Thursday, November 10, 2011

Discipline: Part 1

I've been thinking about the word discipline a lot lately, and I think it's worthy of a series of posts.

It started because I felt that we were in need of some major shake-ups in terms of the tools we are using at home with the kids. Nothing was working anymore and we were all feeling frustrated.

The main issue we were having is that J's emotions were really ramping up and he was having trouble reigning them in. The smallest task or correction was becoming an all-out fall-out.

I also felt like our expectations and the consequences we turned to were consistently inconsistent.

After reading a lot, and talking to other parents, I created a Color Wheel based on a system that I know a lot of teachers use in the classroom.

I'll attach it in case you'd like to download a copy and try it. Here's how we use it:

The Color Wheel is printed out and hanging on our refrigerator with a big letter J magnet.

Each day, J begins the day on Green. Green means Go! It means smooth sailing, keep it up. No matter what happened the day before, J gets to put himself on Green every morning.

If J makes some really great choices, or handles a tough situation very well, he gets to move himself to Blue. Blue is his favorite color. Blue means take a second and commend yourself, you are doing awesome! (It truly amazes me how excited J gets when we recognize his good behavior and give him the nod to move to Blue!)

On the other hand, if J's choices are on the path to trouble, he moves himself to Yellow. Yellow means slow down, check yourself. Take a breath or two and focus on what you should do to get yourself back on Green. (I really like to use this space to encourage him to get back on Green, rather than as a warning that he's almost on Red.)

To my surprise, this has been working really well and we have very rarely had to use the 4th quadrant on the circle: Red. Red means, of course, stop. Time for a time-out and most likely a consequence. Our typical go-to consequences are losing TV, a favorite toy, or a sweet treat for that day.

It's not fool-proof and sometimes we forget to use the chart, but overall, I'm pretty happy with it. I think it's very age-appropriate and hopefully will be so for at least the first few elementary years. It reminds me a bit of the old star sticker charts we had on the fridge as kids.

And speaking of sticker charts, a friend of mine has slightly older children, and they have found an iPhone app to be the new best thing for keeping tabs on their boys' responsibilities and behavior. It's the iRewardChart and you can find it here.

Parents can keep track of chores as well as actions like sharing, using nice manners, etc. You then also set a reward system: a certain number of stars equals a pay out of say $2, an extra TV show, a sweet treat, etc. Our friends' kids check in with Dad at the end of the day and tally up their stars.

And, no clutter on the fridge!

What do you think? Can you see yourself trying either of these ideas? Do you have a great system already in place? Please share!

Next up in my series on discipline is how this reflecting ended up turning on me! Setting up expectations for others kind of made me realize I'm not being held to a whole lot myself. Figures, doesn't it?! Just as I'm feeling good about coming up with a creative solution for a parenting issue, I realize... it's not just about the kids!

Oh, and during my many hours of web browsing on this topic, I came across this clip of Jerry Seinfeld on Conan O'Brien, discussing his favorite discipline tactics. Funny!