Find Part One, which explains our Domestic Rule HERE.
Once the rules were in place, I consistently enforced them (and still do, though with much less effort now). If I catch a child breaking a rule, I remind them of the rule or make them repeat it to me and then boom, punishment. I don’t discuss rules or fairness in the heat of the moment. Kids who argue get greater consequences. This is why casually discussing the rules often (at dinner, in the car, etc.) is so important. There is no shock or surprise when a consequence is doled out. Of course kids who don’t know what is expected of them argue and resist when they are corrected; how are they to know what behaviors are acceptable or not?
I don’t take sides in kids’ battles either. Two kids screaming? Usually there’s enough blame to go around and both are punished. It’s become known in our house that if Mama has to get involved, everyone will be unhappy. Consequently, the kids have learned to deal with most of their own problems.
Whether it’s a solo or group offense, if the kids want to plead their case later once everyone has cooled down, we can do that. Just as it is important for me to calmly enforce the rules, the kids have to learn to calmly plead their case against injustice. As they’ve aged we do discuss things after the fact. Sometimes they calm down and admit their error. Sometimes we disagree but they learn that regardless of their feelings on a particular matter, these are the rules and they have to obey them, trusting that as their parents we know what’s best for them. And sometimes, I even apologize if I was wrong. Did I yell and freak out too much? Was the punishment too severe for the offense? Then I admit my mistake and say sorry to my children. I’m not a perfect parent and my kids, more than anyone, understand that. Learn to apologize to your children. You are not always right.
It also helps that, from the beginning, my husband and I have always been on the same page in regards to the rules we set and their enforcement. We each expect the rules followed 100 percent of the time and enforce them equally. One of us isn’t the good guy, the other the bad. I’ve rarely used the “Wait until your Father gets home.” line because just me dealing with it is enough. If you stay at home with your kids, you must be in charge. Your kids mustn’t believe they can get away with murder until the other parent gets home. You’re putting your spouse in the difficult position of always having to be the bad guy, when, after a long day, he just wants to come home and enjoy time with his family. You’re also going to have a rough time if your spouse ever travels for business.
Bad behavior needs immediate consequences, and the child must know the reason for the consequence. If a punishment isn’t given until hours, or days, later, the child will not associate the discomfort of it with the original offending action. This is why my younger children often repeat back to me the rule he or she broke and how it was broken, followed by a punishment. There is a clear cause and effect relationship. Their actions have very real consequences.
We have used a variety of punishments through the years. There is no one sized fits all punishment. For major infractions like biting, I have used an open-handed swat to the bottom in addition to sending a child to bed. However for a couple of my children, swats equaled defiant laughter. For those children I have actually physically restrained them in my lap in a tight hug and not allowed them to go and play. In both cases, the punishment deterred the child from similar misdeeds in the future and just the threat would make them reconsider. I believe young children need punishments, not explanations. The time for explaining comes when they are older. (The Church sets the age of reason at around seven.) You may find my methods horrible, but I insist that you need to find punishments that work (sitting in a corner, sent to bed, only water to drink instead of juice, no screen time, writing sentences, loss of a favorite toy, privileges taken away, early bedtime) and you must enforce your rules constantly. As your children grow, you will continually have to revisit and revise the punishments you use.
If we experience a string of bad behavior it is usually a sign of something else at play in our home; lack of sleep, poor diet, mama’s having problems, over active schedule, or lack of consistency in enforcement. If nothing is working, step back and look at the big picture to see what outside forces could be sabotaging your discipline efforts.
I was asked if I give rewards for good behavior or use chores as a punishment in my house. The answer is no to both. I don’t believe in giving rewards. I did try it once, against my own good judgement, and sure enough, once the rewards were removed, so was any incentive. Children must learn internal motivation to follow rules rather than relying on external rewards. We also don’t give an allowance for chores or use chores for punishment. Chores are what family members do to keep a household running smoothly; we do them because they need done, not because we want to do them or because we’re paid to do them. If chores only got done when someone did something wrong, I think my kids would view chores in a negative way, and chores aren’t a bad thing. I do pay my children for extra work. Addie gets money for babysitting. Edie likes to give the boys their baths (they like it too) so we pay her for that. I will also pay for specific yard work; the kids have hauled stone, pulled out landscaping timbers and raked and hauled leaves to the compost pile. Meanwhile, sweeping the floor, carrying firewood, laundry, clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher; these are jobs that they do everyday because it benefits the family. The reward is having kids that are hard-working and self-sufficient, even if they can’t see the benefits in improving those virtues yet.
Lastly, all these rules and consequences are balanced with a healthy dose of love, undivided attention, physical affection and praise for many things, because a house of just rigid rules and discipline sounds as wonderful as a home of spoiled children. My husband and I also try to be joyful examples of obedience and do what God asks of us without complaint. We admit when things are hard or when we’ve failed and we regularly seek the Sacraments to help us. We talk a lot with our kids, not just at them, and we try hard to really listen. In the end, creating and following this Domestic Rule has helped us become not our children’s friends, but hopefully the parents of happy and holy children.
Thanks for reading! Leave any questions below or send me an email at kellymantoan(at) gmail (dot) com.
