Thursday, October 28, 2010

Parental discipline choices

We had a playdate yesterday at the home of one of Chickie's good friends, who we'll call Billy. (Billy's mom is one of my good friends too, so we get together a lot!) After lunch, Chickie and Billy got in a little tiff, and Billy's mom sent them both to the couch for time out.

Chickie got up, grabbed some toys, and went back to her time out seat. Billy's mom took them away, making it clear that it's not okay to play with toys during time out. When she left the room, Chickie got more toys. (I think this may have happened more than once.) When I heard Billy's mom taking the toys away again, I said, "Chickie, we're leaving."

And all heck broke loose. Chickie immediately embarked on one of those awful preschooler tantrums, screaming and crying and asking repeatedly for "just one more chance!!!"

I realized that things would have gone much more smoothly if I'd given her a warning. ("Chickie, you have a choice. You can stay in time out without toys, and when time out is over we'll play a few more minutes. Or you can grab those toys again, and we'll go straight home.") She probably would have obeyed. I would have made it clear that I was serious, and she wouldn't have been so surprised by her consequences that she launched into that awful tantrum.

So I was left at that crossroads that we parents encounter not-too-infrequently. I hadn't made the best choice when setting a consequence, and I had to decide whether to change that consequence, or stick to my guns.

There are times when I threaten something and then, realizing I wasn't being reasonable, change what I said. I want my kids to admit when they've done something wrong. So it makes sense for me to admit it too. "Chickie," I might say, "I got angrier than I should have. You're not grounded all day; you're just grounded from the TV until lunchtime."

But this wasn't one of those times. Chickie wasn't respecting our rules, and the rules of the house we were visiting, and she repeatedly made the same bad choice. Knowing my daughter, I probably could have made the process go more smoothly, but it really wasn't an unfair consequence. I'm the mom, and it is my job to decide when it's time to go. When one of my kids is being disobedient, it's okay for me to say it's time to leave.

The biggest reason I didn't want to change my mind, though, was because of Chickie's tantrum. I didn't want to respond to her in a way that validated her screaming. She's still learning to handle her emotions; I understand that. One way she learns is by seeing that tantrums don't result in her getting her own way.

I definitely don't have a perfect grasp of when to change my mind, and when to stick to my original words. There are times when I give in and shouldn't, and probably times when I determinedly follow through when extra grace would have been more appropriate.

I'd love to hear the input of other parents reading this. Do you ever "change the rules" when you realize you weren't being as reasonable as you could have been? How do you decide when to back down, and when to stand strong?

8 comments:

Eternal Lizdom said...

I think you did the right thing by sticking to what you said. Yes, you could have given her a choice and all that. But it didn't feel like the right thing to do.

I go through this stuff all day long with my kids. With my son and his personality, changing my mind is easier because of how he takes the discipline in the first place and the kind of discipline he needs. With my daughter... she seems to really need a more hard nosed approach. I struggle more with what she needs from me because it doesn't feel natural but I know she does better overall when I'm more strict with her. So with her, I have to stick to my words more often than not.

I also very much believe in apologizing when I've been wrong.

mdf356 said...

Dealing with tantrums is hard. If my kids can present an argument in vaguely rational terms (even in a whiny voice) I will take that into account. If they have a good argument but it's presented as a tantrum, I try to tell them that they are right, and I would have listened, except that they were yelling and screaming.

Melinda said...

I think that sticking to it was the best you could have done in that situation.

Not that you should take my advice because I suck at discipline. Actually I just posted a story from last night that illustrates how badly I am at dealing with the public tantrums. It is something I need to work on.

*Monica said...

I agree that maybe announcing the leaving if she got the toys again would have been better, BUT a tantrum changes everything. I refuse to give into an overly emotional display. Later when calm, I have tried explaining to my boys that I would have considered their opinion if they hadn't done it in tantrum form. I wish I could say that they left tantrums behind forever after hearing that, but no such luck. The good news is if you stick to your guns when it comes to tantrums, they do eventually disappear!

Renee @ FeedingOurLives.com said...

I'm all about changing my mind when I need to, when my daughter asks nicely, when the situation is right, etc. I absolutely refuse to change my mind when my daughter goes into a tantrum- even if I could have approached it a better way. After the tantrum ends and we do timeout, we always talk about what happened and apologize. I take that opportunity to apologize for how I handled it and then talk about her reaction. I agree with you that I don't want her to get a anything she wants when she's throwing a tantrum.

Megan Fletcher said...

sounds like most of us are on the same page. a warning would have been "best", but a tantrum changes things! I'm with you--and most of your readers--and I think you made the right choice. I completely agree that we need to apologize to our children and take ownership if we've messed up. I believe our kids will really benefit from that more than most other things. I'm usually willing to negotiate something if I've overreacted, but when they turn things into a meltdown situation, there's no way they're getting what they want. (Same applies to me when I go overboard and get all huffy over something; it rarely helps the situation!) Of course, I never do that, but you know ....

SurvivorBlessing said...

Hey - I am so sorry that your play date had to end like that. But it does happen sometimes - I had to make that same choice once or twice with Coqui. And followed through. As active as Coqui is, most times (with repeated reminders) he responds to threats pretty well. And listens. Peanut seems to be a little more testy, but it is still too early to tell as she is getting better at listening.
Me too, I had to apologize before to Coqui when I was unreasonable. And it is okay! And it teaches them that we are just as human as we are. But God is so forgiving and this is such a great example to show that we can be forgiving too, and that our kids can learn that as well....

Angie said...

I backed down from a punishment this past weekend. Paige was grounded in her room for her behavior and I went to check on her. She was in her bed and I thought she had been eating chalk. When I asked where it was, she said in her closet. I couldn't see it and thought she was lying. I told her I was going to spank her for lying to me. She went to the closet and pulled out the chalk- she had hidden it in something else. And what I thought was her eating the chalk, but she said she had, was her really gnawing it down to fit in that toy she wanted it in. I told her that because she hadn't lied to me, I wouldn't spank her. But, never to eat chalk again.