Monthly Archives: February 2010

My discipline plan

As promised, here is my discipline plan. You’ll notice that it’s fairly simple and straightforward which is what you want. You don’t want a discipline plan that’s so complicated it’s hard to be consistent.

Discipline plan goals

As discussed in my last post about creating a discipline plan, here are my goals with my discipline plan:

  • Start with my kids’ worst and most chronic behaviors
  • Choose discipline methods that teach a lesson and that aren’t hard for me to follow through with
  • Be specific in describing the behavior and the discipline method
  • Post it in an accessible place (my kitchen)
  • Make it a living document. I have a huge white board in my kitchen and I can very easily revise the discipline plan as needed.

My discipline plan

Here’s how it is written on my white board:

William (age 5)

  • Misbehavior: Intentionally hurt your brother.
  • Discipline: Immediate timeout for at least 10 minutes, followed by apologies to Lucas and mommy.
  • Misbehavior: Snatch toys from your brother.
  • Discipline: I take the toy (and all others like it) away for at least 24 hours.
  • Misbehavior: Slow in cleaning up after roomtime
  • Discipline: I take those toys away until he can show me better obedience. All of his Legos are currently sitting on my dresser and will probably stay there for a few days.

Lucas (age 2)

  • Misbehavior: Throw food or silverware from highchair.
  • Discipline: Immediate timeout, followed by clean up and apologies to mommy.
  • Misbehavior: Whining and fussing.
  • Discipline: Verbal reminder to be happy while withholding whatever he wants.

Notes for mom and dad

At the bottom of my discipline plan, I include reminder notes for my husband and myself. These notes address our weaknesses and help us remember how to fairly and effectively discipline our kids.

Mommy: Follow through the first time!

Daddy: Stop repeating and call their names first!

Is this it?

You may wonder if this is the extent of the discipline that goes on in our home. Certainly not! There are several other misbehaviors and discipline methods that go on in our home, but these misbehaviors are not chronic enough that I need to include them in my discipline plan. If they go on for any length of time, I will add them to our plan. But remember, one of your primary goals in creating a discipline plan is focusing on just two or three misbehaviors so you can effectively and consistently address them. Keep it simple!

Take the time to create your discipline plan and see how it can help keep you focused.

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Create a discipline plan

As with everything in life, success in parenting comes with practice and planning. When you have a plan for discipline, you are not caught off guard by your child’s misbehavior and can respond with the most effective method of discipline. A discipline plan will allow you to:

  • Remain calm in the face of your child’s worst behaviors.
  • Issue a punishment that fits the crime.
  • Ensure consistency.
  • Get to the root of misbehaviors with discipline that teaches a lesson.

Identify chronic misbehaviors

Your first step in creating a discipline plan is identifying your child’s worst and most chronic misbehaviors. Think back a week or two. Pay attention over the next few days. Does your toddler drop his spoon from the highchair after every meal? Does your preschooler give you attitude every time you pick him up from school? Does your preteen frequently forget his lunch?

Be as specific as possible when identifying misbehaviors so you won’t have any problem recognizing them when they happen again.

Identify at least one misbehavior, but try to limit it to four or five. You want to do this for yourself and your child. You don’t want to exacerbate your child by disciplining for too many misbehaviors at once. And you don’t want to feel so overwhelmed that things are so bad you might as well not even try.

Decide on an effective discipline method

Once you have identified your child’s problematic behaviors, sit down to decide which forms of discipline are most effective. If you’re unsure, start small. Perhaps a verbal admonishment (and consistency) is all he needs for one particular misbehavior. But if it’s a behavior that’s been going on for months and none of your other methods have worked to eliminate it, perhaps a more painful consequence will be more effective.

Again, be as specific as possible. Think through how long you will take away his toys or how many days he will go without TV privileges. If you determine that a timeout is the best discipline method, write down the steps to implement one effectively.

The most important consideration when deciding on discipline methods is choosing one you can follow through on without hesitation. If you’re reluctant to take away your child’s favorite toy (and you know you would have a hard time in the heat of the moment), don’t use that as one of your discipline methods. You want to choose methods that you can be consistent with even in your weakest moments.

Post your discipline plan

Post your discipline plan somewhere in the house where you can refer to it often. You don’t want to go through all this work only to forget it all. Post it on the refrigerator or a kitchen cabinet.

