Preventative Discipline-Education, Limits/Boundaries

If you've been waiting for this post, I apologize. It's just such a broad topic, and I have so much to say about it that it's taken weeks of notes, organizing, and drafting to come to some type of sense. Thanks for your patience.

This has become too big for a single post, so I've broken it into to general areas of discipline problems: Prevention (A proactive approach to discipline) and Intervention (What to do if you need help undoing some mistakes you've made.) I'm not an expert, but I do have the following credentials:

*Mom of two healthy, well-adjusted, respectful teens
*BS Degree in Human Development
*Masters Degree in Special Education
*More than 15 years experience working with students with emotional/behavioral disabilities
*10 years experience teaching special ed
*Married to a man with ADD (just kidding; he's never been diagnosed, though I have my suspicions)

To me, there are many proactive things you can do to raise happy, healthy, disciplined children. This post is focused on that. I've narrowed my focus on the topic of preventing discipline problems to six themes, followed by the dates that I will post them here on this page (with links from Half-Past Kissin' Time) :

Education (today)
Limits/Boundaries (today)
Attention (1/14/09)
Follow-thru/Consistency (1/15/09)
Planning and Structure (1/19/09)

After that: Discipline Intervention (Problem-solving. Email me with any questions, and I'll work them in!)

Discipline means teaching. When it comes to discipline and parenting, I believe strongly that most of us need some guidance before embarking on parenthood. Even most grade schoolers are smart enough to know when adults are not confident/competent parents. If you are not competent, it's your responsibility to gain competence. My own background in Human Development helped me tremendously in my later parenting. Learning, for example, that an infant is not willful gave me a perspective that kept me from shaking my son when he was a colicky baby (and I thought about it sometimes, believe me; I gained a new-found respect for single parents and teen parents during that time!) Knowing about and understanding each stage in the development of children will give you confidence and tools for being the best parent you can be.

I'm not saying you have to go to school to be a parent; there are many resources available (including grandparents, other family, books, etc.) If you had poor role models for parenting, don't just decide to do the opposite; get educated. Get therapy if it's relevant. I believe strongly that parenting situations that bring out the extreme emotions in us (anger, sadness) come from a place of unresolved issues of our own. Addressing those issues through education and/or therapy are a gift to your children.

Mr.4444 and I took our parenting roles very seriously when we embarked on this "trip." The "bible" that I read cover to cover back when Kyle was a baby was Kids Are Worth It, by Barbara Coloraso. We even met Dr. Coloraso at a speaking engagement. Even though some of her ideas were focused on older kids, we put her overall philosophy into practice from the start and continue to use it today. I feel so strongly about the value in Barbara Coloraso's book, that I wrote to her recently and asked if she would like to participate in a giveaway to celebrate my 444th post, and Guess what?! She said yes! (more on that in another post soon!)

So, to sum that up; ignorance is not a good excuse, and parenting is serious business. Getting educated about it is key to being the best parent you can be.

We've all seen other people's children who have no respect for anyone or any thing. Children need guidance, and in the absence of guidance, they feel afraid. Because they are human beings, they will cope with that fear by behaving badly. Kids want to know that someone competent and strong is in charge. Imagine the fear that consumes a young child who knows that his/her parents aren't in charge, so he is. A screaming child is a frightened child, begging for some adult to take control. Be the adult; set limits on their behaviors.

As much as children test boundaries, they do so to find out the limits. Knowing there are limits provides them security. Secure kids are happy, well-behaved kids. Don't be afraid to say no or to be unpopular with your children. Do not act like your child deserves an explanation for every denial of their desires. Sometimes, "Because I said so" is the right thing to say. Soften it with, "Because I am the adult and you are the child," if you must, but do not cave to your child's demands for an explanation, unless you want to argue. I promise you, setting boundaries for your child in your home will help them when it comes time to appreciate boundaries in the real world.

What kind of boundaries? Boundaries between what belongs to adults and what belongs to kids, for example. Personal boundaries, like leaving you alone when you're in the restroom. One example is knocking on closed bedroom doors before entering. We always do this for our kids, and they do the same for us. My kids have never dug through my purse or used something of mine without asking. Boundaries regarding what is on the television for adults, and what is for kids is yet another example of teaching kids that they are not little adults and that our job is to teach them respect for all kinds of boundaries. Even making your child sit in a carseat or wear a seatbelt is a lesson about boundaries. They are never too young to learn this.

Laughing at your child's behavior is also somewhat related to teaching boundaries and limits. I know some of you are going to see yourselves in this, and I'm sorry about that, but it has to be said. If your kid drops a bad word and you laugh, you are causing yourself problems, as well as your kids. You are reinforcing poor behavior. If you don't mind having bratty kids, by all means, keep laughing. And that is not to say that Mr.4444 and I have never laughed at naughty behavior on the part of our kids, but when it happens, you have to turn away or go into another room. I know, it's hilarious on one level, but you can't teach your kids that obnoxious behavior is charming. Laughing together about misbehavior does create a kind of family bond, but it is an unstable foundation. Find other ways to bond as a family.

