Sunday, March 12, 2006
This is the gold standard of defiance busting. When your child reaches the limit, simply swoop in and physically leave the store, take her out of the sandbox, end the playdate, and head home. There must be no hesitation on your part. Don't cajole, beg, or convince. Your child's banking on an emotional reaction from you -- if there isn't one, she gets no payoff. Explain your action in very clear language: "You didn't stop throwing sand when I told you to, so now I'm taking you out of the sandbox." This is bottom-line, no-nonsense discipline, and it works best when used with obviously egregious behaviors.
When the misbehavior isn't site-specific, or you can't just leave, or you're at home, you've got to find a threat that matters to your child. After all, one child's time-out is another child's excuse to daydream. Consequences tied to the misbehavior are best: "The longer you delay going to bed, the fewer stories I'll have time to read you." The lesson that Mom doesn't forget bad behavior can also pack a wallop. Try this: When your child acts out at a party, tell her she'll have to miss the next one -- and photograph her misbehaving. When the next invite comes, bring out the picture to remind her of why she won't be going.
Currently in vogue is the notion of letting the child know that you understand how she feels. "I know how frustrated you are. I wish we could stay at the park all day, too, but..." This is a good choice when you suspect something besides outright defiance is causing the problem. Next time your child has a meltdown at the five-and-dime, ask yourself: Has she missed a nap? Has she eaten lunch? Is there a new baby brother at home getting all the attention? Sometimes all that's needed is a little extra loving from Mom.
"I want you in here by the time I count to five!" This tells your child that you're done asking and his time is nigh. It's an effective method if you're prepared to follow through (and have done so in the past). It's when you reach the magic number and then continue to plead that you've lost the battle. You've got to show your kids you mean business, every time -- whether it's picking them up and carrying them to the car or putting them into bed fully clothed. Some parents swear by counting backward: Zero is more final than five, which is so tempting to stretch into siiiiixxxxxx or even sevvvvvennn.
Unfortunately, hunger and exhaustion (or, worse, both) can render your child immune to any discipline technique. What do you do then? Sometimes, not a thing. One mom was stuck in traffic when her 3-year-old demanded a lollipop to top off his snow cone. He hadn't slept well the night before, and it was a sweltering 100-degree day. Mom said no, and it sent him over the edge. She realized the best she could do was stay calm and get home safely. Once there, she plopped her thrashing, shrieking child in the time-out chair. Within minutes, her little monster had fallen sound asleep where he sat. Sometimes, it seems, kids deal with their defiance all by themselves.