My friend Jen just posted a blog post about "time- out's" that got Matt and I talking. Jen is a great mama who loves her girls a ton and I am so happy they have a system that works for there family. That got me thinking about what works in our family.
Our discipline strategy is different for every kid and every age. With Eliana we have some expectations. She is big enough to use words to let us know what is wrong and mature enough to have some self control. She is not, however, quite old enough to always stay on task without help, not melt down when she is really hungry or tired, and she is still learning what "truth" is.
I don't believe in disciplining children for things that they are still learning. For instance, if I ask Elie to do something and she blows me off, she gets in trouble for not obeying. But if I ask her to do something and she only gets it half done before getting side tracked, I will help her by reminding her to stay on task or setting a timer to keep her focused. My goal is not punitive, but instructive, my goal not being superiority but helping her to figure out how to grow into a little girl who can finish what she starts.
For being mean to her sister she is removed from the situation for not being a good friend, she has to go play by herself. I don't force apologies because I don't think it speaks to the heart and it is to easy to have them become power struggles. I strongly suggest saying "sorry" if you have hurt someone to make things right and usually my girls will do it, often without being told.
Addilyn is different than Elie, not only in personality but in age, so our expectaions are different for her. She is still learning self control and still learning to say words instead of coming unglued. We don't punish for her for throwing fits because that doesn't teach her anything. If she is upset to the point she is on the floor we do one of two things: if we catch it before complete melt down she is told to stand up and we get eye level and help her find the words. If all out fit is all ready started, we remove her from the situation. She is allowed to have her emotions and express them, she is not allowed to make everyone miserable as she does it. After giving her a few minutes to blow off steam, we help her get herself together. It is pointless to put her in her bed until she can "behave". If she was able to get herself together, she would have, but she is still learning. We help her take deep breaths and snuggle her until she can find the words for what she was so upset about.
For hitting or general unkindness, she is also removed from the situation. We talk about being kind when she has calmed down and again suggest making things right. If she is not inclined to obey, we just help her so she understands it isn't a choice.
Annabelle is an entirely different story. At almost one, she can sometimes be demanding, loud and can even throw fits with the best of them, all things she SHOULD be doing at a year old. We try to keep our reactions both age appropriate and logical. If she throws food from her tray at a meal she is told sternly "food is not for throwing". When she does it again, she is removed from the table. If the meal isn't over, she may try again in a few minutes. For throwing a fit she is picked up and distracted. There is no point in telling her not to when she is too little to be able to control her emotions, get herself together or understand. We do our best to help try and understand her needs so she doesn't get to the melt down stage.
Basically, we try to respect where are children are developmentally. I try to keep in mind that self control is something that is developed over time with age, not punishment and that "truth" is something that can only be understood when a child is old enough to understand the difference between real and pretend. We believe respect is learned by example, that children have a right to there emotions and empathy comes with age and maturity.
Fits are normal for all kids who are learning how to deal with powerful emotion and I know many a grown-up who still loses there cool from time to time. The rule with fits is two fold: one, you won't get what your throwing a fit about and two, you can't make everyone else miserable just because your mad. I will always help you regain your cool so that as you age you have the tools to do it yourself. We try not to discipline a child for things they are not yet able to control, no matter how frustrating we find them. We rarely spank, almost never do a "time-out" on a child but have been known to put a toy there, and try to focus on what we are teaching instead of what we are punishing.
Some families choose to bring God into the discipline process, we don't. Our big focus is that "God is love". As children get older they are able to better understand that because God loves us he has rules for us, right now that is just not something we are ready to shove down our kids throats. We do talk about loving behavior, about God loving us no matter what we do and about expectations, but I don't want my kids thinking God being the big man in the sky who they are always disappointing until they are able to grasp a little more the depth of his love.
Parenting is an ever-changing process directed as much by personality of both parents and kids as it is by anything else. I love to watch what works for my friends, I do my best to respect the choice they make for their families. I don't have all the answers and Matt and I do our best and by the Grace of God maybe we won't end up screwing this parenting thing up.