Discipline is an interesting word. It means, literally, to teach. Parents are the children’s teachers. How did your school teacher affect you? Which teacher did you listen to the most? The understanding, patient, quieter teacher or the louder, angry, unreasonable one?

Praise had always been and most likely always be understated. Punishment is practiced much more regularly, automatically and always before praise. Yet children respond positively to praise and negatively to punishment. Praise and punishment can go hand in hand: scold him for bringing mud into the house but praise him right away, letting you know about it before it dried or for not getting it on the couch. For every constructive criticism, add a dose of praise, no matter how small. Mothers often say, “There isn’t a single thing to praise him about!” Yes, there is. It might be so small you have to search and search to find it, but it’s there! Increase praise, and actions that deserve praise increase.

Rules change from house to house, country to country and year to year. Too many rules can be as defeating as too few. Have rules that fit the needs of your beliefs, lifestyle and household, not what your children insist ‘everybody else gets to do.’ If you want to produce a Beaver Cleaver, have Cleaver family rules. Let the Simpson household have Simpson rules, and don’t allow Beaver to play at Bart’s house.

Parents must form a united front with the rules. If you can’t agree with your spouse on a rule, find a way to compromise or don’t have the rule. Handling an area you can’t agree on can be tricky and dangerous. Evaluate each situation on its own merit, and that leads to inconsistency, the child never knows what your reaction will be. If Dad thinks curfew should be later and Mom thinks it should be earlier, set a regular school night limit with week end special events extended hours. Perhaps quiet time at Mom’s hour and actual bedtime at Dad’s hour would be another alternative. Discuss these issues out of hearing of the child.

If you haven’t had a formal list of rules before, start out with simple standards, and add needed rules as discovered along the way. An initial rule list might include daily chores and bedtime procedure and hour. Add evening activity order (homework and chores before playing) after they adjust to the new order of things. Even the toddler who is old enough to understands needs a list. Use drawings instead of words!

Start with light discipline, and not beyond what you are willing to supervise. If you aren’t willing to follow through, the entire concept of rules immediately becomes a joke to a child, rarely to be taken seriously again. One minute of sitting time per year of age is a fair distribution. Small children do not remember what their infraction was for any length of time and the punishment loses its effectiveness rapidly.

Consistency has to be on the top of the top ten list. Nothing will destroy credibility like inconsistency. If you are not a consistent person, you’ll have to work extra hard in this area, and you might start with yourself before you expect your children to take you seriously. If you don’t allow mud in the house on Monday, don’t let mud in the house on Tuesday. If you live in a muddy field, change the rule and adapt it to a workable situation.

'Following up' lives with 'consistency' - separate entities that cannot survive without the other. If you discipline a child each and every time they bring mud in the house, sooner or later you’ll find them scraping off their shoes outside the door. If you decide it’s a losing battle, change the rules to allow mud in just the kitchen instead of throwing up your hands in surrender. Let your children see your efforts to make it work for everyone.

“No” turning into “yes” happens in every single solitary household. Singular occurrences should not be too damaging, but turning it into a lifestyle is certainly a guarantee of disobedient children. Backing down from a “no” is tricky and tempting after the realization that a “yes” would have been appropriate. Setting the child down to explain how you responded before thinking has merit, but practice controlling your responses for one minute of thought religiously if the problem is chronic. If you are tempted to change a "No" to a "Yes," think about three things before doing it: What will sticking to your decision impress upon your child? What will changing your answer impress upon your child? What do you want to change in your family? Making sure you mean what you say, before the words leave your mouth is an invaluable lesson for child and adult alike.

"Mom, can I walk in the house with my muddy shoes just this once?"  "No!" "Please?" "No!" "Pleeeeease?" My children were finally given one opportunity to argue against a "No" in their early teens. They knew, from my informing them, that sometimes Mom gets distracted and says "No" for any real good reason. However, you have one chance, make it good, and don't blow it. If I think about it, and still decide on "No," that is the end of discussion, no if and or buts.

