When do kids understand discipline? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 03-19-2013, 11:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Is there a marker or a milestone whereby you're supposed to begin disciplining children (if required)?

 

I don't really have a disciplinarian personality, not much that kids do offends me, I don't really yell, I have an overactive sense of humor so I'm sure my kid is going to get the hellion label in school because of me... but when is it expected that parents start to discipline their children?

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#2 of 22 Old 03-19-2013, 12:31 PM
 
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I guess it depends on what you mean by discipline. For me discipline is kindly guiding them to understand what is not acceptable. In that sense I started disciplining when DD was about 6 months old and she experimented with biting when nursing. I unlatched her and put her down for a few seconds before offering to nurse again. She is about to turn two and I continue with gentle guidance and explanation. I am not one to discipline with punishment, it's not the way I was raised and it doesn't resonate with me. So far redirecting and explaining work quite well for us and we praise her for helping and listening every chance we get. I'm not sure of this is helpful to you but it's my take on discipline smile.gif

ETA most of her antics don't bother me, much like in your post. I really only interfere if she's hurting someone or an animal, is doing something dangerous or destroying things. If she's making a harmless mess I stay nearby and help her clean up at the end for instance.
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#3 of 22 Old 03-19-2013, 04:47 PM
 
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Yea, I agree with SCT. Nothing I did with either of my kids before they were maybe about a year seemed like discipline to me.  Those early things really felt like 100% my responsibility and that there wasn't too much to learn in that first year by way of behavior that wasn't accomplished by just modeling. I guess modeling is a form of discipline, thought, ha?  

 

My yonder DC is now two and we still don't do any thing much more than modeling and having high expectations that she wants to cooperate and fit into the family dynamic. I suppose I'm also aware of any behaviors that I do that subtly encourage undesirable behavior. We also do some redirecting and meeting needs so she can feel successful.  

 

Maybe around 3 there were some behaviors that I felt needed "managing" in more concrete ways. As I recall with my first child this was stuff like putting away the toy she didn't like to share before friends came over and things like that. 

 

When DC was around 8 or so we started to embrace some more traditional looking discipline on the rare occasion.  This was because I would ask for her help with resolving something and she would tell me that she thought a consequence would be a good way to handle things. Now that she's 11 I think she is moving away from that and prefers a more consensual arrangement. 


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#4 of 22 Old 03-20-2013, 07:57 AM
 
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For my kids I'd say around 18 months is when they started really testing what they're not "supposed" to do (such as go up stairs alone).  They can understand "no" earlier but that's more about laying groundwork for "the rules," not really expecting anything of them.

 

I remember thinging that up till 1.5 or 2 years they are avidly learning "how to do" things, and after that they are learning "how not to do" the same things :-) It's a healthy part of learning that they are in fact their own person and not just part of you.

 

See "1,2,3, The Toddler Years" as a quick and lovely read about how to treat kids with respect while teaching them gentle discipline.

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#5 of 22 Old 03-22-2013, 08:08 AM
 
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Attachment Parenting/Peaceful Parenting means you parent with mutual respect and care. So your needs are important but so are the child's needs. It means not getting emotional when the child gets emotional. I have found this very very helpful. I have very few rules. (Be safe, be kind, be responsible) I used these rule sin my kindergarten classroom as well as with my own three children. My children rarely give me a hard time and usually do not need for me to "pull rank" bc of safety issues. You can check out resources on this site as well as on naturalparentsnetwork online for info on parenting and discipline. Discipline comes from within and modeling, patience, and using our words are the best way to get our kids to listen to their inner voice. :) I hope everyone's comments help!

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#6 of 22 Old 03-22-2013, 11:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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They are helping, thanks everyone smile.gif

 

My question really mostly stemmed from hearing friends and people in stores carry on about "kids today" and how they lack discipline, and people rolling their eyes at mothers in stores. My son is only 12 months old but sometimes runs around in aisles pulling things apart (I put them back and don't leave a mess) but I wonder when I'm going to be the target of the eye-rolls and facebook status messages of what a horrible mother they saw in a store today LOL

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#7 of 22 Old 03-22-2013, 01:20 PM
 
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Let them roll their eyes.  I was getting an oil change today and my DD (16mos) wanted to check out everything in the waiting room, from climbing on chairs, to touching tire displays, to knocking on the glass door to the garage where they were working on the car.  I made it clear what was and wasn't allowed:  yes we may sit on a chair if we ask, no we may not put our feet on them.  We can wave to the guys working but it's not nice to bang on the glass - at which point I handed her a toy to occupy her hands.  We can look at the tires but no touching bc I have no idea how secure they were attached. 

