It never fails... Every time Eliana starts acting up and being disobedient I look back at my own parenting for the last couple weeks and find that I've been slacking. Do you think I'll ever learn??
So starting a couple days ago, we are back in crack down mode. Every offense has a consequence, which is administered calmly and consistently. Every time. No "don't do that again or you'll go to time out" warnings or empty threats. She knows the rules and she knows the consequences, and if I don't dole them out when they're due all I'm doing is teaching her that I approve of her bad behavior.
I think the key to discipline being effective for Eliana is being calm. She would much rather stand in timeout than have you "yell" at her. And her definition of "yelling" is reprimanding her with a stern voice. That seems to cut her deeply and she will start crying as though she has been deeply wounded and say, "Don't yell at me, Mommy!" Which, in turn, breaks my heart, because I didn't yell at her, I just corrected her sternly. But there was probably an exasperated tone in my voice which she picked up on, too, which makes me feel awful. And yes, she chose to whine, she chose to refuse what I asked her to do, she chose to disobey, but I am in control of my own response. And, sadly, sometimes my own response is laziness. I don't send her to timeout for infractions which consequent a time out because I just don't want to fight that battle. And *bam!* I have just taught her that sometimes it is okay to behave inappropriately. *sigh*
So we're back to crack down mode. Crack down usually consists of two days of tantrums and struggles and lots of discipline to counteract the lots of disobedience that has become a recent partern. And then something magic happens on the third day where she doesn't fight the consequences as much and she not nearly so disobedient. It is beautiful! That was yesterday. It's not that she didn't need any discipline, but that she only needed time out twice and a spanking once as opposed to some form of discipline a dozen or more times a day. And this is where the discipline becomes REALLY important. I need to stick with it, and not lessen up just because she's being so good overall. Children with a sweet disposition can still be disobedient and need to be disciplined. And yes, it might mean that the sweet disposition disappears for a while as the child whines and complains and kicks and screams in the face of that discipline. But how you react and respond when she doesn't give you the response you want to see teaches her how to respond when she doesn't get what she wants. If I get frustrated and raise my voice, she learns that yelling is the way to get what you want. If I whine and say, "Ellie, will you please go to timeout? Why do you insist on making this so hard? The sooner you go to timeout, the sooner you can get back to playing." I am teaching her her that whining is how you get what you want. If I get frustrated and give her an undeserved swat on the bottom as I carry her to timeout and force her to stand there, she learns that physical assertion is the way to get what you want. But if I am calm, and discuss with her why she is going to timeout, what she has done, what the consequence is for that action, and I keep a calm disposition while disciplining her, she is less likely to get distracted by my response and have a better chance of learning that the consequence/discpiline is a result of her action, not a result of the mood I'm in. Consistency is key because she needs to see that her actions have consequences every time. Calmness is key because she needs to see that those consequences are not determined by my mood.
I should add, as an end note, that I've just been talking about the negative consequences of actions. There is a positive side of discipline, too, and it's important to praise kids for what they are doing well, especially if they respond to praise. And we do praise Eliana often, especially when she obeys right away or chooses not to throw a fit when she has been struggling with fits. I don't want you to think that I'm suggesting keeping your kid in timeout all day long! But this is the stage we're at right now, and what's on my mind this week, so I figured I'd record some thoughts on it.