Last night, a friend asked 'how's the no-shouting thing working out?'. I told her it depends on the day. Some days I don't have to shout, some days I do. And in the case of an emergency, like my three-year old about to wonder into the parking lot as I struggle to unbuckle his little sister, necessary. I don't care to be one of those hippy alternative Moms who totally refrain from shouting at their kids so as not to damage their delicate psyche...and create other problems in the process. I'm just an average Mom who loves her kids, and wants to do her best to raise them to be independent, happy and responsible citizens. To this end, I am always searching for more effective ways to discipline them.
I had more time to think about my friend's question today and a phrase from my childhood popped into mind...an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. How is this related? I need to backtrack. For the last few days, my children have been absolute angels, and consequently, I have not had to shout at all. Twice, I found myself checking their birthmarks to make sure they weren't switched with aliens.
I first noticed their improved behavior on Thursday. I had a ton of errands to run and sat them down for a chat before heading out. I explained where I had to go and why, and that I needed them to sit PEACEFULLY in the shopping carts (multiple stops), use their inside voices at the bank, and to be polite to Mommy's friend (a senior citizen who thinks they are delightful) and not run through her house like a pack of wild animals. To my surprise, they did exactly as told and as a unexpected reward, they got to browse (ad nauseum) the Halloween blow-up displays at Lowe's followed by picking chesnuts. Back at home, I thanked them for their good behavior and told them how proud I was.
On Friday, I decided to brave adventure sans my DH, and take the kids to the Peanut Boil Festival. Again, I decided to brief them beforehand on where we were going, why they had to sit in the double stroller without fighting, highlighted the bits about the bouncy castle and train rides, and most importantly, stressed when Mommy says it's time to go...its time to go. It was perfect. The crowd was manageable, the kids and I had a blast in the kiddie corner, and I actually got to shop because both darlings sat comfortably in their strollers for 'Mommy-therapy'. Two hours and too much money later, we were heading home full and tired and happy. Again, I explained to them that they were on their best behavior and I was very proud of them.
Today with DH in tow, we took the kids to the coolest spot in town, the Rec Center pool. After the requisite two-minutes of screaming once my son realized Dad let go, swimming lessons commenced and all was well with the world. Until it was time to go. I didn't brief my subjects beforehand so it took some effort - but no shouting - to get the kids out of the pool. But once I chimed in with the 'time to go' reminder, they became more cooperative.
Throughout this, several things stood out:
1. If the kids know what is expected of them, they are more likely to cooperate.
2. Obviously there is something to this 'drilling the rules' theory. E.g. when it's time to go, it's time to go.
3. If I can control my son's behavior, I can control my daughter's. She adores her big brother and follows him like a love-sick puppy. Therefore, if I can get him to sit in the cart, she sits in the cart. Etc., etc.
4. Preparing them beforehand (an ounce of prevention) is a more effective disciplinary tool than shouting or spanking them after ( is better than a pound of cure).
5. Congratulating them on their good behavior is positive reinforcement.