 

I followed her around and the gentleman waiting along with us commented "don't you wish you had that much energy?".  I smiled and said "yep, I sure do!" and continnued to follow her making sure she didn't interfere with anyone going in and out.  There are certainly kids who's parents don't watch them, or don't clean up their messes, and those are the ones everyone talk about when they leave.  I try no to be one of those although I'm sure from time to time people have gasped at my DD squeeling in the grocery store to hear her echo...oh well!   And I was totally one of those gawkers pre-baby, but being a mama changes things big time!

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#8 of 22 Old 03-28-2013, 05:21 PM
 
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I'm studying childhood development in college right now, and basically, the sooner you begin to instil self-disipline and integrity the better. Babies can understand reasoning extemely early, and getting into the habit of teaching good behavior and explaining rules works better than punishment. Of course, they do not act reasonably for 20 more years or so wink1.gif

You have to remember that even if a lot of things don't bother YOU, there's a whole big world out there to consider. Think about how hard it is to make friends and woo dates when you have the social skills of a donkey and remember that your child is learning to be a world citizen-- not just your son or daughter.

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#9 of 22 Old 03-29-2013, 10:24 AM
 
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One thing to remember is that even *if* a child can understand things early on....understanding and executing are completely different things, and children have a WIDE range of impulse control for years.  In general, impulse control starts to get better around 3 for most kids, but for some, it's still a struggle long after that (look below at the kid ages in my sig, and then ask me how I know bigeyes.gif ).  So even if they *know* they're not supposed to do something, they have a hard time actually not doing it...and this doesn't mean they're "undisciplined" kids, nor does it mean you give up and let them do what they want; it means you have to be so, so consistent and firm but gentle and keep reminding them and enforcing boundaries and set things up to make it as easy to comply as possible when you can.  Now ask me how hard this last part is.  lol.gif  That's where your conviction to gentle discipline really is tested and tried.  Teaching an impulsive, energetic, creative kid to think about their actions and how they might affect others is....exhausting.  lol.  But, also worthwhile.  And incredibly rewarding when something does finally click for them. 

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#10 of 22 Old 03-30-2013, 10:01 AM
 
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Originally Posted by cynthiamoon View Post

Babies can understand reasoning extemely early, 

I don't remember this in the reading I've done about child development. Can you elaborate a little on this and perhaps give a source for this idea? 


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#11 of 22 Old 03-30-2013, 11:11 AM
 
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I don't remember this in the reading I've done about child development. Can you elaborate a little on this and perhaps give a source for this idea? 

I'm curious to know more about this, too.

 

My little girl is 6 months and while I'm not sure how much reasoning she may have a grasp on, she certainly understands and often accepts direction. 

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#12 of 22 Old 03-31-2013, 11:31 AM
 
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I am the mom of 12, Nana of 41 and I think discipline begins as soon as a baby begins rolling or crawling across the floor. Saying "discipline" at this age might shock some, but what it actually is, is teaching a child that some things can harm them and those things must be left alone. While I do believe in putting protective covers over the outlets, removing cords from reach, and putting latches on drawers and cupboards, I never moved things to a level higher than what a child can reach. For one reason, they continue to get taller and there is only so high things can go. Another reason is, it seems when things are out of reach, that's what they want the most. So I  began that way, and I also gave them their own drawer in the kitchen that they could "get into". It was filled with a few pots and pans, some plastic containers, etc., and of course, we kept a larger bucket like a laundry basket full of toys in the living room. This way, they establish what is theirs and what is not theirs. They also learn at a very early age to leave things alone that may harm them, which is what we all want. When they get to the age of fit throwing, we simply established that no one wants to hear that noise and they must do it in their room. Only when they could act appropriately could they come back. The main thing about discipline is be consistent, consistent, consistent!

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#13 of 22 Old 04-03-2013, 09:25 AM
 
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Identitycrisismama: sure thing! I am actually writing a literature review on the topic in a week, and I can post it then. Mostly it's based on experimental studies, but some of it is based on observations, and a little bit is still theory to be tested. Most of the work I've seen is being done by university psychologists.

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#14 of 22 Old 04-03-2013, 11:23 AM
 
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Like The4ofUs mentioned - reasoning and execution are not the same thing! And different kids are going to develop impulse control at very, very different rates, so you really have to judge based on your own child's capabilities. 

