It's helpful when you're sitting down to write an article about children and discipline to have a test case at home. So I suppose I should be grateful to my 5-year-old son. Just this afternoon, in the backseat of the car, Henry grabbed his best friend's hair tightly and pulled it hard. He also sat on his big sister until she screamed, scarfed down forbidden cookies, and then denied that he had eaten them.
Did I thank him? Hardly. I ended his playdate, sent him to his room twice, and banned first the computer and then the television. None of this seemed to make much of a difference. I confess that by dinnertime, I was banging the pots and pans around and SPEAKING LIKE THIS THE ENTIRE TIME.
Like most parents, I hope that my reactions will give my son pause the next time he feels like misbehaving. Even more ambitious, I want him to cooperate for the right reasons -- because "pulling hair is wrong," rather than "I don't want to make Mommy mad again." But most of the time, it seems, the actions we take to end today's bad scene do little to move us toward the larger goal of preventing tomorrow's unpleasant episode. Instead, we find ourselves wondering, Will they ever learn?
Experts insist that they will, but there's a catch -- we have to teach them, a task that requires forethought, consistency, and a cool head. What follow are the six principles of discipline with staying power. They won't prevent the Henry in your house from having an occasional horrible day, but they will help you steer him through it with love, patience, and a lasting lesson or two.