How to Discipline without the Suffering
Small Town Mommy blogger Anne Albanese has learned the hard way that taking away privileges, like TV, can sometimes be like punishment for mom too. Since selling her two daughters when they act up in public isn't an option, Albanese tells Care.com how she is just trying to turn those "midget dictators into decent human beings"- and to leave them thinking that if she ever counts all the way to 3, it means Armageddon.
Tell us about your family.
The Small Town Family consists of two daughters, a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old (although sometimes it feels like a lot more). The 12-year-old is extremely smart, responsible and hard working while the younger one prefers to have fun.
What is your general theory on disciplining kids?
You need to start disciplining children as soon as they start misbehaving. A 2-year-old is certainly old enough to understand that she has done something wrong and receive a time out. But time outs with my younger daughter at that age didn't go so well. I read all those parenting books that said to keep her in time out until she stopped screaming. Unfortunately, she has much more endurance than I so I always caved first.
My goal with discipline is to raise my kids to be good people, and most of my discipline revolves around that. I don't want my kids to grow up to be Lindsay Lohan or the kind of person who shoots their child's laptop.
Do you think each kid responds differently to discipline? And if so, do you tailor it differently for different kids?
My kids definitely respond differently to discipline. My older daughter locks herself in her room voluntarily, so sending her to her room is completely ineffective. When she misbehaves, we have to take away something she values (like her phone, a sleepover, a party, etc.). My youngest enjoys talking (a lot) so the best way to discipline her is to send her to her room (where there is no one to talk to).
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened while trying to discipline your kids?
I guess the closest to funny would be when my youngest threatens to run away. She is quite the drama queen, so whenever she is disciplined, she insists she is leaving because no one loves her. Of course, we all love her, but she seems to believe that stance will stop the discipline from happening (it has never actually worked for her but she keeps trying).
Describe a hard lesson you have learned while disciplining your children.
Make sure they suffer more than I do. For example, taking away a week of television is way worse for me than it is for them. It requires that I entertain them all the time.
Do you have any advice for other moms so they don't make a similar mistake to one you have made?
Don't threaten to spank. Even though my kids have never been spanked, I have been known to threaten on occasion. My younger daughter seemed to take this to mean it is okay to hit people (which it is not, in case you were wondering).
Can you tell us about any advice you've received on disciplining your kids (wanted or unwanted)?
When my mother was alive, she adored my older daughter. Whenever I would tell my older daughter no, my mother would tell me to just let her do whatever she wanted. I have to imagine my daughter would have grown up to be a monster if I had followed through with that.
Where do you stand on yelling - works, doesn't work, can't help it sometimes?
Yelling definitely works for me. When I yell, the kids take me seriously. My kids are old enough to ignore what they don't want to hear so when I yell, they know I'm serious and they actually listen.
Your kids start misbehaving in public - what's your move?
I'm guessing 'sell them' isn't the correct answer here. Actually, I do the same thing I do when we are alone, except usually in a sharp whisper. I tell them if they don't start behaving, they will lose privileges.
My kids are old enough to understand that there are consequences to their actions so if they don't cooperate; things just get worse for them.
What is your best tip for moms who are having trouble disciplining their kids?
Consistency, consistency, consistency. Discipline doesn't work if you aren't consistent with it. Otherwise the kids will continue to try it in the hopes of getting away with it.
1....2...2 and a half.....3! What is your take on counting to get kids to do something?
I count to 3, and when I count my kids know I'm serious. I don't think I have ever reached 3. I supposed that's a good thing since I'm not sure what would happen when I reach 3. I think it's better to just leave them thinking 3 means Armageddon.
Do you and your spouse work as a team?
My spouse and I typically work as a team although he is much tougher than I am. He also yells more. I believe you have to be consistent with your kids or else they will continue to push to see how far they can go. My husband doesn't always follow through so sometimes the kids won't listen to him until he has to yell.
What are some important things to remember when disciplining a child?
The most important thing to remember is that it's not all about you. You need to focus on your goal (of turning those midget dictators into decent human beings) rather than the satisfaction you receive in the moment from yelling, punishing or whatever.
Small Town Mommy blogger Anne Albanese writes about living and raising her two daughters in a small town and all of the funny stories, thoughts, ideas, tips and laughs that go along with it. You can find Anne on Twitter and Facebook.
Find more discipline tips and tricks in the Care.com Interview Series: The Discipline Mistakes I've Made »