How to Lay Down the Law

Roscoe not listening to a darn word I say

I wrote a post last year urging parents to give up on smacking. There are few things that I believe absolutely but this much I know to be true - smacking probably won't help you reach your long term parenting goal. Which we all know is children who say, 'how high?' when you even hint at the word jump. It was unfair of me to condemn smacking without offering my views on how to actually get them little tykes to stop behaving like heathens. Yes, Charlene you're all about problems, where's my solution? So what follows is my guide on how to lay down the law. 

Have a tell - I think it's right and proper to give someone fair warning. Children aren't actually entirely focused on ruining your day; they don't know that their behaviour is shameful, they're just having fun. That's why it's good to have a signal that lets them know a storm's a comin. A classic is the countdown, another is the utilise the child's full name; true professionals have it down to a sharp look. I prefer a very clear announcement, 'Roscoe that is naughty behaviour.' This is often greeted with laughter but he can't say I didn't warn him. 

Keep it simple - Don't tie yourself in knots or get into hefty negotiations, there is no one on earth that can negotiate as well as a child. You will lose. You want very simple cause and effect e.g. If you continue to take your clothes off in the library/wipe boogies on that stranger, I will X. 

Don't give up (even when you muck up) - We've all been there, allowed our buttons to be pushed and tried to regain power in the most ridiculous of ways. If you threaten to cancel pudding or get off the bus be prepared to follow through because otherwise your child will quickly learn that you don't really mean business. Of course if you go too far, I'm thinking 'we're never coming to granny's house again' quickly wolf down some humble pie and replace this sentiment with something more reasonable. It might be a good idea to have some suitable consequences planned in advance so in the heat of the moment you remember to ban the iPad and not give away the family cat.

Offer affection immediately - Your child needs to know that it's their behaviour and not them you do not love. If they become upset by your chastisement it's okay to comfort them, doing so does not invalidate the discipline. The message, I don't want you to be upset but I do want you to behave appropriately is one that even the tiniest tots can comprehend. I know this is hard for some people to grasp (and when I say people let's face it I mean women) but when something is done it needs to be done with. Don't keep throwing the incident back in the kid's face, it should be treated like something silly and unsavoury that everyone should just forget about quickly...until next time. 

How were you disciplined as a child? Do you find it easy to lay down the law. 

25 comments

  1. Fantastic post! Not giving up, like you said, is such a HUGE part of parenting!!

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  2. I have always been fair with my children. They are never really 'naughty' so their punishments have never been anything too bad.

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  3. I definitely don't use smacking. I think its a loose loose way of parenting. I was hit as a child and I grew up with really low self esteem and low confidence. xx

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  4. Not giving in works so well but is so hard when you are in the middle of a battle!! Staying calm is a big thing too but much easier said than done.

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  5. Great ideas in theory, but staying calm is so hard! I have four children, three with just two years between them all, and it is impossible to stay calm when all three of them are screaming and misbehaving! I do need to work on it though!

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  6. Good advice, I disagree with smacking too!

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  7. I definitely think there are more appropriate ways to teach children right from wrong rather than smacking. I'm not a mum but some of my mummy friends try positive rewards. So rather than saying "If you do X you won't get Y", they use "If you manage to [behave, sit quietly etc etc] then you can have [ice cream, a toy, TV time]", things like that :)

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  8. I think words can be so powerful that they can mean so much more to children. It's also a matter of forgiving quickly and not giving up as you said.

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  9. So true what you say! Never try to negotiate with children!

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  10. These are some great tips Charlene. I will hopefully be able to put this in to practise when needed xx

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  11. I have needed this post the past few weeks. Jamie is quite challenging some days. Sometimes none of the above works though. I think consistency is key. I try not to change the boundaries and giving him a look is one of my most used warnings. It doesn't always work though

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  12. I have needed this post the past few weeks. Jamie is quite challenging some days. Sometimes none of the above works though. I think consistency is key. I try not to change the boundaries and giving him a look is one of my most used warnings. It doesn't always work though

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  13. I hated being disciplined but its because I was made to feel bad instead of being shown the correct behavior. It can be challenging to lay down the law x

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  14. We were smacked as children but it was the norm in the 70's / 80's (our school still used the wooden spoon and cane). I find the death stare works quite well as well as confiscating things

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  15. Words can be so powerful. These are all great tips. I think keeping it brief and simple is always a good one

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  16. Fab tips here. I will try them when next I need some order in the house.

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  17. I don't have children, but I imagine that educating difficult personalities can be really, really hard. Maybe is better to ask for help or research a bit before punishing them so bad? x

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  18. I completely agree. It's so hard sometimes to keep your cool.

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  19. I am one for not throwing out empty warnings, I always back up and stick to what I say. I don't agree with smacking either, I was smacked and I'm ok, but I just don't agree with the any need to do it.

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  20. Smack is the wrong word to use. It's a very strong word in fact.
    And yes I was slapped on the bum as a child. I turned out ok didn't I? I have no patience whatsoever when the kids misbehave. We use time out which is the naught step.

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    1. Oh interesting, to me slap sounds stronger than smack, I suppose it's just what you grew up with. In the original post I did say that I don't think that smacking necessarily causes harm, I just don't think it's very effective.

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  21. Luckily for us we've never really had to massively discipline our eldest. We've given warnings and in her twos the naughty step was our main thing. She quickly got the hang of what was happening and it dissapeared which was nice :)

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  22. I definitely 100% agree with discipline. It annoys me when parents have empty threats. Why bother? If you say you're doing to do something. Do it. Otherwise you are losing from the get go x

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  23. I think kids need some kind of discipline. I don't agree with smacking and only use a thinking corner occasionally with Blake. Great tips

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