I never thought I would get divorced. Who does? Looking back, I know it was the right thing to do, as my ex-husband, our children, and I are all happy where we are today.
Our kids were two and six at the time of the divorce. Although my husband was not happy about the divorce, we managed to be amicable and worked out a custody schedule that allowed us to share custody. I have the boys Monday, Wednesday and every other weekend. Their dad has them Tuesday, Thursday and every other weekend. The schedule was kind of challenging, but now at 12 and 16, it is the only schedule they remember.
When my boys were around nine and five, my brother made the comment: “Brenda’s kids are the most well-behaved, well-adjusted kids in the family!” I was very proud to learn he said that, considering there are 11 total cousins! However, it also begged the question, does he think that divorce is a disease that inevitably messes up all children??
Someone once asked me how I raise my kids. What rules do I have in the house, how I punish them etc? I told them that making rules is easy; the challenge is enforcing them. When my kids were old enough to need disciplining (as soon as they were mobile), I implemented four house rules. Just four. Any misbehavior breaks either one or all four of these rules. If they got into trouble, I took them to the sign on the fridge and made them recite which rule (or rules) they had broken.
Ready? Here are the rules, which I call the Four B’s.
1) Be Respectful
2) Be Responsible
3) Be Honest
4) Be Safe
If they sass back, they broke rule 1 and 2. It is not respectful and they did not make a responsible choice.
If they hit their brother, they broke rules 1, 2, and 4. It is not respectful, responsible, or safe. In addition, if they chose to lie about it, they just broke rule number 4 because they were not honest.
The rules work for every single misbehavior and when a child has to recite the rule, they start to understand what the word truly means. Reciting the rule creates an awareness that they will take into puberty, teen years and adulthood.
It is important to note that when kids are just starting to crawl and walk, focusing on rule number 4, Be Safe, is a good starting point. “Hang onto the railing–be safe!” “Don’t go into the street–be safe.” “Don’t run away from me in the store–be safe!” Once they their language starts to develop and they become more independent and understand things better, begin adding rules 1 through 3.
As for punishments, well, in my house, they do not fit the crime; they fit the child. Now that I have three boys (6, 12, and 16), crimes, and punishments are very diverse. My six year old would not care if I took away his TV, but would have a meltdown if I grounded him from outside play. The 12 year old could not live without his PS3, and the 16 year old would need psychiatric help if I took away his phone.
Here is what I have learned about discipline. You have to understand what will be meaningful and memorable to each child individually. If I grounded my ADHD 12 year old for one week from his PS3, he would learn nothing about his misbehavior. He would find something else to distract him and forget why he was grounded in the first place. His punishments need to be immediate and short term, similar to an elementary age child. My oldest, will darn sure remember at the end of a week without his phone, not just because of his age, but because of his personality. He hates when he disappoints me and therefore and would continue to think I was disappointed until the grounding period was over.
Let the punishment fit the child.
Learning from this, as a Human Resource professional (among other things), I did not implement a “three strikes you’re out” discipline policy. Instead, I encourage all the managers to take each situation on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a veteran employee starts showing up late, you do not fire them after the third time. You sit them down and say, “This isn’t like you. You have always been responsible. What’s going on and how can I help?” However, if another employee of two months calls in sick frequently, has to be sent home for a dress code violation and then shows up late twice, it is probably time to “promote them to customer.”
Communicating with children is much like communicating with adults. Adults do not like to be condescended to, neither do children. Adults do not like to be lied to, neither do children. Adults expect a sense of balance in relationships, so do children. Adults expect forgiveness when they make mistakes, so do children. Adults expect their boss to be fair, children expect their parents to be fair. We may choose different rules and words when dealing with adults and children, but the messages should still be respectful, responsible, and honest.
Try implementing the Four B’s and start letting the punishment fit the child. You might be surprised at the outcome.