Make your discipline plan a living document

Your discipline plan will change as your child does. As you conquer one misbehavior, you can cross it off the list and add another. Be sure to stay on top of your child’s misbehaviors and not ignore the ones that aren’t on your plan. Make notes on your plan about whether the discipline method you chose has been working and how long the misbehavior has been going on. If the behavior doesn’t go away in a week or two, it’s time to choose a new discipline method. Or you may discover that one discipline method you chose is too harsh for the misbehavior. Your discipline plan is not set in stone. Make notes and change it as you see fit.

In my next post, I’ll share my discipline plan with you.

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What’s so wrong with the traditional timeout?

In my previous posts about timeouts, I didn’t delve too deeply into why exactly the Ezzos don’t believe in timeouts as they are typically done in our culture. Here is an explanation, straight out of the book:

“Using timeouts, as culturally practiced, is not an effective substitute for repeated offenses that call for correction. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, using timeouts as a primary method of punishment is one of the least satisfactory types of consequence. There are two reasons behind this statement.

“First, the child seldom associates sitting in a chair with the act for which he is being punished since the frustration of the parent is usually a more dominant factor in the situation than the act itself. As a result, the child tends to associate parental frustration with timeouts rather than with the wrong deed itself. The child is not sitting in a chair contemplating the benefits of a virtuous life, nor is he beating his chest and chanting, ‘Oh, what a sinner I am,’” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, page 151.

Focus on the behavior, not your frustration

The Ezzos make a very good point about the parent’s frustration becoming the focus of the timeout. I would say that this applies to any form of discipline where parents lose their cool. When you get angry with your child, he will likely point the finger at you rather than himself. He will sit in his timeout thinking about how angry and unfair you are being without thinking about his own actions and what caused the conflict in the first place. It becomes a blame game, and in his head, you are the one to blame.

On the other hand, when you are calm and administer fair discipline, the child has no one to blame but himself. The lack of anger (from the parent and child) allows everyone the clarity they need to see the situation at face value. It allows the child to take blame for his own actions and come to a point of repentance. Any hatred or anger toward the parent is completely eliminated.

Let the punishment fit the crime

The Ezzos make another point about cultural timeouts:

“Second, there is little to no punishment-equivalent. A five-minute timeout for hitting his sister with his hard plastic bat taught Stevie the wrong value for his offense. From the experience, he learned that the pain and bruise to his sister was equal in value to five minutes in the chair,” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, page 151.

With our discipline methods, we need to show our children the seriousness of their crimes. And every family has its own value system. In our home, the two biggest offenses are disrespecting your parents and lying. In choosing a discipline method for such offenses, I am able to communicate the seriousness of the action. If I did a timeout of one minute per year of age (see my previous description of the Supernanny method) for every misbehavior, I wouldn’t be able to communicate the seriousness of the offense. I could do so with my words—which works to some extent—but as with everything in parenting, actions speak louder than words.

Don’t allow your child to weigh the odds

The other problem with using a timeout for every misbehavior is that the child will weigh the odds. If he knows what’s coming when he disobeys, he may choose that it’s worth it to sit in timeout for five minutes if he can sneak a cookie or even tell a lie against his sibling. When we mix up our discipline methods, we keep our kids on their toes and always use a discipline method that will send the right message and teach the right lesson.

Don’t forget these important points the next time you administer a timeout or any other type of consequence.

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Timeout tips

In my last post, I compared the cultural perception of timeouts with timeouts the Ezzo way. Here I’ll offer some tips on how to implement this form of timeout.

Briefly, here is what you don’t want to do:

  • Have him sit for the sake of sitting
  • Have him sit in or near the main area of the house
  • Chase after him to make him sit when he won’t
  • Issue a set time limit of one minute per year of age
  • Tell your child what he did wrong
  • Require a simple “sorry” by way of apology
  • Ignore the state of the child’s heart
  • Give hugs and kisses and assume all is right

When you do timeouts the Ezzo way, you want to:

  • Isolate him by sending him to his room or some other spot away from the main activity of the house
  • Seek a happy and repentant heart
  • Determine the length of the time out based on how long it takes for your child’s heart to be in the right place
  • Allow your child to determine how long he needs to sit
  • Rely on first-time obedience to keep your child in his timeout
  • Have your child tell you want he did wrong, not the other way around
  • Have your child offer a sincere apology
  • Have him apologize to others he offended or have him right the wrong in some other way
  • Follow these tips whether you’re at home or at the store, a friend’s house, in the car, at the park, etc.

