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The reality of reality discipline

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published March 1, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

I started with “The Happiest Toddler on the Block” and quit after “I’m OK, You’re a Brat”.

The premise of “Happiest Toddler:” Kids are cavepeople, without verbal and coping skills needed in our world. I’ll buy that. But then it suggests going caveman back at them, getting as loud and as animated as they do.

It’s supposed to empathetic. Problem: Big Guy wanted to be a bigger and better caveman, amping up the tantrum every time I tried it. Guess he took it as a challenge.

The premise of “I’m OK:” Some children really are difficult, and that’s not your fault. True, and strangely comforting. But then there’s the part about how some people just aren’t cut out to be parents. Oh my God! What if I’m one of them?”

So I swore off parenting books and vowed to muddle through. And quite a muddle it was at times, as we stomped and whined from the Terrible Twos to the Indignant Threes. Until I saw a story about Christian psychologist and author Kevin Leman last week “As parents, do you struggle with getting your children up and ready for school in the mornings or worry that your toddler will never be potty trained? Is bedtime a battle?”

My answers: Most days, thank God we’re past that and once in a while. I ordered the book.”

Leman’s theme is “reality discipline:” Make kids responsible for their actions by showing them the consequences , but do it without anger. ”

Granted, “consequences” can be a little esoteric at age 3.

ME: Please brush your teeth.
BIG GUY: I don’t want to brush my teeth
ME: If you don’t brush your teeth, they’ll rot, my money will go to the dentist instead of your college fund, you won’t get an education, will bounce from one loser job to another and wind up roaming downtown with a stroller, bumming money for “bus tickets.” I hope your brother gives you a warm bed to sleep in occasionally.”
BIG GUY: I don’t want to brush my teeth.

Still, he’s old enough to be accountable on many issues. Such as shrieking, his current obnoxious habit. He gets ticked over some offense, real or imagined, and cuts loose. So I decided to give Leman a try. What’s the worst that could happen?

I have long known better than to ask that.

Monday afternoon, Big Guy slams the computer keyboard. I tell him computer time’s over, because I can’t let him destroy it. He shrieks. Eardrum-rupturing decibels, glass-shattering pitch. About three inches from my face. “Oooh, that hurts my ears! If you’re want to shriek, do it in your room.” I pick him up and carry him down the hall.”

An hour later, he quit screaming. Kid has stamina.

On some level, it must have worked — we’ve had an amazingly placid week since. He’s gone to bed cheerfully, helped with chores and brushed his teeth without too much guff.

Still, I’m going to stock up on Tylenol before I try it again.

Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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