How To Discipline Kids Without Ruining Their Childhood

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"Mommy I wasn't hitting you. I was disciplining you because you hit me, and we don't hit in this house.” These were the exact words spoken to me after my daughter hit me in response to spanking her for the first time when she was 3.

When your toddler has a meltdown, and your baby has a gigantic and frustrating poop...

Yep, that's my girl and the words of a wise toddler. Now let me explain: You see, I had just had our son a few weeks prior to this dialogue exchange and he had just had one of those juicy up the back poops; you know the kind that calls for an immediate bath and complete outfit change. She was with me in the nursery and asked for something—I don't even remember what it was now—when I said no. You would have thought it was the day she discovered the tooth fairy didn't exist by the epic meltdown that followed. I explained to her why I said no, but she was not listening. Instead she started crying, whining, and practically convulsing. It was like a scene from The Exorcist. I gave her a warning, then I did the whole countdown thing and more all to no avail.

I could hear my elders saying to me "There's nothing a good spanking won't handle," and so I said to myself in that moment when nothing else worked that I would spank her. Afterward, I explained the difference between hitting and spanking for discipline. She then took it upon herself to discipline me for spanking her. I knew I had to step back. I left the room, got some fresh air, took some deep breaths, and removed myself from the situation.

After the "discipline," we had a conversation about it. As a family.

This created an opportunity for our family to sit down together and discuss how we plan discipline. My husband and I asked our 3-year-old daughter how she wanted to be disciplined. I know it's crazy to think that we had this conversation with a toddler, but we did because that's our girl. She said when she gets upset she wants some time to herself to think and clear her head. WOW! That is why discipline depends on the child, not the philosophy.

You can go to a million seminars on how to discipline young children. There are several books accessible, online videos, classes, and even group series available to parents everywhere, but it's really about understanding your child and communicating clear boundaries that speak to you both. Each child is different, so take some time to observe and learn. For example, some parents practice doing a timeout while other parents take something away from their child as a method of discipline. Our now 2-year-old son responds to a totally different type of discipline. Whatever you choose, discipline should be customized for your child's temperament and the nature of the situation.

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The discipline essentials

The key is to find something that works for everyone, can be repeated anywhere you are, and gets the results you need. In our house, that is talking with our children like we talk to each other, explaining the situation of what is happening and why, and making clear the consequences of their actions. The goal is to lower overall frustration on everyone's end with the hope of eliminating tantrums and meltdowns. OK, so I know as a parent with young kids that that can never really happen, but one can hope, right?

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