One of the most challenging aspects of parenting so far has been discipline. One, because I’m a softie, and hate to see my child upset. Two, because even though it’s something I want to do, it can be hard to know that I’m using the right approach for my child and to achieve my end goal (that she turns out to be a good human being!). And three, because honestly, I thought I was disciplining initially, when really what I was doing was pacifying my child and stopping her from acting out.
My eldest is two and a half, and boy, is she a strong personality! She is strong-willed, feisty and very cheeky. They are qualities I love but also qualities that need to be directed – not to mention that they are different from what I grew up with. I’m one of nine children but even the most intense of us is pretty chilled and laidback.
As a new-ish mum, I find there is a lot of material out there on disciplining your children. But how am I to know what is effective now as well as in the long run? I certainly don’t want to do anything that will be detrimental to my relationship with my kids either. Another challenge is that many articles outline a theory of discipline, rather than give specifics on how to put them into action.
So when I heard a podcast on disciplining toddlers from the Messy Family Project, it was just what I was after. Mike and Alicia Hernon, with 10 kids of their own, seem to know what they’re talking about and (very likeably) chat about what sorts of things have worked for them when it comes to all things parenting.
In terms of toddler discipline, I liked their take – when the child is being defiant (not just when they’re being a kid, of course, but when they know they’re defying you), and refusing to apologise or change their actions, the Hernons suggest that you calmly put them in their room (I liked that there was no yelling) and tell them firmly that they could come out when they’re ready to do the right thing. They’d also explain to the child why he or she was in the wrong.
When we first tried this with my daughter, she would waltz out of her room like nothing had happened or try to talk to us and distract us with some toy or book. But we kept at it (thanks to my husband – I found it so hard!) and we can definitely see the effects. She is overall a more pleasant child, and she knows that her actions have consequences; we’re not bluffing. She does go through phases where she pushes the boundaries more than usual, but we try to stay consistent with the discipline while remembering that she is just a child after all.
Is this discipline technique something that has worked for you? What other kinds of tactics have you found effective when it comes to toddlers? One point that the Hernons made in their podcast was this: if we don’t deal well with their defiance in the toddler stage, it only becomes all the harder once the teenage years hit. So I’d like to get it right now!
Mike and Alicia Hernon of the Messy Family Project are coming to Australia later this year for The Marriage Project. They have speaking engagements in Sydney, Melbourne and Albury – find event details here.
Tamara El-Rahi, a former Family Edge editor, writes from Sydney.