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How to Discipline Your Kids

How to Fix Common Discipline Mistakes Moms Make

A few weeks ago I wrote an article called The Common Discipline Mistakes Moms Make (and Regret). When the article was shared on the Circle of Moms Facebook page, there was some interesting feedback that I could so easily relate to as one of the mistake-making moms I was writing about.

One mom wanted to hear about the things parents are doing right. Another mom suggested it would be helpful to provide some answers about how to fix the discipline mistakes we are making.

Both comments really hit home. After all, we help our kids feel good about themselves by telling them what they are doing well, and if they are making mistakes, we give them strategies to help fix them. Don't moms deserve the same?


With that in mind, Circle of Moms members chime in to help us all learn to fix some of these common discipline mistakes.

Keep reading.

The Fix For Disciplining For Normal Kid Behavior

Although Kelly R. complained that her 9-year-old son's strange sounds and rambunctious behavior were irritating, she also came to the realization that "he acts like . . . well . . . a 9-year-old."

Moms say three factors in fixing this discipline mistake are knowing kids don't come with an automatic understanding of what behaviors are appropriate in which situations, they don't always have the maturity to control themselves, and you need to use age-appropriate discipline.

Grandmother Kat points out that it's important to give kids verbal cues letting them know when their behavior isn't appropriate and to provide them with more socially acceptable alternatives. Mom Angie K. says as her kids got older, she could eventually use a "code word" in public to let them know their behavior was inappropriate.

The Fix For Yelling and Screaming

Unlike mom Bobbi P., who says yelling seems natural to her, I'm not a yeller, but I understand the impulse because I'd really like to yell more than I do. In over a decade-and-a-half of parenting, I've learned that getting very quiet is sometimes more effective than amping up the volume.

It doesn't come easily, though. I frequently take Circle of Moms member Dora W.'s advice to "take a deep breath right before you are about to yell at them." If that doesn't work, I take Alison L.'s advice to take a step away to regroup. And, if I end up yelling, well, it's not the end of the world. I just try to apologize for not speaking calmly, and we can all move on.

The Fix For Inconsistency and Not Following Through

Sometimes it seems so much easier to give your child "just one more chance" or to lift a consequence when they're following the rules again, but as mom Carla A. explains, staying consistent in your actions lets your child know you are in charge and they are accountable for what they have (or haven't) done.

That's not to say it's easy to stick with it. Carla says it best: "Almost all kids have to have the rules repeated, over and over, and over and over, and over and over until you are reciting them in your sleep. They are going to try and test you, to see if you really mean what you say. They NEED to know you are going to be the same yesterday, today, and forever."

The Fix For Thinking Discipline and Punishment Are Interchangeable

One of the things that seems to trip moms up when it comes to making this distinction is thinking that if you look at discipline and punishment as separate things, then you can't provide consequences for your child's actions.

Circle of Moms member Tricia L. points out that discipline is "teaching and re-teaching the appropriate behaviors in a wide variety of nuanced situations," while Carrie B. explains that punishment often is a penalty or restriction that aims to deter but isn't directly related to the behavior at hand.

Once you keep in mind your goal is to redirect, teach, and connect consequences to specific behaviors, it becomes clearer. If your child is throwing a toy, taking the toy away isn't a punishment; it's discipline teaching the direct consequences of their actions. Grounding a teenager from going out one night for breaking curfew the night before is also discipline.

