When our daughter was a toddler, people were constantly amazed she never pitched a fit. It wasn’t because she was spoiled or because she was too terrified of us to want to get her way. She could be as stubborn as any toddler. She just never had a full tantrum. Finally, one of my friends with older children, told me she had figured out my secret. (Mind you I didn’t know at that point I had one!) “You are interacting with your child on a level where you are catching her before she crosses that line into tantrum mode.”
Want to cut your discipline issues drastically? Catch your kids while they are still in temptation mode and nip it in the bud. Just like it is almost impossible to stop a toddler in full tantrum mode, it’s very difficult to get through to a child or a teen who is already well into the middle of their disobedience and sin. (Disobeying a parent is sinful, because it is rebellion, not necessarily because your rule itself is a “sin” issue.)
I have seen the scene play out in public more times than I can count. A child is obviously over-tired/hungry and about ready to snap. Often I watch as the child tries multiple times in rather polite ways to get the attention of their parent. Meanwhile, the parent is almost completely oblivious to their child and his needs. I have even watched as children were far enough behind parents to be easily lost or grabbed or whose parents literally run them into poles or door frames.
Then for whatever reason, the parent asks the child to do something. Or denies the child the food he wants. Or any other sort of circumstance that can put parents and children at odds. I can see it in the eyes of the child. I would guess you have thirty seconds to two minutes while the child is tempted to snap, disobey or go into tantrum mode. If you can catch the child while those wheels are still turning with a loving, but firm “Don’t even think about it”, you would be amazed at how many times it works.
First it startles the child out of self absorbed mode for a moment as she attempts to figure out what just happened. Secondly, it reminds her you are the parent and have certain expectations of behavior from your children. Finally, it reminds her there are consistent consequences for disobedience in your home. (If not, check past posts on discipline for help!) Of course, it is also important to try to keep your children fed and rested as much as possible. A well rested child is much more likely to be a well behaved child.
Please, I beg of you, do not allow your child to cross the line into disobedience and then start counting. The only thing more ineffective than missing the line and trying to stop bad behavior after it starts is counting. Your child should be expected to comply with your rules the very first time you ask. If there are extenuating circumstances, you should give them a fair hearing (whining doesn’t count). Counting, however, tells your children they can continue to misbehave until you snap and suddenly decide to give consequences or give up out of exhaustion or because you couldn’t think of any more fractions between two and three.
The next time you are out or even home with your child, try to stay engaged. Notice the signs when they need food or a nap. Figure out what their faces look like when they are tempted to misbehave. Then stay engaged in the future when you are with your child. Give those warnings before your child misbehaves (only one though – first time compliance is just as important then too – think about your child running in front of a car and you will understand why). You may just find behavior in your house improves quite a bit!