When to say “no” and other discipline questions

This is gonna be a long one, so bear with me and chime in on my few questions at the end!

We haven’t encountered any discipline issues yet. Jemma is only 8 months old, so I’m guessing that is fairly normal. But, in prepartion for that day I’ve been trying to learn more about what our parenting style will be.

A little background …
My sisters and I were generally a well-behaved brood of girls. On the rare occasion we disobeyed we encountered redirection, time outs, consequences related to our misbehavior and spankings. More so, the threat of a spanking. I only remember being spanked once or twice with our wooden “dutch” spoon. (Spankings were called a “dutch” for some reason, were we the only family who called it a dutch?)

I don’t at all feel like I was treated unfairly in regard to discipline. When I received punishment it was usually related to willful disobedience. Willful disobedience was something naughty I chose to do, knowing that it was wrong. I was never punished for making a mistake.

A funny story …
The “consequences related to our misbehavior” came when we were older. When I got my driver’s license at 16 my parents were very clear that if I got a speeding ticket, my driving privilege would be revoked. The key was, it wasn’t permanently revoked, it was tied to how much the ticket was.

Shortly after my 1 year mark of driving I got the ticket. Darn state patrolman didn’t buy my tears. It was for $122. Which meant, 122 days of no driving :(
Luckily, I went to court for it and said something along the lines of “I was going with the flow of traffic and … uh … I’m sorry”. That knocked it down to $81 … and 81 days.

Consequences related to misbehavior – creative parents, no?

Back to my questions … and mind you, this is alot of wondering and wandering. I’m really curious about what others have found to work.

  • I want to cultivate a respectful relationship with my children and yet, I still want to maintain the parent/child relationship where I am the boss and they know it. Is this possible, if so, how?
  • I feel it is very important for us to decide now that we won’t parent with fear, intimidation or anger. To do this, we need a plan of action for the toddler age (I don’t think willful disobedience sets in until this age, does that sound right?). What do you feel are age appropriate ways to correct children’s behavior?

Right now Jemma is crawling up a storm. Obviously this means she is getting into things she shouldn’t. It is our gut reaction to say, “No, Jemma!” when she is heading towards the stove, fireplace and outlets – but she is 8 months old. She doesn’t understand that “no” means she should turn the other way and seek out a Jemma-proof toy.

So, we’ve been redirecting her by physically picking her up and helping her re-focus on something she can play with. I’m really against containing her in a pack ‘n play for my convenience. At this age she needs or constant interaction and I’m ok with that, albeit it can be tiring. Especially at 6:30 am. Which is when she prefers to play/explore in the mornings :)

I’d prefer for “no” to be used sparingly. It is a harsh word and as she grows up I want her to focus on all the things she can do. If we are always saying no, I worrying that we’ll ingrain the idea in her that she can’t do things. Plus, once she can understand the meaning of “no” I want it to be a powerful word. Something I can yell if she is running into the street or about to get hurt. I want “no” to catch her attention and cause her to pause. If we use it everyday I don’t think she’ll have that reaction.

More questions …

  • My end goal is to raise a conscientious child who values her relationship with others and makes choices based on anticipated outcomes. I grew up with a pretty gentle discipline model, but that did include spankings. I’m torn by parenting how I was parented know that I turned out fine and changing things up and risking some unknown … Are you parenting how you were parented? How has it worked for you?
  • At what age do children need discipline? 8 months is definitely too young it my mind. I haven’t seen her do anything on purpose yet … it’s always related to being hungry or tired. When does that change?
  • Last but not least, once we decide our initial plan (focus on initial since I know it will evolve) how do we get our family on board so they are able to support our parenting plan?

This article is what sparked many of my questions. I think I’m going to need to explore some of the books mentioned at the end.
At the bottom of this post there are links to a whole carnival of gentle discipline posts. I have my reading material ready for the next while :)

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  1. says

    It looks like I have a very similar philosophy as you do when it comes to parenting/discipline. What I have found to be true with my own children, plus my preschoolers I taught is that discipline really seems to be individual for each child. The kiddos who were taught to look for things they CAN do, generally were able to be redirected easier at school, too. The age at which more discipline (time outs, spankings, etc) is needed really depends on the development of your child. My daughter is much more of a go-getter and wants to push the boundaries. She had time outs much younger than my son did (around the age of two and half, when I knew she understood what she was doing was against our simple rules), who is totally content with becoming engaged in an activity I suggest.