In addition, teaching that poor social skills outside the home are funny is a parenting mistake, in my opinion. If you think being a redneck idiot/farting/burping/attention-getting person is cute, consider if you ever want your kids to have friends other than you. [Disclaimer: Just so you know, other than the redneck thing, we are pretty uncivilized at my house on a daily basis. There's a lot of noises going on in my house quite regularly, but my kids know that there is a time and place for belching the alphabet.]

I also believe that parents need to have boundaries. Mommy and Daddy are going to have Adult time after 7pm. My kids were in bed by 7pm when they were small. I needed that for my sanity, and they obviously needed it, too, since they were asleep by eight and slept til 6 or so. Even when they were old enough to complain about their friends outside playing til 9pm, they still went to sleep. You are the adults. It is your house. You set the rules. Don't let your kids decide the rules.

Obviously, I can't solve the world's problems in one blog post, but I hope I have offered some insights that are helpful to parents. My own kids are almost 14 and 17, so I'm certainly not out of the woods yet, but I feel like my philosophy has served me well so far. If you have a specific question related to raising kids, I would be happy to answer it to the best of my ability. Leave it in your comment, and I will build it into a future post.

P.S. I'm sorry if you are dealing with child-rearing problems related to divorce; I understand that you, as a parent, might not have control over the behavior of your spouse with your children. That one is out of my realm of experience, and my heart goes out to you.

I'm really excited about putting these ideas out there, as they have served me very well. If you'd like to read my thoughts on Respect and Family Identity click on those subjects. And if you have other thoughts on the preventative discipline topics of Education or Limit Setting/Boundaries, feel free to share.

Next topic: Attention


nonna said...

this is great! i hope i can get my s.daughter interested in reading these. i was brought up the way you are "instructing"?? and i think it served me well also.

my s.daughter wasn't. i'm sure you saw the video that the g-kid made. i totally disagree with several of the lyrics and mentioned that i had put a disclaimer regarding those lyrics to my s.daughter. i could tell that she thought it was stupid that anybody would find them inappropriate and said "oh please, he's just a 3 y/o". i dropped it because i didn't want to cause any problems, and i was afraid any critism would be taken the wrong way.

can you think of a response, or a gentle way to explain to her that teaching a 3 y/o to ask "you want some of this, do you see these fists, etc.." is inappropriate. she is also doing the whole laughing at the bad words (which she is obviously using in front of him).

help! i know we can't control what the baby daddy does, but i want to help her to understand the consequences of what she is teaching/allowing to happen.

Anonymous said...

I have got to get my husband to read this blog. I am so glad that I found it. I have a 17y/o S-daughter that just loves to play the victim. I raised my 3 sons just as you described. My sons oldest is now 27 and now in the Marines just home from Iraq, second son is 26 and just got engaged, sadly my youngest son was killed when he was 18, that was 5 years ago. We have had custody of My Husbands daughter for 7 years. Her mother is a piece of trash. Anyway over the last 2 years this beautiful young girl has changed so much. You can't believe a word that comes out of her mouth. She has ran away from home. Failed her whole junior year. was stealing her Dads hard liquor and replacing it with water. Bad thing is he keeps it in the freezer. You guessed it. Broken glass. She became and alcoholic. I was trying to tell my husband something was going on with her, that he needed to talk to her, I had tried, She would come home from school and sleep. There are too many things that I wish I could say, I just would rather they were not in an open post, We tried counseling for her, but she lied to the counselor. First day back to school after Christmas break she cut a class. I had already told her, this type of behavior would not be tolerated in my home. My husband keeps asking me what he should do, but never listens to my advise, so do you have an email address that I can contact you at and do you have any advice that I can beat my husband over the head with?

Mrs4444 said...

Nonna, I would ask her if she would think it cute when he is in his teens and saying the same thing, even when she asks him to stop, because he thinks it's funny.

I also have a philosophy that if something doesn't fit with our family's values, then we don't invite it into our home. For example, music with lyrics that are over the top or TV shows that are idiotic (or, obviously, rated above our kids' levels). If these lyrics fit with your daughter's values, then she will embrace them and there is little you can do, unless she asks for help. I would focus on being an oasis for your grandson; a home that is loving and supportive (of him AND his mom :) and that provides limits that make him feel secure.

