Have you ever lost your temper with your kids and said or did things you regret? Is bedtime a struggle in your house? Do your kids often misplace things and race around the house, trying to find shoes or their backpack, as you’re walking out the door?
Routine is the superhero that can save the day.
In the first two parts of this series (The Power of Definitions and Three Questions That Can Change Your Kid’s Heart), we talked about defining disobedience and misbehavior and then developing consistent follow-up that will promote lasting change.
The first step is the discipline routine, and it’s intended to get our kids’ attention and send an instant message that disobedience and misbehavior are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
So much of our hope and our hearts are tied into our kids; it’s no wonder that few people can inspire as intense emotion in us like they can. And that includes intense anger. But when rage rises up, having a routine can greatly minimize the temptation to explode. Routine has the power to override our emotions and take over where anger might normally do the driving.
Everyone’s discipline preferences are different. Some people like the Time Out method. If that’s you, I would strongly recommend using the Super Nanny plan. Define a “Naughty Spot” in your home (you can improvise a Naughty Spot when you’re out). We use a stepstool in the kitchen. Yours can be the bottom step of a staircase, the closed toilet in the bathroom, a small carpet in the living room, etc.
As soon as the poor behavior occurs, calmly call the child to the Naughty Spot. Make no eye contact. Keep your voice calm, and speak in low tones. Then set a timer for the number of minutes that corresponds to your child’s age (i.e. four minutes for a four-year-old). When the timer beeps, you can begin the Three Question Correction and then choose a follow up action (apology, consequence, etc.).
The only way Time Outs work is if the parents are consistent and stick to a routine. If you choose this method, your child can not argue or whine, and he must NEVER, EVER be permitted to get up from the Naughty Spot before the timer beeps. If he does get up, don’t yell or argue. Just quietly (and firmly) put him back and reset the timer.
You have to be willing to do it again and again for long as it takes to get him to stay the full amount of time (minutes that correlate to age), or Time Outs won’t be effective. And you have to do it without losing your temper. If you stick it out a few times, your child will know you mean business, and he’ll give up the fight.
On a side note, sending a kid to his room when he’s misbehaved is not a productive routine. For starters, when parents send a kid to his room, it’s usually out of frustration, and there’s no predictable time frame. While there, he’s free to play or read or nap, which takes his attention off the discipline process. And if he’s angry or frustrated, sending him to his room will only provide a simmering pot where his negative emotions can stew and fester.
Jody and I are spanking fans. It sends a quick, clear, direct message, and when it’s used as part of a well defined disciple routine, it’s an extremely effective tool for developing obedience in our kids. Just to be clear, spanking is not the same as hauling off and whacking a kid out of anger.
The key to effective spanking is to remain completely calm and stick to the routine. We don’t believe in using our hands to spank (hands are meant for holding, hugging, high fives, and thumbs up). Although, I will say there have been a few occasions where my hand was all I had, so it had to do.
When a child disobeys or misbehaves, I will call her into the kitchen and use a spanking stick to give a swift, firm swat to the back of her leg (never her bottom; that’s where her spinal cord ends). My spanking sticks have varied over the years: a plastic spatula, a ruler, a wooden spoon, and a paint stirrer have all done the job in our house.
Once they’ve been spanked, our kids get a smile, a hug, and a reminder the we love them enough to discipline them, and then we move into the Three Question Correction.
When my kids are toddlers and preschoolers, I like to combine Time Out with Spanking. I’ve found that Time Out helps my little ones mentally process the disciple routine, while developing patience and self-control. So I will first spank, and then sit him on the step stool for the allotted minutes, followed by the Three Question Correction.
Anytime I am fuming mad, I will not spank. In those situations, I’ll have my child sit somewhere (the couch, the dining room table, etc.) and then tell her that I’m very angry and need a few minutes to calm down (at which point I’ll usually go in my room and pray). When I’m calm, I’ll begin the discipline routine, but I know that if I try to discipline my kids before that, I stand a good chance of sinning in my anger.
I once read that a scowl is more scaring to our kids than any spanking, and I think that’s true. When we react to our kids in anger and rage, we show contempt, and for that moment, our kids feel like we hate them.
Discipline is meant to show love, not hatred. In fact, the Bible says that if we don’t discipline our kids, it means we don’t love them (Proverbs13:24), but when we allow anger to take the driver’s seat, it sends a painful and scaring message to our kids.
For parents who choose to use spanking as a part of their correction routine, be sure to spank out of a calm sense of love. Be consistent in how you spank. Don’t grab a kids’ arm, yank it over his head, and send a hard blow to his backside. That’s not spanking – it’s hitting, and it’s wrong.
If you lose your temper with your kids (and we all have), make sure you go to your child, confess your sin, and ask for his forgiveness. Let him know that you too are a sinner in need of a savior, and that you make mistakes.
Just as everyone has their own beliefs about Time Outs and spanking, everyone has a different opinion about disciplining older kids.
For the most part, we don’t use Time Outs or spankings with our kids beyond elementary school. Often, I’ll have my kids sit on the couch or at the table for a short cool off period. It gives them a moment to think about what went wrong and gives me time to think through the situation and ask for wisdom. I’ll pray and sometimes talk to my husband. Then I’ll call my child over for the Three Question Correction.
As our kids get older, they have more responsibility and more privilege, and they can reason at a deeper level. Therefore, consequences are typically more elaborate for our older kids.
Just as a routine brings calm and purpose to correction, it brings closure to a day and security to a child’s heart.
Our oldest son has autism, and going to sleep was once his greatest challenge. Beginning when he was about two, we started a very detailed bedtime routine. We did his bath in the exact same way every night, laid him in bed, and sang the exact same three songs. We kissed his forehead, said goodnight, and turned off the light. Then my husband Matthew and I took turns sitting in a rocking chair, reading with a book light, making sure Griffyn stayed in bed, and there we sat until he was sleeping.
It took eighteen solid months of never missing a step and never missing a day, but then something amazing happened. He went to bed every night, peacefully, and without any challenge. Now he’s 13, and to this day, when the clock strikes 9:00, he says, “Time for bed,” and off he goes.
We noticed that all of our other kids were just born into the bedtime routine that was already operating in our house, and so we never again struggled with a child who refused to sleep.
Routines for clean up, after school, evening, and morning can help your kids keep track of their belongings and their responsibilities. They provide predictability, which makes kids feel safe, and they help develop lifelong habits that will add to their peace and productivity.
What are some of your family routines?