"How many times have I told you to clean off your shoes plopped here on the kitchen floor?" Start counting at an early age. "Now" means now. If Mom gets to five, it will be a long time out, no cartoons, or worse, no playing outside tomorrow. After you switch from verbal to sign language, fingers held up in the air, usually one finger in the air will do the trick. Amaze your friends and family

The easiest thing is the world is to reprimand a child while occupied with something else. The next easiest thing is to repeat yourself when the child doesn’t listen. The hardest thing to do is to get up and enforce your command, but it is absolutely one of the most worthwhile actions of discipline. You just might have to go to the kitchen and watch them scrape off their shoes at the door for a million times, but think of never having mud in the house again! Isn't it worth the effort?

Explanations that go on and on, over and over are called nagging. No one likes a nag, who is rarely listened to after the title is earned. Don’t get wrapped up in stressing points they already know. They already know why mud ruins your carpet and your attitude. Children are forgetful only to a point; a gentle reminder may be all they need.

“Because I said so” is an insult, and tells a child that the adult is simply exercising their weight as a tyrant. “We’ve already gone over this” or “You already know my answer” or even silence lets the child know you’re still in control without making him feel you enjoy playing the heavy. They already know they can't bring mud into the house.

Two year olds are a real test of your patience. This is a real battle ground where rules, who is the boss and who calls the shots gets set up for life. They know they have to scrape their shoes and will forget just to see if you remember. Or just because they simply do not want to. Watch a two year old look directly into his watching parent's face, then with malice and forethought, scoop up a handful of mud and plop it on the kitchen floor, and then  smile an evil smile. Patience. Calm. Act, quietly but firmly. Repeat, repeat, repeat until he gets the idea you are not going to stop correcting the situation, no matter how long it takes. Now add a dash of tantrum at scraping shoes. "Wow, that's too bad, I was going to fix some chocolate milk and watch cartoons with you. Scrape your shoes so we can do that." This is the way it is, child, I wont bribe you, but I can point out that something else is worth obeying on this issue. Add a serious tantrum and you get, "Wow, that's too bad, I was going to fix some chocolate milk and watch cartoons with you, but I won't when you act like that. Maybe we can tomorrow after you scrape your shoes without a tantrum."

Quality needs redefining every so often in every family. The parent’s idea of quality time just might not agree with the child’s concept. Take some time to ask the child what they would like to do with you now that the mud has been cleaned up. Be open to acting like a child yourself in order to honor their request. It could be fun. No, it IS fun!

Reserve a period of time, whether it be an hour a day, or a longer interval once a week just for them. Be sure you spend that time with the child, plan ahead to limit other activities to an absolute minimum. Time spent mopping the mud from the floors doesn’t count. If something unavoidable does occur, let the child know as early as possible, and ask his opinion on rearranging your time together. Be absolutely sure you can honor it!

Parents are with their children as often as possible, but life and the living of it prevents constant personal attention. Children who rarely receive quality time can be found looking for it elsewhere, outside the family. Time is a paradox, there’s never enough and always more to come. If life were to be undeniably interrupted in some fashion tonight, how would you like to have spent the day?

One of the best child training courses I ever took was an advanced dog training course. We learned how to out smart the dog, how to set them up for discipline and how firmness and affection went miles farther than punishment.

Setting up your children is easy, once you get the hang of it. Teaching a dog to not grab food is as simple as setting no-no, untouchable food up and watching over him carefully. In reverse, to teach him what to do, is a matter of making proper food available where you want him to eat. Children can be just as easy. Making a mud scraper door step sets the child up to scrape his shoes without any effort. Then he needs to be reminded until the habit of checking his shoes is established.

A child not allowed to be out past curfew will not get into trouble past curfew. Offer two firm choices to a child who has trouble making decisions when faced with a multitude of options. At their bedtime hour, tell a child who rebels against bedtime that you are available right now to tuck them in with a story, now. Learn to recognize a child headed for disaster and distract them before an explosion.

Another invaluable lesson was to discover my oldest truly felt that when his father was angry with him, his father ceased to love him. A long, gentle and loving conversation took place immediately. I asked him if he would love his father if we discovered Dad had robbed a bank and killed someone. My son was finally able to understand how he felt about his father might also be the way his father felt about him. Even though they were angry or disappointed in each other, it had nothing to do with the love between them. We made it a point to let the next children know this principal at very early ages, and they remain secure in our love no matter how many times they bring mud into the house.

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