Anonymous, I'm so sorry for the loss of your son. My best friend lost her 3rd son in October, and I've witnessed the depths of grief I hope I never see again. You are in my prayers. As for your step-daughter, my email is in my profile, but I'm not sure that I would suggest anything different than what you've tried; professional help is in order for her. Your husband needs to get involved in that (counseling)and reach out to his daughter personally. It has to be tough watching her life spiral like that. Al-Anon is good resource for people dealing with the addictions of family members; you should consider attending a meeting and/or reading some of their suggested resources. Good luck!

Mandy said...

I LOVE YOU! Thank you so much for posting a series on this topic! I totally agree with everything you have said (so does my Mom--my discipline coach)! My friends think I am crazy having my kids in bed at 7. I NEED TIME with my husband! That has always been our rule. I feel like I have set limits and Frick follows them to a T, but Frack...oh my sweet Frack. He is from a different mold! He is testing me every day. Thank you for the reassurance. I cannot wait for more posts.

BrandyEllen said...

I think this is so wonderful. I look forward to reading your series and since this fits right in with my Ask Brandy Ellen blog I posted up a link for my readers to come read your wonderful series. If you want to check it out you can here: ((HUGS))

Liz said...

I'm very much looking forward to this series.

I absolutely agree on the Education thing. I get so frustrated when a parent immediately poo-poo's a suggestion simply because I reference a book. I get tired of hearing "I don't parent from books, books don't know my kid, etc."

I read a vast amount of books with a variety of viewpoints. And when I find something in there that really works, I stick to it, make it part of my recipe box, so to speak, and I share what works for us.

Can I suggest some reading? Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller. Google either one of them- the content of their websites is identical, I think. They have written books on Parent Talk, Couples Talk, Teacher Talk. They focus on the power of language as a parneting tool... and more than that... that the words we choose to use have immense influence. The 2 books that I read the most frequently, that have been most influential for me, are "The Only 3 Discipline Solutions You Will Ever Need" and "The 10 Commitments."

Mrs4444 said...

Wow, Liz! Those books sound like excellent resources. I'm definitely going to find them! Thanks.

You're welcome! :) We moms have to stick together!!

Thanks, Brandy. I will definitely check out your site when I am at home :)

Karen said...

What a great idea!!!

I think that what you have written, is extremely good advice.

I agree withy you that parenting is something that you need to prepare for. Good parenting is not an inborn instinct, especially in our modern age.

In my observations, the biggest parental skills that are missing/underused in the kids that I deal with, is setting limits and boundries.

We have one little boy, in the second grade class I volunteer in on Fridays, who is extremely rude and disobedient to his mother.

She noticed that he was really polite and obedient with me and mentioned that she wished he was like that with her.

I told her that he had been rude to me. At which point, I got down to his level, told him that he had to look me in my eyes and that we were going to sit here until he did. Then I told him that being rude.disobedient was unacceptable, that I would not tolerate that behaviour from him and that if he continured it, there would be consequences.

He kind of sneered at me and told me that I couldn't do anythingat which point I took his recess away for the rest of the day. The team teachers backed me up.

He's been extremely polite ever since.

To me, there are a number of important things taking place there..

Making limits clear ..

Setting consequences and sticking to them..

Being backed up by other adults..

Look forward to the resat of the series !!!

Mrs4444 said...

Kids love adults who make them feel safe and with whom they know what to expect. Right Karen? Thanks for adding your story.

Amy Amy Bo Bamey said...

So very well said.

I could not agree more with the parent time. My daughter is 10 and is still in bed at 8 although all her friends go to bed by 10. Bedtime has always been 8 with my kids and they have never had a problem with it. It is our time to relax, unwind and enjoy each others company.

I can't wait to follow up on all our other posts about this.

diana said...

great post. sounds like you know your stuff. i look forward to reading more on this subject.

i was a youth worker for 8 years and i think i understand a lot from a teenager's point of view. i just wish i could share that knowledge with certain parents to where they could understand the consequences of their lack of parenting. there are a lot of hurting kids out there.

the RaMbLeR said...

Awesome words of wisdom Mrs4444.

Although my boys tend to be night owls and I slack off on their bed times when it's not a school night, they still know there are boundaries. Even my 16 yr old may not still go to bed at 9:00 like the 7 yr old but he will take his quiet time to himself so we can do the same (or we are dealing with the baby...he still does not understand the rules ;) little stinker).

Dad of Divas said...

I agree completely that limits have to be set. The challenge I find is when you have a child that tests every limit that you set (and she's only 4). Yet, I know that we have to remain vigilant and strong through this period...though it is trying at times...

Adrian's Crazy Life said...

I stumbled across some of these older posts. I think you ought to repost them - these are GOLD! My kids are actually pretty well behaved because I've adhered to many of these techniques myself, but I find myself biting my tongue so much when I see my friends on twitter complaining about their kids acting so poorly, or when I see my friends not parenting their children well. I wish parents would learn some of these techniques so they would enjoy their children more. Well behaved kids can be so wonderful and fun to be around!