Having to discipline your children is one of the crappiest parts of parenting. Everyone gets bummed out and then you accidentally take away their screen time for the rest of their lives, and nobody really wants that to happen. I don’t like it when they feel bad, but failing is a part of being a human, so I’d rather they fail epically now than when they are making bigger decisions for their lives.
But because we hate to discipline so much — but we also don’t want our kids to grow up to be dangerous or indifferent asshats — my husband and I have tried to get a little creative with the whole thing.
Here are some of the methods of discipline we’ve used over the years:
1. Talking Very Quietly and Calmly
I have this one absolutely nailed. Nothing is scarier than a super calm mom talking to you after you have just purposefully sprayed your sister in the face with a hose. It’s even better if you get right down to their level and talk cryptically into their ear, “You’re going to apologize now and beg for forgiveness, or you know, we will have to talk more. Later.” I don’t know what comes later because that’s usually all it takes.
2. Tit for Tat
Letting his sister spray him back works too.
3. Garbage Bags
This is my favorite for getting kids to clean up their toys. It usually happens after I’ve been asking them to help out for awhile and I’m tired of them ignoring me. I used to just quietly get a garbage bag and start tossing toys in. Now, all I have to say is, “Oh, that’s okay. I’ll just clean them up myself.” They move very quickly after that.
4. The Trifecta of Manual Labor: Pulling Weeds, Cleaning Toilets, Washing Floors
We have had a nice hot summer guaranteeing that the thistles in our yard have come out in droves. So, the other day our kids were acting a little whinier than usual, complaining about their perfectly privileged and protected lives. It got very old very quickly so we had them put on long pants and gloves and go outside and start picking thistles. Picking thistles sucks. Afterward, they were like beautiful magic angel children for about 24 hours. Never underestimate a little light manual labor for a much-needed attitude adjustment.
5. Letting the Injured Party Choose
Having the injured or offended sibling pick out the discipline works sometimes. They have to be old enough to realize that what goes around comes around, of course.
6. Picking Out the Discipline Themselves
They will usually be harder on themselves than you would have been, but don’t ever admit to that.
7. Duct Tape
We used to duct tape our son’s favorite stuff to the wall when he was being a little shit. For some reason, this felt satisfying, which probably means it was either brilliant or totally the wrong thing to do. I’m sure you guys will let me know if it was the latter.
8. Warn Them of Pending Consequences
“If I have to deal with your crazy anymore, I’m going to be way too tired for the pool.” And, if they continue to be crazy, please for the love of God, follow through with not going to the pool. No guilt. I feel like not following through is the single most damaging mistake we all make. And it only takes once, because those little shits have great Spidey senses for a pushover parent and then they will walk all over you for the rest of their lives.
This technique was passed on to me by my own parents. When the kids start acting crazy, we make them run around the outside of the house. Rain or shine. We pick a number and count. It doesn’t take long.
10. Not Getting to Play Together
You’ll never see any children who want to play together more than children who have to be in separate rooms from each other. Thwarted wanting is a powerful thing and when their time is up, they will be nice to each other for at least five minutes. That’s all been scientifically proven, I’m sure.
11. Be Scary Every Once in Awhile
I mean, I think they need to understand that there is a crazy lady living inside of you that only comes out on very rare occasions. This lady isn’t swatting anybody’s butt, she’s just kinda wild-eyed and had enough of everyone’s shit.
Discipline means different things for everyone and I’m sure some people will get their panties in a twist over how we do it. But, you know, kids are pretty resilient, so I’m pretty sure our kids will survive our way of doing things.
Just do something, please. For them, for you, and for the world in general.