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Best of LexMom: Illustrations of Discipline

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614“Best of LexMom Series” – We’re posting pieces from years past that our readers love!
(Not gonna lie; I needed to reread this myself today.)

My youngest decided to color a gorgeous picture of Daddy. On the wall in the
living room. While I was in the kitchen cooking. (Side note to landlord, we love
you and swear once this stage is over – we’ll repaint. No point in doing it quite
yet.) So anyways … “Mommy! Look! I drew Daddy! It’s PERFEEECCCTTT!!!” I
turn around to see multi-color scribble on the wall. Freeze frame right here.

On any given day, my knee jerk reaction would be to sigh loudly and yell in
frustration from the kitchen, “For love of all that is holy, WHAT are you doing?
Do NOT color on the walls! Go put the crayons away! That is not okay!” And
go back to cooking before I burn the house down. In all honesty, if it were one
of the big kids, that’s exactly what would happen. Not that they would color on
the walls, but you know what I mean.

There are multiple issues with this scenario, yet I see parents do the same
things every day.

1. Listen to your child.
I heard someone say the other day, “If you don’t listen when they are little,
they won’t talk when they are older.” Quite true. As a discipline issue, if you
don’t ever listen to them, they won’t listen to you. Plus, you pop their little
bubble. She is so proud of her picture and it’s not actually that bad. You do
need to acknowledge them and any positive you can find. They are more
likely to actually listen to what follows.

2. Get their attention and get on their level.
Yelling from their kitchen does not work for little ones. Yelling across the room
does not work for little ones. There are two many things pulling their attention
in a thousand directions. Walk over to them, get down on their level, look
them in the eyes and talk to them. If you use your “serious” voice, yelling is
not necessary. And they know you mean it!

3. Give direction – Not just condemnation. And keep it simple.
No, she should not color on the walls. However, that leaves an unanswered
question of where she can color. Tell the child what they can do. Most times
giving a child a direction works much better than an admonishment. Easiest
example – Walk vs Don’t run. It’s short, simple, sweet and gets the job done in
the shortest amount of time. Time is limited with a little one’s attention. Use it
wisely. Then you can explain later what and why things should not be done
when the opportunity is there. If your child is running around on the other side
of the pool, you can easily yell (for safety reasons) across the pool, “WALK!”
Bet you five bucks they walk. Then when they make it back around, you can
calmly explain to them why they need to walk and what could happen.

4. Follow up.
Praise the positive when you see them doing things the right way. It’s that
simple. Reinforce the good behavior.

So in my knee jerk reaction scenario, she wouldn’t have heard a thing I said.

1. I’m in a different room and yelling, so why should she listen. She may not
even realize I’m talking to her and not the dog.
2. I didn’t get to the point until twelve words into it. She’s already tuned me out
even if she does “hear” me. In her mind, I’m the teacher on Charlie Brown.
3. I’ve said no to walls, she may try the furniture next.
4. She’s probably mad or sad because she’s really proud of her picture and
my opinion as the mom does matter. I’ve just rained on her parade on several
levels.
Put yourself in her shoes, you wouldn’t want to listen to me either.

So when Picasso draws a masterpiece, turn the food down and walk over to
your child. Get down on their level and try, “That is a lovely picture of Daddy!!
You need to draw on paper with your crayons, not the walls. Let’s get you
some paper so you can draw another picture for us to hang on the fridge.”
Later, you could even have her help you clean the drawing off the wall and
talk about how that’s not the place to color. This way she also sees the
natural consequences. And later, follow up by showing Daddy the wonderful
picture she colored on paper.

As far as the big kids go, when I yell from the other room, they know I’m not
happy. When I walk over to them, get close and use my serious, steady voice,
they know they are in a world of trouble. And for safety issues, by all means
yell. Running towards the road, near a hot stove, etc – get their attention
anyway and as quickly as possible. Especially if you only flip out on the rare
occasion, it will get their attention in a MAJOR way. But if you yell all the time,
it’s nothing new to them and they won’t respond quickly, if at all.

It’s hard some times when you feel like your kids aren’t listening or paying
attention. Doing little things to create the proper setting will lead to less work
on your part in trying to get through to them. Less yelling is good for
everyone. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a knee jerk moment. Just take a
deep breath and get back on track.

Lots of hugs!

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