I read an article today in Parents magazine called “The 5-Second Discipline Fix.” I was curious to read that one! What a perfect tease for a busy mother and overworked preschool teacher! While the article was good (one that I’ll take to work to refer my “parents” to later) it wasn’t big info. Basically the author pointed out the literal nature of children and made the point that you should not give a child a choice where there is none. Any teacher worth her salt knows that you direct – not request behavior from children. Good teachers would also know to be specific in her direction. We know that giving 2 or 3 acceptable choices promotes ownership and decision making while still getting the desired behavior. We know that requesting with kindness models appropriate behavior… Again, good article, well-said, fantastic examples. The quality of the article is not what struck me. What struck me was the fact that what appears obvious to me is news to others.
Pair this revelation with a conversation I had this week with a good friend. We were “processing” as we like to say (doesn’t that sound better than over-analyzing?) my children’s behavior patterns. I don’t even remember the specific concern – but it had something to do with the battles I choose and the battles others choose. I was comparing my philosophy with another family’s and a second family. While it seemed obvious to me that the first family and I were making better choices, my friend rattles offhand, “That’s because you’re a teacher. Not everyone knows that.” Hmmm… I am hoping she meant that in a good way…
I do not profess to be an excellent mother. A good one? yes. A great one? sometimes. But, there are some things that work for me. Some things that would most likely work for others. While I thought everyone would know to say, “It’s time to take a nap. Do you want the blue blanket or the yellow one?” instead of “Are you ready to take a nap?” when clearly the nap-taking is not up for discussion, apparently I was wrong. (Ooo – it’s hard to type those 3 little words!) I have a “fix” that works for me. You may already be counting along with me, but if you aren’t, here’s an idea.
So, here’s my 5-Second (or sometimes 3-Second or 10-Second Fix). I count backwards. You would think that I quietly count backwards to keep it together so I don’t yell and scream at my headstrong brood. No, I count for them. Counting backwards is my updated, “ONE!…TWO!…THREE!” Instead I say, “You have 5 to start putting on your socks.” or “You have 3 to get to me.” or “You have 10 to finish up with the cars/blocks/Littlest Pet Shops.” Then I start counting backward. I do give the consequence for non-compliance before I count if it isn’t obvious. This way my kids always know where they stand. My starting number quickly clues them into my level of patience/acceptance (and their necessary speed of compliance). Big things have less counts. Dangerous things have faster counts. The end, though, is always the same. Children like predictable. They thrive when the limits are clear and set and consistent. My goals are always 1) set reasonable expectations. 2) set consequences that are natural, immediate, and that “fit” my direction. 3) follow through. and 4) save counting for when I need it.
I very seldom get to zero.
So, give counting backward a try and let me know what you think.