OK, a few readers have emailed me and left comments like these this week...
I am not trying to be mean or judgemental, but you never say anything about disciplining your kids for negative behaviors that need to change. When kids do stuff like Clay and Brooklyn they are seeking ATTENTION! Which means you need to step up to the plate.
First off, if you want to send me hate mail, you really need to go through the proper channels. In the future, please use my hate mail form HERE. Thank you.
Secondly, I don't ever say anything about what I dress myself in every day; do you think that means I walk around naked? I don't say anything about what I feed my kids for dinner every day; does that mean that I let them starve? Because I don't waste everyone's time by going into the boring details of discipline, doesn't mean that discipline doesn't exist. Understand?
However, to satisfy the curiosity of non-mean readers, here's my MO when it comes to discipline.
1. Whenever possible, I let the kids experience the natural consequences of their actions. For example, Jackson got mad one night, threw a fit, and whipped his iPod Touch (that he bought with his own saved money) across the room, shattering it. Now he doesn't have an iPod. If he wants another one, he'll have to save up a lot of money over a long period of time.
If the natural consequence will endanger the kids, of course, I have to go to Plan B. If one of them runs into the street without looking, for example, I'm not going to let them get hit by a car in order to teach a lesson.
2. When natural consequences aren't safe or feasible, I try to apply logical consequences. If I find that one of them was using their phone during school, I'm not going to make them clean the bathrooms; I'll take away their phone for a period of time. If someone has made a giant mess, then they need to clean it up.
3. Consistency! I think it's super-important to say what you mean and mean what you say and be consistent about it. Don't tell your kid they're grounded until they're 30. You're obviously not going to stick to that one. I mean, who wants their 30-year-old still living at home, pouting in their room without TV or phone privileges? If you take away a privilege from your child for a week, don't let their incessant begging wear you down and make you go back on your word in four days.
4. Teach! The biggest part of discipline is teaching appropriate behaviors. Yes, following up and punishing for infractions is part of disciplining, but in my opinion, a bigger part is teaching expected behaviors to begin with. Not only tell your children what you expect of them, but model those behaviors yourself. I don't attempt to control my kids. You can't control them and even if you could, why would you want to? What happens when they get older? Who's going to tell them what to do and control them then? Their peers? No, you want to teach them the skills they need to make wise decisions. When they mess up (and they will), you apply appropriate consequences, making THEM responsible for THEIR decisions.
6. Lighten up. Honestly, I have the advantage of having a fairly wide age span between my oldest and youngest children. I write stories about Clay and Brooklyn getting into stuff all the time now. Just a few short years ago, I wrote stories about Jackson getting into stuff with his sidekick, Lexi. Ask any of my friends. It was all about the messes they made and the crazy stuff they did. And guess what. Jackson and Lexi don't come up with all the goofy experiments and messes they did a few years ago. They're older. They've learned. As will Clay and Brooklyn. I'm not about to go postal on them every time they make a mess or do a crazy experiment. They're kids. Kids do goofy things. They learn by exploring. They LEARN by exploring. And with redirection, unconditional love, appropriate consequences, patience, and a SENSE OF HUMOR, you'll all survive and thrive.
Do I do all those things perfectly? Heck no! I'm human. There are times when I let something slide that I know I probably shouldn't simply because I'm too flipping tired to deal with it. Are there times when I get unnecessarily mad over some trivial thing? Heck yes! I'm not perfect. I do the best I can with what I have to work with.
Are you happy now, Clark? See how boring that was? That's why I don't write about discipline. It doesn't make you laugh. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog about the goofy things kids do that don't really matter much in the long run.