I’ve tried many methods of disciplining children over the decades (yes, I’ve been a mom of three different 3-year-olds over a period that’s spanned 20 years). And I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. It’s not that complicated or hard; however, it takes patience, and confidence in the importance of being a consistent parent.
My third 3-year-old is almost four. Soon I won’t need to remember how to discipline a child. But for now, it’s still a fresh, often daily occurrence in my house. When you are a kid, there are all sorts of obstacles on the road to becoming a civilized person. These 5 tips work for handling all sorts of petty crimes:
1. First, check to see if the child is tired or hungry. Most childhood misbehavior stems from these two primal needs—the need for food, and the need for sleep. Food is easy: Get some in them (healthy food, of course, like fruit, cheese, or crackers, or a cup of milk). I am often shocked that fighting and screaming children, after a snack, turn into singing and laughing children. If they are tired, give them a snack before you either make them take a nap or make them have “quiet time” on the bed or in a comfortable place (not just in front of the TV—although that does work, which is why kids today watch far too much TV).
2. Threaten to count to three. For some odd reason, this trick has been my most effective, powerful disciplining tool, and it still works on my 28-year-old. Let’s say someone is doing something you want her to stop (or, let’s say you want her to pick something up and she is resisting). Give the child a stern look, and in a fierce but quiet voice say “I’m counting to three. One…two…two and a half…two and three quarters….” Rarely, if ever, do I get to three. Ironically, it is my third child who has gotten to three more times than all the others combined. What happens when they get to three? See point 3.
Next: 3 more ways to discipline a child