Putting these ideas into practice will vary depending on your child’s age. Here is how timeouts work in my home:

My 5-year-old

When William does something wrong, I will immediately send him to his room to sit on his bed. I don’t issue warnings (he’s old enough to know what he’s doing), yell or repeat myself. He’s not allowed to do anything while sitting (play with a toy, read a book or listen to music). If he goes reluctantly, that’s my indication that I will likely need to set a time limit, and I will tell him he will sit twice as long if he doesn’t go right away. I don’t chase after him, drag him by the hand or even follow him upstairs. (Here is where all your work in achieving first-time obedience pays off.)

While he’s sitting, I will walk by his room or peek in on him with the video monitor to check the look on his face. If he’s still angry, I’ll keep him there. If he seems peaceful and ready to repent, I will go in to talk to him.

When I talk to him, I don’t tell him what he did wrong. I have him look me in the eye and tell me. At five years old, he knows what he did wrong. There are times when he won’t look me in the eye, or he will say he doesn’t know or that he forgets. When I hear this, I will walk away and tell him I will come back when he can tell me what he did wrong. I know he knows. When this happens, it’s usually something serious that he did that he really doesn’t want to own up to or say out loud.

When he’s ready and willing to tell me what he did wrong, I will ask him why it was wrong. This is where your moral training pays off. You want a true reason. Something along the lines of “I disrespected you” or “My unkindness hurts my brother’s feelings” is acceptable. You need more than just “It’s wrong” or “It’s bad.”

When I can tell that he’s sincerely repented his actions and knows why they were wrong, we will talk about what he can do to make it right. Usually, this involves looking me in the eye and saying, “I’m sorry for ____.” If he hurt his brother, I will require him to offer his brother a sincere apology while looking him in the eye. There is more to this idea of restoration, which I will discuss in a future post.

Once he has apologized, I will offer my forgiveness by giving him a hug. This allows us to wipe the slate clean and not hold any grudges, which is a huge motivation in disciplining your child.

My 2-year-old

Timeouts are very different for Lucas, who is just 2. His timeouts happen in his crib upstairs or in the playpen we have set up downstairs. When he is old enough to be out of a crib, we will start having timeouts on his bed. Obviously, first-time obedience is not as much of a concern here because I simply pick him up and put him in.

With Lucas, I react just as quickly and swiftly as I do with William. Again, he knows what he did wrong. His offenses are different, but if he deserves a timeout, it means he knows better.

I won’t set a time limit for Lucas either. I will peek in on him or check the video monitor to see the look on his face. With Lucas, I can often check the status of his heart just by listening to him. If he’s crying or screaming, he’s not giving me a happy and repentant heart. In this case, I will go to him the minute he quiets down.

As I get ready to discuss his offense, I double-check his heart. When I bend down to look him in the eye, he will either look me in the eye or he will turn away or even lie down in the crib. If he looks me in the eye, I know he’s ready. If he turns away, I know he needs more time. If this is the case, I will walk away, telling him I will come back when he’s happy.

Since Lucas isn’t very verbal, I will tell him what he did wrong and why it was wrong. I will ask him if what he did was wrong, expecting him to nod his head. I will ask him if he understands, upon which I always get a “yes, mommy.” I will then tell him to tell me he’s sorry, which he says in his own toddler way. If there is more that needs to be done (like pick up the food he threw on the floor or tell his brother he’s sorry), I have him do that as soon as I take him out of the crib. (Again, here’s where your work on first-time obedience pays off.) Then we do hugs and kisses.

As you can imagine, getting his heart in the right place is what’s most important for Lucas. There is less to discuss simply because he’s not as verbal as William. The discussion is more one-way, which is fine. As he gets older, I will require him to tell me what he did wrong, why it was wrong and make it right.

To conclude, make sure you follow every step of the timeout process to ensure your child learns from it. If his behaviors aren’t improving, it’s possible you’re missing a step and need to reevaluate your timeouts. Above all, stay calm. Your child will obey and respect you more readily if you react swiftly and calmly. And don’t forget those hugs and kisses. Your child needs to know that you love and forgive him and that the end of a timeout means a fresh start.

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Supernanny timeout

Supernanny's Timeout Technique

In case you haven’t seen the show, here’s a clip from Supernanny that shows her timeout methods. Ignore the horrible audio. But make note of the father chasing the child down and telling her what she did wrong and how it was “naughty.” Note the child’s utter defiance, kicking her dad and with her hands over her ears. And take a look at the girl’s face when the timeout is over. It’s as if she’s surprised that it was over and that’s all it took. Now, I’m not saying to “use the belt” as this father would have, but there are definitely a few things you can do differently.

I do agree with Supernanny about the importance of staying calm. But the Ezzos would have us require the child to tell us what they did wrong and why it was wrong. And we certainly shouldn’t accept a cursory response of “It was naughty.” Most of all, we need our children to show a happy and repentant heart, which I don’t see in this little girl. I’ll discuss this in greater depth in a few days.

