One of the biggest mothering frustrations I face is deciding what consequences a wrong behavior in one of my children should receive. I watch an attitude or action that I know ought to be corrected, but I am at a loss as to what to do about it. I want to be consistent and have consequences standardized, but I will sometimes ignore the situation just because I don’t know how to discipline for it.
For example, yesterday four-year-old Jesse came upstairs crying that eight-year-old John was wearing his hat. I had two issues to deal with. John had been unkind in wearing Jesse’s hat and in keeping it when Jesse asked for it back. Jesse had also not been kind, because he wouldn’t wait for John to finish with the hat, and he came whining to me. So, what is a mother to do?!
I imagine each of you faces issues like this several times a day in your home, if you have more than one child. We are able to work with these situations even more since we are homeschoolers because we have that many more hours each day with our children home. To be honest with you, I would rather avoid these sorts of interactions between my children. Wouldn’t it be better, though, for me to see each one as an opportunity to teach and train my children? With these kinds of thoughts, I could actually be happy when the need for consequences arises.
A schedule gives direction for your day. In a similar way, standardizing and knowing exactly what you will do for many of the common areas that require discipline in your home gives direction to your child training. If you need help in this area, I suggest an If-Then Chart to help you work through this task of determining consequences and then writing them down to be posted in the home for easy reference. I can still remember the evening five or six years ago when two moms excitedly stood up in our homeschool support group meeting and shared this “treasure” they had discovered. I agree!
I wish I knew how many times I have said to one of my children, “If you ______ one more time, you will have to ______.” By the time they do it again, I have forgotten what I said the consequence would be! If I had written it down, then I could have consulted my notes and followed through.
Recently we were working on the children becoming responsible for brushing their teeth in the morning. I spent our scheduled “training time” in the late afternoons teaching the children how to brush their teeth, how long to brush, and how to put their toothbrush away afterwards.
We still needed a consequence if the teeth weren’t brushed. The decision was made to have the child lose two days’ worth of dessert if he hadn’t brushed his teeth. I wrote this on the white board and then kept track of any offenders there. Once the “rule” and the “consequence” were written down, I was no longer at a loss as to what to do when I noticed a toothbrush that still had toothpaste on it. I didn’t have to nag, fuss, or feel frustrated. I could just call the non-toothbrusher to the bathroom, tell him to please brush his teeth, and express my sympathy that he had chosen to miss two days’ worth of dessert because he hadn’t brushed them!
Here are a few other examples from the Maxwell household. If a child interrupts, he is to put his hand over his mouth until Dad or Mom lets him take it off. This comes from Proverbs 30:32, “If thou hast done foolishly . . . lay thine hand upon thy mouth.”
Certainly, a child who barges into a conversation is being foolish!
We have also “backwards” applied Proverbs 17:1, “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” When our children are fussing with each other, the consequence is to eat a dry crust, and we quote this particular verse with them.
May I encourage you that investing the time in determining consequences for “infractions” will be well worth the consistency you will achieve in disciplining your children. It will also remove a big area of frustration for you as the mom. This process takes thought, prayer, and consultation with your husband. Writing down the results, perhaps in a notebook, or on a chart such as the If-Then Chart is a necessity for remembering what you have chosen.
I plan to update our If-Then Chart; they do need revising, in my opinion, as the children grow. I have been dealing with times of frustration due to the uncertainty in discipline issues, because I have not been using the “tools” the Lord has given me in this area. I plan to spend time this summer regenerating my chart and then applying it! Maybe you would benefit from doing this too!