Have you ever felt so angry and frustrated with your child’s misbehavior that you wanted to ground him for a year?
That’s what happens when we don’t have a tool. We become more and more frustrated, and sometimes it can lead to an explosion.
I once heard a great analogy. Imagine you’ve got a leaky pipe inside your wall, and you call a plumber to come fix it. When he gets there, he finds the leak and uses a wrench to close it, but the wrench doesn’t fix the problem. So the plumber goes out to the truck and gets a bigger wrench. That doesn’t fix it either, so he goes back to the truck to get an even bigger wrench.
Isn’t this sometimes how we’re tempted to deal with a behavior problem in our kids? We try a punishment, but that doesn’t fix the behavior so we up the ante and make it longer or more severe, and when that doesn’t work, we turn up the heat even more, hoping that we’re going to create so much discomfort that they’ll think twice about doing that naughty thing again?
Just like increasing the size of the wrench doesn’t work for the plumber, intensifying the consequences doesn’t work with kids.
The real questions are these: What is the goal of discipline? What is our role in the process?
Are we our children’s punishers? Are we their jailers? If that’s how we view ourselves, even on a subconscious level, I suppose we can look at the nation’s prison systems to see how effective we’ll be.
Nationwide, the overall rate of recidivism is 67% after 3 years! I’ll bet that if we researched the effectiveness of punishing our kids with a jailer-like authority, based on the likelihood of the child repeating the same behavior, we’d find similar results, except I don’t think it would take three years for the kid to do it again.
So, let’s back up and think about the goal of discipline. I think part of the answer lies in some of the synonyms for discipline. I like to say that we are correcting our children or even better, training them. Starting tomorrow and continuing into next week, we’re going to give you a wide range of tools to use in what we call the Training Toolbox.
Our goal is not to punish our kids. In fact, if you find yourself so angry that you want to make them suffer, you may be venturing into that zone of wanting revenge against your kids. We’ve all been there at least once or twice, but it’s an ugly place to be, and it’s not doing our kids one ounce of good!
The goal of discipline or correction or training is to teach our kids how to
- 1. Recognize their choices,
- 2. Identify which choices are good and which ones are bad,
- 3. Understand why the good choices are best and the bad choices are not,
- 4. Make the good choices.
We want to educate our kids. That means offering good training material — frequent discussions about choices, good reading material, positive role models, opportunities for practice, coaching along the way, praise and reward for right choices and correction and redirection for wrong choices.
Education is the goal, and not surprisingly, when that’s the goal in the nation’s prison system, the recidivism rate dramatically decreases. Earlier, we mentioned that the nationwide recidivism rate is 67%. Inmates who earn an A.A. degree have a 15% recidivism rate. Those who earn a Bachelor’s degree have a 13% recidivism rate, and those who earned a Master’s level degree have a 1% recidivism rate.
Come back on Monday, as we kick off a series on filling the training toolbox. We’ll talk about natural consequences, positive and negative reinforcement, preventative measures, and conversations for correction.