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Timeouts the Ezzo way

When natural and logical consequences don’t work, timeouts can be an effective tool. One thing to understand about timeouts the Ezzo way is that the Ezzos don’t believe in timeouts as they are culturally done.

Timeouts the Supernanny way

Before we talk about the Ezzos’ version of timeout, let’s talk about the cultural perception of timeout, often seen on Supernanny. The idea here is that you send your child to sit on a spot in or near the main area of the house. The child sits for one minute per year of his age (e.g., a 5-year-old sits for 5 minutes). If the child doesn’t sit, you spend an hour or more sweating (and going mad) as you keep putting the child back on the spot. Then once the child sits and his time is up, you offer a two-sentence reminder of what he did wrong and demand an apology. If you have seen the show, you know that the apologies the children give are rarely heartfelt. The parents hug and kiss the reluctant child, and all is well with the world (not likely).

Now for parents who are just beginning to command authority from their children, this version of the timeout at least establishes a bit of respect for the parent. But for those of us seeking first-time obedience (or for those of us who already have it), this version of a timeout does little to teach, which is what discipline is all about.

Isolation

The Ezzos’ version of timeouts is more about isolation.

“Children are social beings. Isolation means temporarily taking away the privilege of social contact…. Isolation can be used as a form of correction when a parent isolates a child to his room, not for play, but for contemplation. This approach should be used to draw attention to the more serious offenses,” Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition, p. 161.

You’ll notice the Ezzos don’t even use the term “timeout.” The only time you will hear this word from them is in the phrase “reflective timeout” which is done BEFORE the child has committed any wrongdoing. Its intent is entirely different.

Isolation is not some cursory punishment with the child sitting near you and his siblings. As I mentioned in a previous post, we want to discipline, not punish our children. The goal of discipline is to teach, not make them suffer for the sake of suffering. So to have them sit just for the sake of sitting does little to teach them about why their actions were wrong.

The goal: a happy and repentant heart

If you have seen Supernanny, you might recall the “apologies” that are given after a timeout. (Yes, those quotes are meant to convey sarcasm.) The parent requires the child to apologize with a mere “sorry” which is often mumbled through tears or a dejected face that doesn’t convey repentance. That insincere “sorry” sounds more like the child was sorry he got caught, with a bit of surprise that the parent actually followed through on the timeout.

With the Ezzos’ version of timeout, the ultimate goal is a happy and repentant heart. When you send him to timeout, he is likely feeling mad, sad or indignant that you would send him to his room. By the end of his timeout, he must express true repentance, offer a sincere apology and even ask how he can right the wrong. It is only when you see this in your child that the timeout should be over.

So how long is a timeout?

The Ezzos might argue that one minute per year of age is hardly enough time for a child to seriously contemplate what he did wrong and find a happy and repentant heart. You must also consider the seriousness of the offense when deciding how long your child should sit in his room. A subtle form of disrespect might warrant 5-10 minutes while an aggressive action done in anger might warrant 20 minutes or more.

The key idea here is that the parent decides how long the child needs to sit. And when making that decision, it’s not a matter of how much of a punishment the child needs (or how much of a break the parent wants). It’s a matter of how long it will take for the child to reach the point of repentance. Every child is different, so it is up to the parent to decide.

I suggest that you even allow your child to determine how long his timeout should be. A child about 5 years old and up (assuming a healthy level of first-time obedience), should be allowed to determine when his timeout is over. Now, if he sits for two minutes and you can tell his heart isn’t in the right place, send him back. But what you might discover more often is that the child will sit for much longer than you expect. The child knows how much time he needs to achieve a happy and repentant heart and will sit for as long as he thinks is necessary.

First-time obedience is necessary

As you can imagine, sending a child to his room to sit on his bed will take a healthy dose of first-time obedience. If you don’t have it with your child, you will end up like those parents you see on Supernanny chasing after their children for hours on end. This is one reason why first-time obedience is so important.

If you are still working on first-time obedience with your toddler, it’s fine to do timeouts in a crib or playpen. Just be sure they are done away from the main area of the house. You still need him to be isolated. And keep him there for as long as is needed for him to have a happy and repentant heart. Some might scoff at the idea of a 2-year-old feeling repentant, but those of you with toddlers know what I’m talking about. You can see it in their eyes. These kids wear their hearts on their sleeves.

In my next post, I’ll offer more on the mechanics of issuing timeouts the Ezzo way.

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