We have tried so many different discipline “techniques” in our house and sometimes I feel like those techniques stress ME out more than help ease the burden that the specific situation is causing. Every child is different and therefore every family is different, so many techniques that work for one family won’t always work for another. I want to be able to teach children obedience through love and I have tried so many ideas in my time as a mother.
In my early years of mothering I would see or hear some specific piece of advice and think “Well, since I’m so new at this, and this person is at least well versed enough in life experiences that they felt like they could share their wisdom with me, then it must work.” I look back on that now and think about how silly that notion was. Instead of realizing that I was my kids mother, not that person, I just took this new particular technique and ran with it. I should have been sitting down with Noah and catering those wonderful ideas to our family, but because I did not do this, I usually just ended up feeling worse off then I had before. It wasn’t that the ideas were bad, but that I had not come up with ideas to help us implement those techniques in our family. My family is a unique one, just like every one else’s, so its important to run with ideas and rework them to fit in with your particular situation.
Braddoc, our second was diagnosed with Autism (Aspergers) a few years ago and that has brought so many life changes into our home. Most of these techniques that I had read over the years, were great ideas in their own right, but REALLY did not work for my son, whose brained works just a little bit different then the rest of ours. It was after a lot of tears (on his part and mine) and lots of kicking and screaming (again from both of us) that we finally came up with something that worked great for our family when it came to discipline.
Kids on the Autism spectrum need structure, they need to know the consequences of not obeying and they need to be able to directly relate their actions to their punishment. In reality I think all kids needs to this a certain extent, but kids on the spectrum REALLY need it.
About a year and a half ago we decided to implement what we call the “3 strike” discipline system. This stemmed from our love of sports and the “3 strikes you’re out” lesson we were actually literally teaching our children at the time, while my husband coached our son in baseball.
Something I learned years ago is that people, or in this case children, need a lot of reminders and reassessment’s when they are doing something they shouldn’t. Our 3 and 4 year old littles get overwhelmed when things don’t work out right and they can’t remember that 3 days ago or even 3 hours ago, that taking a little break from the situation would help them to calm down.
We decided to create a system that would help them, 1st to realize what was going on 2nd reassess the situation, 3rd take a step back (and maybe even a break) and 4th change the situation. From this knowledge and need for change for our family the “3 strikes” rule was born.
We use the 3 strikes rule when the kids are not listening, misbehaving, refusing to do something we have asked, or are throwing a fit about something. We use this rule for almost anything in our home that needs direct discipline or change.
Before we give the 1st Strike (or check mark on the list) we talk to the child about their behavior and how it is not appropriate, we ask them to change this behavior and let them know that if they do not change the behavior that they will get strike 1. We let them know what the consequence will be if they get to strike 3 and then we tell them that it’s up to them whether or not they change their behavior, they will be the one to receive a punishment not us, but to remember that if they don’t change their behavior that they will be getting their first strike. We leave the decision up to them because children need to feel ownership and usually they will make the right decision and choose to change their behavior.
If their behavior is not changed then we give them their 1st strike and remind them of their consequence. The 1st strike is the warning strike, this just gives them a second chance to realize their behavior is inappropriate and give them an opportunity to try to make a conscious change in their behavior.
We repeat the first warning step in between each strike. We let them know that their current behavior is going to get them a 2nd (or 3rd strike) and remind them of their consequence (early bed time, no tv time, no bedtime snack, or whatever it is we have chosen to be the consequence for their actions). We again leave the behavior choice up to them. Most of the time we don’t even get to the 2nd or 3rd strike (unless we are dealing with a particularly crazy day with our 3-year-old… 3 year olds, need I say more?) because the child just needs to be reminded of what the consequence is if they choose to continue misbehaving. The reason we give them the reminder in-between is because often they just need to have someone point out their wrong/ridiculous behavior, for them to change. I once heard that a young child can not remember things (like a punishment) when they are angry for longer than their age in minutes. We wanted to make sure we are giving our kids a refresh and a chance to calm down. This is especially important for our son with Autism, because he has a very hard time remembering things when he is overwhelmed. If he does not have the reminder he will be stressed because he wont have remembered getting strike 1 when we give him strike 2.
The point is not to take everything away from our kids, the point is to help them realize the things they are doing wrong and correct the behavior.
If we do get to a 2nd strike then the child has to go to their room, ALONE, and take a little bit of a break. We don’t usually set a time limit, but we tell them they can come out when they feel like they have calmed down and can come and be part of our family again. For our older kids I ask them to think about ways that they can change their behavior or about what they could have done to act differently. When they come out of their room they are asked to tell us what they thought about and how they can change their behavior for the remainder of the day. We also talk to them about why their behavior was not okay, and help them learn how to change that behavior and make something positive happen instead. This is not to be seen as a grounding or punishment of being sent to their room. The point of this part to to help them calm themselves down and think about the things they are doing before their behavior gets out of control. Usually taking the time to be alone and center themselves will help them change their behavior. Sometimes we all need to be alone to gather ourselves and collect our thoughts, our kids are no different. This step is treated as a break and not a time out.