These are great. I found that different kids do need different punishments – so sending my strong willed daughter to her room for a break was not too helpful because she sailed off to her room like a martyr (she knew she was right, Mom was wrong, but she’s suffer through the punishment nobly). A few boys benefited from being in their room as it allowed them to cool down.
I have offered incentives for good behavior, in limited cases. For example, one son was having real trouble behaviorally at school. Removing privileges and some other things did not work to improve this behavior. Offering him small rewards for good days gave him a positive focus and helped him to try to be better. Eventually, as the good behavior became a habit rather than the exception, we phased out the rewards.
Any suggestions for when both parents aren’t on the same page? My husband travels during the week, and when he comes home, he doesn’t believe in any punishments on Friday night and Saturday mornings, and then by Sunday afternoon it’s super hard spankings. He doesn’t want to talk about it. I try hard to be consistent during the week, but the weekend throws things off.
If he’s handing out hard spankings on Sunday, or allowing you to, then he must see the need for discipline. I can’t imagine Sunday’s are much fun for anyone. The kids are confused and you both must be burnt out from a weekend of their acting out. If you could convince your husband that there’s other ways he could spoil and dote on his children over the weekend while still maintaining order, then your Sundays would be so much more pleasant (as would your Mondays). While I do not usually advocate for external rewards, since your hands are tied regarding consequences, you could try rewarding your children’s good behavior during the weekend with gold stars and so many stars would get a small prize on Saturday and Sunday nights at bed or even Monday morning. If your children want to avoid spankings and earn prizes this method might work if you can’t convince your husband otherwise.
So a couple of questions –
1. How do you handle differences in physical mobility? I have a genetic disorder that I have a 50% chance of passing on to my children, and if they have it, spankings and physical restraint could be a very bad idea (easy bruising or dislocated joints).
2. How do you handle discipline outside the home, when beds/rooms/corners/privacy aren’t as accessible?
1. The consequence only has to be uncomfortable enough to deter the specific bad behavior. If you don’t want to use any “physical” punishments you will have to try some of the other methods I listed. Different children will respond to different punishments. Sitting in a corner, losing a favorite toy or screen time have all worked with my kids.
2. We leave. If the kids can’t behave accordingly at someone’s house or a store, we don’t stay. And when we get home there are punishments. In the past, I’ve also left somewhere, gotten in the van and strapped my kids into their carseats until they’ve calmed down. I also don’t feel particularly bad correcting my children in public. I find though that by expecting and enforcing certain rules at home, the kids will take that behavior out with them in public.
These are fantastic posts! They take me back to my classroom management classes during college. We had to write out discipline models for a classroom, but being young and inexperienced, I didn’t quite get the whole picture. Now I definitely see how having set rules and consequences make life so much easier for everyone! My oldest daughter just turned 4 and she’s always been pretty compliant and obedient, but I think it would be good to set things in stone now not only for her sake but for her little brother’s sake. Thanks for the inspiration, Kelly!
I had similar misgivings about paying children for chores. At the same time, I wanted a systematic way to allow them to pay money. We sort of fell into a tiered system. There are chores that must be done as a matter of course (things like keeping their rooms clean, straightening their beds, etc.) Then there are regular chores, such as emptying the dishwasher and putting away laundry that, IF DONE CHEERFULLY, earn a star. 25 stars earns $10 ($1 goes to charity, $4 to savings, $5 for the child to use as he will). The kids are required to do those chores, but it’s their attitude that earns the reward. Finally, there are odd jobs that are negotiated on a case by case basis and that the child can opt to do to earn extra money.
Great advice, Kelly. Structure and discipline make for happier children. I flew back from a conference Wednesday, and on my first leg, there was an older couple with their two children. The little girl (probably two or three) was sucking on a binky, holding another, and crying at every inconvenience or discomfort. I would chalk it up to her being extremely tired (seen that), but really, it seemed that the parents just caved into every demand when she began to cry. It seemed like she considered that her first means of making a request, and it sure got them to move. What struck me, though, was that she was really unhappy—not just faking it to get what she wanted. They were training her to be dissatisfied and unhappy given the slightest discomfort.
I also might wonder if the parents reacted differently than they normally would, perhaps attempting to pacify her quickly in order to avoid bothering other passengers with her crying. You never know…I would be super paranoid about my kids annoying others on a flight and might do anything to keep them quiet!
I think you’ve done an amazing job. When I was pregnant with my first child I read an article that gave several examples of types of parenting and how your children will turn out with them. The one that stuck out to me and I tried to follow was high discipline and high love will produce well balanced children. I enjoyed these posts very much, thank you!
Love the info and the methods!
I disagree with having no rewards, however. But I can understand where you’re coming from. I just find that God both rewards me for doing good/ right and punishes me for doing bad/ wrong. So I try to do the same with my kids. I find it’s good to use rewards for a specific period of time, like a “Yes Ma’m Chart” to get a habit established, then once it’s ingrained and just part of what they say, you can ease up and just use consequences if they start to use “yes ma’m” in a snotty way (which hasn’t happened yet, but the oldest is only 3.)
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