  2. says

    oh gosh. what a gut-wrenching, stress-inducing topic lol. we thought we had this parenting thing down, we were such good disciplinarians… and then the 2's hit. i think most of my friends are finding that you hit different stages of development, and you feel like you have to start from scratch and redefine what your discipline model is.if my memory serves correctly, we started at about 9months, maybe a little later, after trying "no" and redirection, with hand smacks on really important things. there were things that he could get hurt on, and despite our best efforts at baby-proofing, some of those things are still there. tvs, computers, etc etc.. things that could hurt him and he could hurt them. and he picked up on that pretty fast, thankfully.now, he is definitely in a very willful stage, and it started escalating at about 19months, which is when all my friends are saying it is hitting for them too. at about 19-20 months, i would just look at him sometimes and think, "who are you?? where did my sweet snuggly boy go?? you're kind of mean!!"we started out with just spankings, because we believed that's what we were called to do, but honestly, after a while, we realized that sometimes he doesn't respond to spankings, not in a positive way at all, and time out is what will get through to him. you'll probably have to work to find that balance of what will reach your child's heart. and also what will penetrate the barrier of the ultra-fit they are throwing at the time. i'm finding it's best to get him to a calm place before we really work on the discipline, otherwise it is going straight over his head. whether we do time out or spankings, we always always always have discussion. when he was younger it was just "mommy and daddy love you, but you must obey. we want you to obey for your safety." now that he is older, we get a little more theological about it, "mommy and daddy expect you to obey, and God wants us to protect you, and when you disobey we must spank you/give you time out. but we love you very much and when you apologize, we forgive you and God forgives you too."seriously, the biggest thing for me has been containing my own temper. that has gone a LONG way toward making discipline a positive experience. when i stay calm, i know i'm not just freaking out and punishing him out of anger, i'm able to make rational decisions about what i should do (which is super hard when your child is screaming and throwing and hitting you and trying to turn things over..)this is long, and i hope it helps lol! just know that you are not the only one who is struggling and confused on this topic.. there is a vast amount of ideologies on how you should handle this. also, as far as getting your family on board, be prepared that it may not happen, no matter what. sometimes our families thinks we should spank or correct our child when we don't think it's warranted, and other times he is being a complete monster and they act like we are being jerks for correcting him. in my particular situation, i think i will never completely win over our parents' approval because when you make a choice that is different from someone else, it's easy for them to feel like you are directly telling them they did it wrong. so i hope they will be supportive, but if not, rest in the confidence that you are this child's parent and that you are doing what you feel is right for your child's temperment!

  3. says

    I was spanked as a kid and I think I always responded well to it (meaning – it effectively got me to stop!)But when I tried it with my son, when he started needing some correction, he didn't respond to it at all. Sometimes he'd laugh at me. He has a very high pain tolerance. My husband and I discovered that "time-outs" actually work better for him because he is so active that being taken out of the "fun" was a much bigger punishment for him. When he was too little to actually sit for a time-out, I would take him (upstairs) to his crib, walk out and make him stay in his crib for 1 minute before retrieving him.I think you really have to pay attention to the temperament and personality of your child – because what you think will work, may not, and something you didn't think about doing might work better.I've heard it can even be different from child to child! Ugh!

  4. says

    A friend once told me that she tries as often as possible to use the word 'stop' in place of where you would naturally say 'no.'The logic behind it being that probably 90% of the time you're needing your kid to stop what they're doing when they're making a crap choice.'Stop' is concrete whereas 'no' can lean towards abstract – and you don't want abstract when your kid is too far ahead of you on the sidewalk.We quickly adopted this when we realized we were saying no to everything an 18 month old Guthrie was doing! It just gets so old so quickly to say No all the time- it's so negative, where stop can just be stop. Just tonight it went, "Stop, Laithe!" and removing the dinosaur from his hand, "No hitting your sister with the dinosaur, it hurts!" I also like that the sign for stop is really recognizable and can be very forceful.We don't usually spank because it's usually us who are out of control at that point. And being the adult in the situation it's our job to get our shit together before disciplining our child who cannot physically or emotionally get their shit together. Timeout has proven much more effective, although what has been just as effective with Guthrie is a forced sit down with a parent for a very long hug. I'm sure we swaddled her too long! She's really prone to long dramatic cries post-admonishment. Some people I'm sure see that as rewarding her negative behavior, but it also allows her (and me) to get to a place where she can calm down and we can talk about what happened- and since she's four we can actually start to do so. And, you know, of course it changes every day! What works one day (or at one age, with one child) will probably not work the next, so it's good to have a number of tools to use. good luck! know that you're not alone in this and that you'll be challenged and rewarded by this struggle :)