Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Discipline is a very personal thing. Get five parents in a room, and there will be five different lines in the sand. The goal remains the same: raising happy, confident children without any outstanding warrants or arrests (on either the child or adults' parts).

Because my son is gifted at pushing my buttons, I've read various books and polled friends and acquaintances about the best method of discipline. Then, after all this judicious research, I ended up doing what felt right to begin with. So, if you're reading this and you're not in the middle of it, save yourself some time and trust your instincts. And pray. Often.

Most importantly, for the love of all that is beautiful and holy, don't watch Supernanny or Nanny 911. These shows exist solely to undermine your self-confidence and sell more books.

If I had to nail my strategy down to a sentence or two, it would be: Shape up or face the logical consequences. I'm a BIG fan of logical consequences.

If Owen tears up a library book, he's paying for it through chores or money from his piggy bank. (Owen actually just did this, and I'm secretly relishing the fact that he will have to apologize and be humble before a librarian. I hope that I get a slightly mean one, who lets him know the Seriousness Of His Actions.)

If Owen acts like a jackass in a restaurant, we leave the restaurant and sit in the car. If Owen stalls too much before bed, he does not get his bedtime story. Logical Consequences.

A Disclaimer: Know that I lose my cool all the time (for reference, read ANY OTHER POSTING on this blog). In any event, I must share with you our newest successful discipline strategy: It's Going in the Trash Can (IGITTC)

When Owen is prepared to knock Joel out for gumming one of his seven thousand blocks, I tell him, "You let Joel play with that or IGITTC". Instant Compliance. Likewise, when Owen is suddenly too helpless to clean up his toys, a simple IGITTC threat magically revives him.

The key to this strategy is to actually throw a few things in the trash can so he understands that we'll carry out the threat. For example, Owen, who has been using the big toilet for some time now, found the potty. He decided that he wanted to once again pee and poo in the potty. The prospect of cleaning this contraption (again) was unthinkable. No potty for Owen.

Oh, the fits! The drama! The endless, relentless whining---"I neeeeeeeeeeeeed that potty! That's myyyyyyyyyyyy potty!" could very well serve along side waterboarding or incessant playings of "It's a Small World After All" as torture. So, Paul said, without anger, "Nope, the potty is going in the trash can." He loaded Owen up, drove the the dump, and chucked the potty into the dumpster, right before his eyes.

Owen was not happy. This is perhaps was not the most ecologically sound choice. Additionally we'll have to buy a new potty when it's time to potty train Joel. But, oh, did it work.

I had to use this strategy just the other day. We were at the store, and Owen was being delightful, so I let him pick out a treat: Wonder Pets Fruit Snacks. On the way home from the store, Owen ate a package. He asked for another.

"No," I said, "We're going to go home and eat lunch."

"Wonder Pets Crackers! [I know--he decided to call them crackers] Now, Mommy!"

"No, Owen," I said.

"NOOOOOW!" he cried, his little hands clenched into fists.

"If you ask me again, Owen, the Wonder Pets Crackers are going bye-bye."

"Mommy, give me Wonder Pets Crackers NOW!"

I did not respond. Owen took off his Green Croc and threw it in my general direction.

I pulled over the car. We were on a side street, next to a farm. I picked up the box of fruit snacks. I opened the door, placed them gently on the ground, and drove away.

Owen proceeded to lose his shit. I said nothing, and let the consequence do the teaching.

So, IGITTC works as a strategy, but an unintended consequence is that Owen thinks his parents are loony. Just a few minutes ago, I was helping Owen pull his pants up. "Mommy, " he said, "please don't flush my underwear down the toilet."

"Owen, why would I do that?"

"I don't know. But please don't, Mommy."

I didn't know what to say. So, I said the first thing that popped into my mind, "Make sure you're a good boy, so you can keep your underpants."


Alice said...

I worked with a woman who literally threw all of her school age sons' clothing out the second story window when they didn't get it off the floor as requested. Then it rained.

I was always jealous that she was able to do that!

Her sons are now responsible adults and don't seem to have any hang-ups or weird phobias!

Coby Goesling said...

Go Nancy! I love logical consquences, too! In a moment of parenting genius today...Jonathan refused to eat his eggs and raisins at breakfast. After over an hour of sitting in his chair, staring at them, I got him down and let him play as usual. Guess what he ate for lunch?

I hope he doesn't grow to hate eggs!

Anonymous said...

Cara used a little natural consequence on me today... or was it badassery? When I got off the phone with my mom, she took the phone into the bathroom, where Josh was doing his business and tossed it into the now infested waters. Guess I had been on the phone quite long enough!

Tom Mohrman said...

This made me laugh out loud twice.
Go Nancy!
Also seems like sound parenting advice. I'm so glad I'll have you to rely on for wisdom when and if I have offspring.