Usually after strike 2 we hardly ever need to go to strike 3 but in the event that they do get a 3rd strike, they end up with the consequence we warned them about. Rarely do we ever have to start the 3 strike rule over again after we have gone through the 3 strike’s for the first time that day. I think maybe 7 times in the last year has any one of our kids earned more than 3 strikes in a day.
I know that as an adult sometimes I need to step back and reassess the situation and take a breather for a minute. I think we use the 3 strike system on ourselves without even realizing it. Sometimes I need to be reminded of how to change my behavior. I find myself on many occasions ready to just explode and I have to step back and talk myself down and remind myself of how I should be acting. I often times go to a quiet place to gather my thoughts and to reassess my behavior and try to reenter the situation calmer and with more patience. I realized all those months ago when we were trying so many different techniques that I needed to find some kind of system that allowed my kids to have the same type of experience that I was having in stressful or upsetting situations, after all, I’m trying to teach them how to be great adults and what better way to do that then to teach them something they could use at any given point in their life, while still visually and verbally teaching them about consequences?
When we were trying other techniques and disciplining our kids for every infraction without a warning, I felt like we were overly disciplining them and not allowing them any room to learn and grow from their mistakes or even allowing them to make the decision to change or learn how to change on their own. When we tried to give them warnings over and over again I felt like we were just encouraging bad behavior and that we were not adequately teaching our children about choices and consequences. It wasn’t until we started our 3 strike system that I felt like we were adequately teaching our kids about the importance of changing their behavior. We were able to give them warnings and to help them step back and look at the situation in a new light as well as learn how to change the situation, while also implementing consequences for continued misbehavior. With the 2nd strike we were allowing them an opportunity to decompress and reassess their behavior before we gave them a punishment.
HOW IT WORKS?
Lastly I wanted to give an example of how this works in our house.
Yesterday Braddoc refused to come home from the park. I asked him if he was being respectful of me and instead of responding he just stood there, I told him that if he chose to stay at the park he would get a strike 1, and that if he got to strike 3 he would go to bed early. I was okay with his decision either way, after all it was not me who was going to be punished, but if he chose to stay that he would get strike 1 and if he chose to come home we could read a book. It was his choice. I then walked away and after a few seconds he walked home behind me. I told him I was proud of him for obeying and not earning a strike.
Later that day after this same type of warning because he was refusing to do his homework he received his 1st strike and was told that if he got to strike 3 that he would need to go to bed early. He came and did his homework but then threw a fit about cleaning up after dinner. He received another warning and was told that he was about to receive strike 2 if his behavior did not change. He ended up receiving strike 2 and had to go spend some time alone, quietly in his room. I talked to him and told him that I knew it was hard work to clean, but that if we ALL worked together as a family, the dinner clean up would go much faster. Since he decided he did not want to work he was causing the rest of us to have to clean up more and that I knew how much he loved us and didn’t want to cause us more work. I asked him to please go to his room and to think about ways that he could show us he loved us after he was ready to come out. After about 15 minutes he came out of his room and was one of the best cleaners for the rest of the night. He got the other kids excited about cleaning and we had a lot of fun as a family. He didn’t even need another warning about strike 3 the rest of the night.
Like I said before, this system is to teach our kids. It’s not to create punishments or to show who is in charge. I see posts going around all the time that if kids had more spankings they would behave better. I think this notion is silly. Do I want my child to obey me out of fear of a spanking or do I want them to obey out of love and respect? I want my children to learn how to love others and also to learn how to calm themselves down in stressful situations. Goodness knows I encounter plenty of times in my life where I needed to step back and reassess my behavior. I want to teach my kids to be adults who care and adults who don’t blow up over small things. I find myself yelling about silly things and I pray that I can correct that behavior before my children grow into adults who do the same thing. I feel like this system helps me to correct myself as I teach my children obedience through love. I want them to know that all of their choices have good consequences and bad consequences and I want them to be able to discern for themselves what the right choice is.
I said at the beginning of the post, every family is different and I write this not to tell anyone how to discipline but to give an example of what we have found works best for our family, so that hopefully someone who is struggling in this, like I was, can have some ideas of where to start and how to cater these ideas to their own families needs. I was in a seminar where a mom said that we should teach our kids to obey because they want too, for them, not for us. That really hit home for me and led to the discussion I had with my husband that started our 3 strike family rule. I would love for y’all to take this idea, make it your own and find out ways to help your children and family grow together.
What ways have you catered ideas about teaching children to fit your family?