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Join The Conversation
AllysonAvery AllysonAvery 4 years
To reneemadho1370823998: I have owned and operated a commercial cleaning company for over 17 years and have had the opportunity to facilitate organizing office and living spaces for my clients. These are my golden rules for paring down and reorganizing: 1. Every"thing" must have a home. Keep like things together (books, cars, stuffed animals…) and mark containers accordingly. 2. At least once a year evaluate your stuff and determine if it is being used. Label four boxes and place each item in one of these categories - "Pitch" (if not functional), "Pass-on" (if not being used, but still in good condition), "Place" it in its home (all keepers must follow rule # 1), "Pack" away for future use (rule number 3)? 3. Sometimes I think we have too much stuff. Put half of his "keep" toys away for a period of time, weeks/months, and rotate them in & out. 4. So that the task is not a big deal, be sure to clean-up each day. 5. We are building lifelong skills for our kids so make it less of a challenge by changing how they think of everyday jobs; get creative and make cleaning fun. Here are a few of the games I play with my kids. Give your child a container, set a timer for a minute (or 5), and see what he can collect. Turn on music and dance or as a special treat give him your iPod only during cleaning times. Reward him for cleaning; this could be something as simple as a handful of M & M's (or fruit snacks) or an elaborate rewards chart (be consistent if you use a chart) with a big prize after a set number of cleanings. Hide a few quarters (or dollar bills) and let him know that if he cleans well, he'll find them. Happy organizing! Allyson
reneemadho1370823998 reneemadho1370823998 4 years
i cant seem to teach my 6 yr old to be a little more tidy can any one help me
TineBrok TineBrok 4 years
I just want to suggest some reading, a few books that have helped me tremendously in understanding my children and connecting with them. The first is 'Adventures in Gentle Discipline' by Hilary Flower. Fabulous. It is down to earth, funny, accepting and SO SO HELPFUL!! Another is 'The Science of Parenting' by Margot Sunderland. Easy to read and understand, it gives a wonderful insight into how children's brains develop, what to expect and different ages, and how to parent to allow the best chance of healthy brain and emotional development in kids. The word 'discipline' means to teach, NOT to punish, and when you come to parenting armed with an understanding of where your children are coming from, what you can do to support yourself emotionally (getting your emotional needs met is vital if you're going to be able to meet your kids' needs), and how to get your kids to co-operate (ie some strategies to help create harmonious relationships in the first place so that punishment / reward is irrelevant), it helps a LOT both in avoiding mistakes and in repairing the damage they otherwise do to our relationships with our kids. I think that the core of it is relationship. Our children are in a relationship with us, and us with them, and a trusting, respectful relationship is the core of a happy secure child and a satisfying parenting experience. I was not parented in a connected way myself, so at times I find it hard to stay calm. I have yelled at my children, but always give them the respect of apologizing afterwards, and finding ways to move on and better my parenting. A core thing is to parent yourself; give yourself respect, forgive yourself for your mistakes, get all the support you can from friends who share your parenting values.
AllysonAvery AllysonAvery 4 years
Being respectful at all times sets the groundwork for those times when I get upset. Here are some of the things I do to remain cognizant of my actions when reacting to the behavior of my three sons (16, 8 & 4); applies to adults as well. Even though it is hard to do so in the moment it is important that I remember that I am angry at my child's behavior not him. And as I will have a much better chance of getting my point across I resist the compulsion to yell by using the respectful language and behavior I want my children to use with me. Using “you” statements sounds overly aggressive so I try to start animated conversations with “I” want, need, am feeling, etc. Also, I think it is vital and humbling to simply listening to another person's point of view (3 or 93 we all just want to be heard). Lastly, the best way I have found to manage intense interactions with my children (or adults who really should know better) is to remain calm. It is nearly impossible to run off the rails with a person who stays calm and keeps the discussion on track. I want my children to be prosocial, to have a general concern for others, to be respectful, cooperative, sympathetic and compassionate; these are learned behaviors that should start at home.
eileenmice eileenmice 4 years
Raysha, your story is an excellent example of how the PNDC (Powerful Non-Defensive Communication) method works. I believe it was your clarity and firmness that made the difference. I had a couple of experiences with one of my grandsons that surprised me as well, in the way he responded. Once Ben was in a tantrum, and I told him that if he kept on, I would ask him to go to his room until he was ready to be calm. He kept on, I told him I would like him to go to his room, he didn't go, and I then said, quite calmly, "If you don't go to your room on your own, then I will carry you. If you do go on your own, then I won't carry you." He stood there and held up his arms for me to pick me up. I was happy to carry him, and the beauty of it, to me, was that he made a clear choice. It may not sound like much, but I was astonished - partly that he was even, clearly, listening to me. The other occasion was when I was talking to Ben (not telling him to do something, just chatting) and, as was often the case, he wasn't acknowledging or responding to what I was saying. I said (feeling rather hurt), "If you don't talk to me [= respond to what I'm saying], then I won't talk to you. If you talk to me, then I'll be happy to talk to you." A little while later, he asked me something; I said to him, Do you remember what I said to you earlier? He didn't, so I said, "I said that if you didn't talk to me, then I wouldn't talk to you; but if you do talk to me, then I would talk to you." He became much more attentive and responsive. Again, I was astonished; given his appearing to ignore me earlier, I had not thought this would matter to him, but it did!
