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Maybe you don’t have to discipline

March 4th, 2008 / 6 Comments

This is the third article in the series on discipline. This one deals with younger children. Disciplining older children will be the topic of the next article in this series.

happy kid

In approaching the subject of discipline, our idea is to think of what to do when a child misbehaves.

But the best defense is a good offense. If bad behavior can often be anticipated and averted, wouldn’t that be better than dealing with it after it happens?

If you are going shopping at the mall with a 2-year-old, you can bet that a tantrum is waiting to happen if you go near a toy store. Instead of wondering how to “discipline” the 2-year-old when it happens, wouldn’t it be better to avoid the whole situation? Wouldn’t it be fair to the child to not aggravate him into bad behavior?

When we put our children into situations that are tempting, and we expect them to obey our “NO” command, it’s like taking you to a chocolate cookie factory when you are on a diet. You’d be off your diet in less than a second, no matter how “good” you are, right?

Discipline begins with avoiding such situations as much as possible. If you absolutely can not avoid it, then you can bring weapons that will head off some of the problems.

Here are some must-haves in your bulging diaper bag:

1. A toy that you bring from home that your child has not seen before. Keep a couple of toys you bought on sale or the Dollar Store to give as a treat. Instead of buying an expensive one when passing a toy store, whip this one out as if you just bought it!

2. Plenty of food and drinks. A hungry and thirsty child is a problem child.

3. A timer, the old fashion kitchen kind with the ticking sound. It’s great for everything! “I’m going to set the timer for 5 minutes. When the bell rings, we will have to leave the park.”

4. Favorite cuddly toy. When your child gets tired, he needs something comforting to soothe him.

5. Playdough. Keeps hands and imagination busy. It’s easy to carry around, and cheap enough not to cry over if you lose it.

Here are ways to plan ahead to avoid facing explosive situations:

1. Never try to do something in a hurry with a child. It is a huge mistake to “quickly run some errands.” He will always slow you down, you will get mad, and he will have a fit.

2. Never expect him to enjoy an adult situation with you. If you have to shop for a dress, visit a friend who does not have a kid-friendly house, or have lunch at a fancy restaurant with a friend, it is better to leave your child with a babysitter.

3. Never go out near nap time. I center my life around nap time. Life is just more pleasant that way.

Read other articles in the series on Discipline:

The Foundation of Dicipline

It’s Not Always About Discipline

Photo by ninjapoodle

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  1. Now I can look back and more fully appreciate my wife and her overflowing diaper bag and purse. Our kids rarely misbehaved. They had a smart mommy.

  2. […] Maybe You Don’t Have To Discipline […]

  3. when i read this article, it reminds me of the comment you made in the previous article that “…hey think the world revolves around them. Children cannot see beyond themselves. What they want is the only thing that matters to them…” trying to anticipate or “head them off at the pass” seems to be a lesson in futility. does any parent know when their child is likely to “act up” in public. by avoiding all potential opportunities for a child to misbehave would make me feel like a prisoner trying to figure out where i can/cannot take my child. wouldn’t it be more freeing to take a child to a toy store and tell them that they can look but not “buy” or to a amusement park and tell them that it is a treat and that we don’t get to go there “everyday”? i agree that having to teach them to behave in different public venues requires a lot of work.

  4. also, by “replacing” or “distracting” a child with food or toys, doesn’t that reinforce the “…if i act up, they will give me a prize” and we basically have ignored the behavior by “sweeping it under the rug”?

  5. spedrunr, imagine if you are on a diet and your friends take you to a chocolate factory with free samples and expect you to have self control. That’s just torture!

    Going to a toy store with a child and telling him to behave is just torture in the same way.

    So in that sense we can anticipate our children’s behavior. We know what triggers them. We know going shopping at the mall for clothing is not the activity of choice for a child. She’s going to get cranky after an hour and will need a snack and a play time. We can adjust our schedule and bring snacks along to avert her crankiness.

    We often place a child in an adult situation and expect her to act like an adult. That is just not fair for a child. Of course we still have to do our shopping at the mall, but prepare in advance that it may be aggravating for the child. It’s not that she is a bad child. She is just not yet mature enough to handle such adult environments. You can bring snacks along and adjust your schedule to shop for one hour instead of two.

    I wouldn’t describe that type of an adjustment makes you a prisoner.
    When we have children, it is inevitable our lives change dramatically. I don’t wear dry-clean-only clothes. To insist on wearing them and trying to teach my child not to touch me with gooey hands is like trying to teach my bunny not to jump.

    We don’t take the family to fancy restaurants that are not kid friendly. We go to Denny’s intead. We adjust our behavior for all kinds of situations. It doesn’t make me a prisoner when I am doing my job as a mother.

    (btw, I go to the fancy restaurants when I get a sitter for the kids. Lots of freedom then!)

  6. oh, spedrunr, your second comment about toys and food as distractions when they can’t get what they want.

    But how do you expect your child to accept the realities of life of not getting what she wants? Do you expect her to “sit there and grin and bear it?” Do you expect her to say, “Ok, mommy, I understand and I won’t cry about it”?

    Even adults can’t accept the realities of life that way, how much less for a child?

    By providing an alternative for your child is not to appease or reward him. Notice I never suggest buying a child a toy to stop his tantrums. I suggest bringing his favorite cuddly toy with you to provide comfort. We could all use a little love and kindness when we experience disappointments in life.

    I hope that makes sense. Everyone has a different personality. What works for one certainly may not work for another.


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