angel, my kids are pretty good. But yes, they can absolutely be brats and oftentimes I have no idea how to reign them in.

They whine like they’re getting paid for each high octave note. They run free from my soft hollers at the community center parking lot. They jump on our furniture even though they know house rules.

I see an attitude coming on!
I see an attitude coming on! They pout when they don’t agree with the snack or t.v. show the other one picked out.

Are they bad kids? Absolutely not. Do we have solid control over them? Hmm, debatable.

Luckily I know some expert disciplinarians. My mom and her sisters raised me, my sister and cousins with tough love. We knew who was BOSS. My mom was tough, but Aunt Kitty was the queen. She had a Death Stare that spoke louder than words. When we’d act an ass in public, she’d yank us by the shirt collar and firmly whisper “Don’t. Ever. Do. That. Again. You understand?” When we misbehaved in a restaurant, Aunt Kitty would excuse herself, promptly take the pint-sized offender to the car, and sit in the parking lot until the rest of the party finished dinner.

That kid was a jerk in a restaurant once.

As my mom and I spoke, these details of my childhood returned. These mamas had firm rules that never wavered. We loved and respected them. We feared them. So as we sipped Chardonnay, I asked my mom to coach me.

She reminded me that no means no. No explanations needed. Don’t water down a firm answer with a long-winded reason. I find myself justifying decisions to my kids all the time.

Choose a Time-Out or Thinking Chair, and use it consistently. The time can be brief, but they need to take a moment to understand the consequences of a poor decision. Sit with them if they need reinforcement.

Catch them behaving well. Reward positive behavior. I created a chart and the girls earn stamps for good behavior at bedtime. 10 stamps = ice cream. Then we start again.

Leave restaurants or take away privileges when they ignore fair warnings. I did this recently. My kids were destroying the bathroom with an aquatic version of Cirque du Soleil. I warned them if they didn’t stop, we wouldn’t go a festival in town. I wanted to go, so did they. They didn’t stop, so we didn’t go. We all paid the price. But I followed through and that felt… not good, but I felt stronger.

I’m trying. I still look to my mom – my Discipline Coach – when my kids’ behavior is running me ragged. I feel like such a BITCH when I’m channeling my inner disciplinarian. She confirms it takes many years to shape these fine young citizens, and I’ll likely feel like a bitch for much of that time. I’ll report back soon from the bitchy trenches.

4 thoughts on “The Disciplinarians’ Rule Book

  1. This is why your mom and I get along so well!! It can be really hard to stand your ground, but it is so necessary—by the time they get to us in middle school, it is really obvious who has let them get away with everything, and who has given some tough love.


  2. Meaning what you say has been the biggest success in our family approach to discipline. I love that you’ve honed in on that. I screwed up more than a few times along the way, either threatening a consequence that I really didn’t want to follow through on (like missing a favorite activity) or getting the timing wrong (consequences given too early or too late). But the one thing I’ve really tried to stay true to is sticking with my word. If I promise something, I deliver. If I say that a consequence will happen unless behavior changes, it WILL happen. Now that my girls are older, I can look back and see how this has been a success. They know now. Mom means what she says. It has really cut down on the whining and bargaining, and they generally take their consequences and move on when they’ve made less than stellar choices.


  3. Discipline is not the funnest part of parenting for sure, LOL. Follow through is definitely the most improtant yet hardest! Love this post


  4. Great post lol! Discipline is hard to figure out. I have found though that following through on whatever I said the punishment is is KEY, otherwise my kid doesn’t take my words seriously.


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