Effective Discipline Takes Time

I've been reading Kay Kuzma's book "The First 7 Years" which is excellent, by the way -- powerful and packed with juicy parenting techniques! I wanted to share one anecdote with you, found in Chapter 30 - Guidelines for Avoiding Conflict.

An Example of Effective Discipline Taking Time
It was a busy time at the Wilson's family reunion as preparations were being made for a picnic. Four-year-old Jacob was running through Grandma's kitchen with his cousin, David, when he bumped into the table. The watermelon crashed to the floor. It split open and made a mess. Mom, realizing it was an accident, calmly asked Jacob to help her clean it up.

"No," he shouted as he ran out the back door, "you can't make me."

There were dozens of relatives milling around, and immediately two older cousins bent down and started cleaning up the mess. It would have been easy to just let Jacob go. But Mom was too smart for that. She said, "Leave a couple pieces on the floor so Jacob can help. I'll be back with him shortly."

Mom casually walked outside, visited with some grown-ups, and then found Jacob kicking a ball with his cousins. She watched their play for a few minutes. She even kicked the ball back to the group when it came toward her. She didn't push to immediately right the wrong. She knew Jacob needed time to calm down. Then she spoke to the cousins. "Would you please excuse Jacob for a minute? As soon as we're finished, Jacob will come back out to play."

It was Jacob's turn to be surprised. His defenses were down. Mom further disarmed him by showing she was on his side by quietly saying to him, "I know you didn't mean to knock the watermelon off the table." She reached into his heart for the emotion that caused his behavior. "You were embarrassed that your mistake made such a big mess, weren't you? Then in front of the relatives when I asked you to clean it up, it made you angry that I would embarrass you even more. All you wanted to do was get out of there. But, Jacob, it's always important to do the right thing, no matter how we feel. So let's go back and help pick up that watermelon. It makes Jesus happy when you do the right thing."

After talking for a few minutes, Jacob relaxed. He felt sorry for what he had done. Jacob admitted that running through the kitchen was not a smart thing to do. To right the wrong, he agreed to apologize to Grandma and then help pick up whatever was left. Together, they walked back to the kitchen.

Mom could have acted quickly. In two minutes, she could have collared Jacob and marched him back into the house to make things right. But she didn't. Instead, she listened to his emotions and recognized his hurt. When he felt understood, he willingly obeyed her request.

Here's the lesson for parents: Guard your child's feelings of personal value. If Jacob had been pushed in front of an audience to apologize when he was embarrassed, he would have resisted. By waiting until negative feelings cooled, Jacob had a chance to make things right himself and save face.