Ok, so I'm totally not a fan of Oprah but I do share her love of Dr. Phil. I almost hate to admit it but I'm developing more and more appreciation for his no-nonsense approach to life and how to deal with the challenges that come up. I recently read an article on his website called Five Steps to Disciplining Your Kids. His article sets out as a way to get through to your child when you have tried everything else and failed. But I would like to recommend that, if you're in a position to, start with these concepts from the get go. You'll save yourself a TON of heartache, and a considerable amount of headaches, if you do...


So here is Dr. Phil's list:

1. Commit Yourself.
It's crucial that your child knows that you're going to do what you say you will. If you explain what a punishment will be, and then don't act on it, you will have less credibility the next time. Make a commitment to your child's discipline, and be consistent in your behavior toward them.

2. Be Realistic in Your Expectations of Your Child.
Don't ask your child to do anything he/she cannot do. Make sure that what you are asking of your child is a behavior within his or her reach — if it's not, your child will get frustrated and be less likely to listen to you in the future.

3. Define Your Child's Currency.

Find out what your child values — it could be a toy, a particular activity, or even a privilege like getting to stay awake to a particular hour. Dr Phil explains: "If you control the currency, you control the behavior that currency depends on. "Once you understand what your child values, you can withdraw positive things (taking away the toy) or introduce negative things (making them take a time-out) as a form of discipline.

4. Give Your Children Predictable Consequences.
It's important for your child to understand that the same result will come from the same behavior. Make your child feel like he/she has control over their life: If your child behaves in "Way A," they need to be sure that they will always get "Consequence B." If he/she can count on the rules staying the same, they're more likely to abide by them.

5. Use Child-Level Logic.
Explain your values in terms your child can understand. Take the time to explain the reasons behind why you are asking he/she to behave in certain ways — if your child understands the kinds of behavior you'd like them to avoid, they're more likely to apply that reasoning to different situations, instead of learning to stop one behavior at a time. 



Being a kid is confusing and really quite exhausting if you think about it. They have to learn how to walk and talk. They have to learn how to count, identify shapes and colors. They have to learn how to sleep through the night and take naps. They have to learn how get what they want when they want it... All while dealing with us crazy adults who are constantly changing and doing things different today than they were the day before. So by following these rules as explained by Dr. Phil, you can save yourself more than a few headaches, and make life a little easier for your child.

You may be asking if these methods really are effective? I say they are. I can tell you from all my experience with kids that they LOVE to know what the boundaries are. Yes, they sometimes like to push those boundaries, but that's part of them learning and experimenting with what is acceptable and what is not. Young children innately have a desire to please and be pleased. This is why a toddler will repeat an action several times if you applaud, laugh, smile or act excited. They take your response to the action to mean that what they did was good or acceptable. This helps them start to get an idea of what the boundaries are. 

This need to please and be pleased never really goes away, it just changes a little as the child gets older. As an adolescent this turns into a need for praise and acceptance. If no praise is given at home then the kid will seek out those who they feel accepted by. This can result in them hanging out with the 'wrong crowd' and getting involved with things you would rather they had nothing to do with. Some adolescents respond by controlling themselves. This can be in the form of eating or body image disorders, picky eating, or radical changes in clothes, hair or taste in music and art. Most kids will experiment with a few of these things whether you're a good parent or not. Its just part of them trying to create an identity for themselves, but proper parental involvement can help get you and your child through it faster and without ruining your relationship.

The three major things that our favorite therapist left out, that I really wish he had discussed, is the need to remain calm, be positive, and don't be afraid to apologize.

I know when your kid does something they shouldn't it can really tick you off and put you in the mood to shout. My daughter may only be 18 months old right now but if dealing with a husband is anything like dealing with an older child, and at times I certainly believe it is, then I can tell you from experience that giving in to your emotional impulses will only escalate the situation and ensure that it takes longer to resolve the matter. This sort of escalation can also lead to us doing or saying things that can have a long term negative impact on our relationship with that person. So try to respond, rather than react. What's the difference, you ask? Have you ever heard the phrase 'knee-jerk reaction'? For those of you who may not know where that phrase came from, it comes from the reflex test you get at the doctor's office. You know, when he hits your knee with that funny little hammer and your leg kicks without you intending it to? That's what a reaction is. Its involuntary, something you're not entirely in control of. A response is thought out, its intentional, its rational. So when dealing with a situation, stop and take a second to think about how you should handle it. If you slip up and react instead of responding, be humble enough to stop yourself, apologize for your poor reaction, and start thinking about how you really should handle it. 

Be positive. This one is harder than you might think. When reading a marriage self-help book it presented the challenge to not say anything mean or negative to your spouse for a week. I was shocked to realize how much of my communication with John was negative, belittling, or rude. I would catch myself talking like that without even realizing I was doing it! After that I became much more aware of how I talk to people, children especially. They have such tender hearts, and unkind words can really damage their self esteem and worth. The words bad and stupid, and any variant of those words, are especially harmful to budding egos. Children have a hard time telling the difference between I did something bad, and I am bad. Bad children don't just happen, they are created by bad parents and/or bad parenting methods, no matter how good their intentions may have been. Instead, try introducing the concept of right and wrong choices. If they do something you dont want them to, pull them aside, explain that what they did was the wrong choice, and that next time they need to try to make the right choice. Then tell them what the right choice would have been. Encourage them by saying something like 'Let's make good choices next time, ok?'. And as always, be sure to recognize and praise your child for having done something good. You could further cement the concept of right and wrong choices by saying 'Thank you so much for making good choices!'.

This next point is quite possibly the hardest one of the three... Don't be afraid to apologize! Some people might think that this undermines your authority as a parent, but your children will love and respect you for it, I promise! You expect your child to apologize when they make a poor choice, and what better way to teach them to do that than to practice what you preach?! If you end up making a bad choice that hurts your child physically or emotionally, you should stop and take the time to apologize. Explain to your child why what you did was a bad choice. Tell them that you can tell that what you did hurt their feelings, and you're sorry. And ASK THEM TO FORGIVE YOU! Its ok for your child to know you're only human and can make mistakes too. Would you think less of your boss for apologizing to you for having said something rude or thoughtless to you? Probably not. You'd probably have greater respect and loyalty to your boss for demonstrating that though they are in charge, your feelings matter and are important to them. As it is with children. They will see your apology as an expression of your love and concern for them and their happiness.  It will also help teach them that their actions also have an affect on other people, that they should be aware of those affects, and apologize when those actions have hurt someone. A total win-win situation!
 


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