RayshaHoward RayshaHoward 4 years
My 3 year old son would scream to the top of his lungs, flop on the floor, kick, and scream. Until one day, I just had enough and just wasn't taking any more so I picked him up, took him to his room, sit him on the bed, and said, you are NOT to come out of this room until you are done with that fit. He sat on the bed for about 1 minute and stopped crying/screaming. He called out and said "Momma, I'm done pitching my fit now, can I come out now?" He went from pitching about 8 fits a day down to maybe 3. I am very surprised this actually worked but I don't have to spank him any more.
SueAllanMehl SueAllanMehl 4 years
Sorry, what I meant was that I am so glad that I'm not the only one feeling like a monster when I revert to yelling....
SueAllanMehl SueAllanMehl 4 years
OMW!!! This is going to sound a bit weird, but I am so so so glad that does not feel like a monster when I revert to yelling at the end. I have a 4-year old and a 14-month old at home. And I really really really try to count till 100 or just breathe in and out, but sometimes I just can't help that impulse of yelling. Being a head of a dept where we work with various government depts, a wife and a mother of 2 GIRLS can be extremely tough. I'm going to take the 'whisper' advice and implement it the moment I get home. Thank you Moms!!
christenamontoya89399 christenamontoya89399 4 years
Ya I have a 3 1/2 daughter and a son almost two, he does everything she does, but I yell at her constantly, it is she doesn't listen to anything I say and she thinks its funny. I feel bad for yelling all the time and my husband thinks I am toean but he only has the weekends off and only sees them after 5pm and puts them in bed. He doesn't understand what we go through all day
CoMMember13631175787238 CoMMember13631175787238 4 years
It amazes me how people become puzzled by normal human behavior. Yelling is just as normal for people as howling for a dog. To me it is more natural and better to express your emotions instead of bottling it all up (which is absolutely unnatural) and put yourself and others at risk of you snapping and doing something that you'll really regret later. My dear mother used to yell and I totally understand her now. She didn't yell to get to us (and we were a handful), it was her last resort before snapping and possibly physically hurting us. She was a great mother and because as a single mother she didn't have a man who could straighten us out she suffered a lot. Now that she is gone I understand much more about life and I wish I could tell her that I understand her letting her emotions out, I wouldn't want her any other way. Don't feel guilty for being yourselves, mothers. When after 20k times of repeating the same thing you yell, you doing nothing more then howling in pain and that is totally understandable.
Lynnet Lynnet 4 years
I do yell at my kids, but only when they are engaged in dangerous behaviour. Because I yell so infrequently, they actually do listen when I yell. I am a lot like my own mother though, I naturally get quiet when I'm really angry, so it's unfairly easy for me not to yell at my kids! :-)
MysiaHaight1367517847 MysiaHaight1367517847 4 years
As I've learned through trial and error-error-error, getting quiet works to get my teenage daughter's attention much more effectively than YELLING! Sometimes when I'm on the brink of yelling, I give myself a time-out to calm down and collect my thoughts.
eileenmice eileenmice 4 years
Sorry about the long paragraph - thought I had it divided up, but it posted all run together.
eileenmice eileenmice 4 years
I really like what is said here, especially that we moms need to get recognition for what we're doing well, just as our kids do - from ourselves and from each other. So important! For more tools for creating and communicating a firm, clear set of expectations and consequences, I would like to recommend, very very highly, Sharon Strand Ellison's audiobook (CD set), "Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting," co-written with her daughter Ami Atkinson. Sharon developed Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC), and wrote the "manual" for it in her book "Taking the War Out of Our Words." For me, she lays out different ways of communicating, and their consequences for us and our families, so clearly it's awesome, and she offers new, kinder and more effective, ways of communicating, equally clearly. Besides this CD set and her book, a one-CD overview of her concepts and process is also available, and very handy if you want to get an idea of this stuff quickly. One reason I think this is so important is that I suspect that many of us become inconsistent about implementing the consequences we've put in place, because we feel guilty or ashamed, afraid of being mean, hurtful parents. I know that was the case with me!!! And yet so often the inconsistency hurts our children more than clear, consistent consequences... I have found so much support in Sharon's PNDC tools. For anyone who has tried Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication: if that is working for you, great; but if you have found it difficult, or felt uncomfortable with it, I think you might find PNDC clearer, to the point, and complete. Best of luck with it all! Parenting is so important, and so not-easy!
terristephan terristephan 4 years
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