8 Discipline Mistakes Parents Make
© Stephanie Rausser
You know the drill: You give your child an ultimatum -- "Get dressed or we're staying home!" -- and naturally she says, "Okay, we'll stay home!" Might as well plant a big "L" on your forehead. We all see our discipline efforts backfire on occasion (hey, you're tired!), and of course there are those battles just not worth fighting (no kid ever flunked preschool because his teeth were furry). But you do need to prove you're the parent at least some of the time. Learning to avoid these discipline land mines can help you hop to it.
Way to Blow It #1: Tell a Big Ole Lie
"My two-year-old daughter, Chloe, fights me about going to her babysitter's house every Monday," says New Jersey mom Gina Kane. One morning when Chloe refused to get out of the car, "I pointed to the house next door and told her it was a daycare center run by the caveman from the Geico commercials, which really scare her," says Kane. "I said she had a choice: Go to the sitter's house or to the caveman's daycare." Mission accomplished -- Chloe dashed to the sitter's door. Fast-forward a week: The babysitter casually asked Kane if she knew of a daycare center in the neighborhood because her daughter couldn't stop talking about it. "I was mortified having to explain, and Chloe now thinks that all daycare centers are run by cavemen," Kane admits. "I'm in big trouble if I ever actually have to send her to daycare."
A Better Way: Little white lies are so tempting in a pinch. You might even get away with them sometimes. Another mom had a great run while her toddler was afraid of a local clown named Macaroni. Whenever he refused to cooperate, she'd just say, "Maybe we should get Macaroni!" and the little guy would immediately don his pj's or gobble his carrots. But as Kane found out, scare tactics can and do come back to bite you in the butt, so it's best to be honest, says Bonnie Maslin, author of Picking Your Battles. Kane could have said instead, "I know sometimes you don't want to go to your babysitter. Sometimes I don't want to go to work." Empathizing would have made the Monday-morning transition easier.
Way to Blow It #2: Back Down
You want a surefire way to make sure your kids never listen to you? Threaten but don't act. My daughter Ella and I recently went for a playdate at a friend's house, where the little girl kept snatching away whatever toy Ella picked up. Her mom would say, "Give that back to Ella or I'll take it away," and then turn back to our conversation. Of course, as soon as Ella moved on to another toy, the little girl wanted that one.
A Better Way: It's no fun to be the bad guy, but if a child acts out, there has to be a consequence. "Repeatedly saying 'If you don't stop throwing sand, I'm going to make you leave the sandbox' won't stop the bad behavior," says Bridget Barnes, coauthor of Common Sense Parenting for Toddlers and Preschoolers. "What your child hears is 'I can keep doing this a few more times before Mom makes me stop.'"
Instead, give a warning, and then, if your child does it again, give an immediate consequence such as a time-out. If he continues, leave. The next time, a gentle reminder should do the trick: "Remember how we had to leave when you threw the sand? I hope we don't have to go home early again today."
Keeping Kids Organized
Minimizing "Mom, where's my shoes?"
It's enough to frazzle even the coolest mom's nerves: Moooom, where's my shoe? (Or homework. Or video game.) Although we expect our kids to start being more responsible for their own things at this age, they've somehow developed the ability to be more forgetful than Grandpa. When a kid's stuff or room is disorganized, it makes it harder for her to remember where she left her things. Luckily, these three moms, who just happen to be organizing experts, have answers:
1. Put the ball in their court (not in the middle of the floor!).
"We all learn by doing, so don't clean up and organize your kid's room for her. She's got to put it away to remember where it is!" says Donna Smallin, a mom of three in Mesa, AZ, and author of A to Z Storage Solutions. One bright idea that stops school notes from mysteriously going missing: Keep labeled file folders for each family member in a central place (a desk in the family room, say). Make your child responsible for putting school flyers in your folder; to motivate her to check her file before school, leave a treat or a funny note in it now and then.
2. Make organizing an art project.
Repetition helps encode memories, so the key is putting things in the same place time and again. "Every toy needs a parking place," says Tonia Tomlin, a mom of twins and owner of the organizing company Sorted Out in Plano, TX. Designate a basket for the Legos, another for the games, and so on, and then get your kids to print funky pictures of the toys off the Internet (or draw them). Binder-clip the pics onto the baskets.
3. Keep it simple, smarty-pants!
"The first question you should ask yourself is, 'Where do I use this?'" says Samantha Moss of Oakland, a mom of one and author of Where's My Stuff? Your kid does homework at the kitchen table? Keep the box with school goods there. It's not about neatness and looking spotless, says Moss, but rather being able to find things at the right moment. That means a whole lot less shouting for your help.
3 Kinds of Tattling (And How to Deal)
Why kids yell "I'm telling!" and how to react when they do
When tattling takes over your household, it's hard not to get annoyed. But if you understand your snitch's motivation, you can curb the behavior, says George Scarlett, Ph.D., assistant professor of child development at Tufts University. Our translator shows you how:
Your kid says: "Liam won't share!"
What she means: "Help me." She's looking to you to resolve her disputes, but constantly inserting yourself into the fray is exhausting.
You say: "What can we say to Liam to help him share -- maybe we should suggest using the egg timer?" Encourage the kids to find a solution themselves.
Your kid says: "I just saw Sam sneaking cookies!"
What she means: "See, I know the rules." She's displaying her growing sense of right and wrong, says Scarlett.
You say: "I'm proud of you for understanding that this isn't acceptable. Now you can tell Sam that eating cookies before dinner isn't right." Her sibling won't appreciate it, but this will validate her judgment while keeping your involvement to a minimum.
Your kid says: "Kate threw her bottle on the floor again."
What she means: "I'm jealous." She may be feeling overlooked and needs some positive attention, says Scarlett.
You say: "Thanks for telling me. You're a good big sister. When Kate gets older, she'll know better, just like you."