A while ago, two of our daughters-in-law mentioned on Facebook that they were reading a book called The Whole-Brain Child so I decided I should read it as well. It’s a great book and I enjoyed learning some new things. While I was at the library, I checked out another book the authors wrote, called No Drama Discipline. I haven’t finished reading it quite yet, but it contains some sound principles. Scientists may have discovered new insights over the past 30 years, but principles don’t change. Since our children have grown up to be productive members of society, and some of them are now in the process of teaching the next generation, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of the principles that worked for us.

Discipline is not synonymous with punishment. To discipline is to teach. When we discipline our children, we’re teaching them how to control themselves, helping them develop their moral compass, and telling them we love them.

What would your reaction to this be, hundreds of miles from home?
Or this, in the parking lot just outside the apartment door? 
It was still happening 10 years later!
Messes weren’t limited to outside locations, either!

When I received my patriarchal blessing as a teenager, one of the phrases that stood out to me said something like always having peace, love, and harmony in my home. I knew that if I wanted that result, I would have to work for it. The first step was to marry someone with the same goal. The second step was to teach our children to love one another. Since our children didn’t come with a User’s Manual, we relied on the scriptures, living prophets, prayer, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost when problems arose. I’d encourage you to do the same.

So, here are some of the things we tried over the years as we taught our children. I probably learned more than they ever did, but that’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?

I learned early on that there are some things you can’t MAKE children do, no matter how much you would like to. One of those things is to fall sleep. It took a while before I stopped saying “You have to go to sleep,” and said instead, “It’s bedtime; you must stay in your room.” I also remember sitting in the hallway in front of their door to enforce that.

This was not one of the times I sat at the door!

I learned that labels can be harmful, and to be aware of how I used words. It’s important to separate the act from the child; say “You did a bad thing,” not “You’re a bad child.”

I learned there’s a difference between natural consequences and logical consequences, and when to use them. For example, the natural consequence of touching a hot stove is getting burned. However, if we’re trying to keep our toddlers safe, we’ll figure out another way for them to learn that lesson. A logical consequence would be to remove them from the kitchen when we see them heading to the pan of boiling water.

I learned there’s a difference between a bribe (given before the desired action) and a reward (given after). Bribes don’t work; rewards can.

I learned the difference between “go” and “come” – see this post.

I learned that it’s easier to teach children to be obedient if there isn’t a mile-long list of rules to obey. We created our family motto of Show Respect to cover ALL of the family rules.

Summer Hours of Worth” – Our motto helped us have a productive summer one year.

I learned to give warnings before expecting a child to drop everything and come. I like being able to finish a chapter in a book or complete the next step in a project, and I tried to extend that same courtesy to my children. Saying “dinner will be ready in 5 minutes” or “we need to leave to pick up your brother in 10 minutes” actually cut down on waiting around time.

I learned to count down instead of up. Instead of counting to 3 or 10 or whatever, I’d start with the upper number and count down. If the expected behavior hadn’t changed by 0, (and usually it had), the prescribed consequence needed to happen.

I learned the importance of being consistent. It was a constant struggle! (There’s a story to add here someday, about Mother’s Day and Sunday television.)

I learned the importance of keeping my promises.

I learned that children need boundaries, but that they’ll test them to make sure you’re serious. I also learned that they’ll live up to high expectations.

I learned to look for motives behind behavior. Often something I would consider a “no-no” (like the 3-year-old carrying the day-old baby across the apartment) was done with the intent to help (the baby was crying and needed his mom).

I learned to come up with creative solutions. Some of our favorite included the Reverence Chair, being banished from your room for 24 hours because you trashed it (and then having to help clean it up again), having a child make a middle-of-the-night bed on the floor next to me instead of climbing in with us, creating an internet password of “obeymomanddad” when computer privileges were restored to a teenager, taking family scripture study to the bedroom, and staying up late to help Mom create a new Purple-People-Eater head (after destroying the original).

One of the scriptures we reiterated over and over and over comes from the Book of Mormon – Mosiah 4:14-15

     And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
     But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

Many times I would tell quarreling siblings that I wanted to keep the commandments, which stated I couldn’t allow them to fight, and I needed their help so I could be obedient. Often that worked at stopping the bickering. Separating offending parties might have helped as well.

One summer I focused on the phrase “serve one another” and I wish I had done that sooner. We had each child compile a list of things they would like someone else to do to serve them. Then, when we had problems with teasing, the offending parties would choose something on the list and do it. That was actually quite effective.

I found another picture with Green Hat!

I learned to teach by example, which is how my parents taught me. We can’t expect our children to do something we’re not willing to do ourselves. I learned that as I followed my Savior, and tried to teach our children to do the same, we did indeed have the promised blessing of a home filled with peace, love and harmony. You can, too.