 

You can tell a 2.5 year old not to throw a toy, and you can explain why. They can have a firm understanding of the rule and be able to tell you why the rule exists (at least by repeating your language, even if they don't fully understand it) and still be developmentally unable to follow the rule. So it can seem like a child is being willfully disobedient when they throw the ball, and you say, "What is the rule about the ball?" "No throwing." "Why?" "It might hurt someone."  It seems like they understand, yet they do it anyway. And it's possible that they are deliberately acting out and purposefully breaking the rule, which is infuriating but even the underlying cause of THAT behavior is usually identifiable and not simply a case of a disobedient child.

 

I only have one child who is nearly 2.5, so my personal experience is somewhat limited, but more and more I see the value of empowerment, empathy and behavior modeling over "discipline" and rules. If we can strike a balance where we all feel empowered and worthy, then conflicts are rare and discipline becomes a non-issue. It requires a massive re-wiring of expectations and a wellspring of patience, but the peace is worth it.




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#15 of 22 Old 04-03-2013, 11:00 PM
 
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My kids are 16 through 31 (that's YEARS, not months! orngbiggrin.gif) I have never used any discipline other than modeling, explaining, and distracting. My kids have never really had any behavior problems, in spite of various special needs. And even when I was a therapeutic level foster parent (kids were in this program because of their extreme histories and behaviors), the kids calmed down and settled into our family expectations and routines much faster than anyone predicted. I have very high expectations of behavior in public, respect for others' feelings, things like that. None of my kids have ever really been in any trouble to speak of, and are remarkably mature and responsible. I don't mean that as bragging (well, maybe a little bit winky.gif) - I meant it in response to the "kids these days" kind of comments. Seems to me my results are better than the traditional punishment ("consequences") and power/control based discipline.


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#16 of 22 Old 04-04-2013, 07:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My kids are 16 through 31 (that's YEARS, not months! orngbiggrin.gif) I have never used any discipline other than modeling, explaining, and distracting. My kids have never really had any behavior problems, in spite of various special needs. And even when I was a therapeutic level foster parent (kids were in this program because of their extreme histories and behaviors), the kids calmed down and settled into our family expectations and routines much faster than anyone predicted. I have very high expectations of behavior in public, respect for others' feelings, things like that. None of my kids have ever really been in any trouble to speak of, and are remarkably mature and responsible. I don't mean that as bragging (well, maybe a little bit winky.gif) - I meant it in response to the "kids these days" kind of comments. Seems to me my results are better than the traditional punishment ("consequences") and power/control based discipline.

 

I tend to believe modelling is the most effective behaviour modification tool in the long run (and easier, I'm pretty lazy, I can't imagine myself to be a very consistent chaser and hitter lol), but what do you do when kids have those moments where they just give up on life? Like when they have a nuclear meltdown, tired, hungry, been stretched way beyond their capabilities and they just tell you to go @%$& yourself... how do you explain and redirect your way out of that? lol 

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#17 of 22 Old 04-04-2013, 12:20 PM
 
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I tend to believe modelling is the most effective behaviour modification tool in the long run (and easier, I'm pretty lazy, I can't imagine myself to be a very consistent chaser and hitter lol), but what do you do when kids have those moments where they just give up on life? Like when they have a nuclear meltdown, tired, hungry, been stretched way beyond their capabilities and they just tell you to go @%$& yourself... how do you explain and redirect your way out of that? lol 

 

I think that in those cases, you don't. I think you understand that circumstances have brought the child to a point where they have exhausted their coping mechanisms and are doing the best they can. It may not look like it, but they are. In all likelihood, if they are really that tired, that hungry, that overstimulated, it isn't their fault. It is a parent's/caregiver's job to make sure that they stay fed, rested, and centered. It isn't always that easy, but it certainly isn't a simple case of a child being bad/disobedient if he's melting down after a long day at the zoo and a skipped nap. 

 

What I do if we're in public: if I can do it without escalating the situation, I try to find a quiet place and ride it out and get him as calm as possible before we go home. If I know the underlying issue (sleepy, hungry) I remedy that as soon as possible. I try to just stay calm and present and not get sucked into the red zone with him. I usually don't try to fix it, because at least with DS, when he's gone nuclear there isn't anything you could do to fix it anyway. Plus, I think that lots of distraction techniques just to get them to end the tantrum is...what's the word I'm looking for...it sends the message that their problem is invalid, that their feelings aren't warranted. If they're able to listen to you, empathy is a much more powerful technique than distraction. "You got very upset that your cookie broke and there are no more. You sound so mad. That's really hard." 




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#18 of 22 Old 04-04-2013, 10:09 PM
 
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I tend to believe modelling is the most effective behaviour modification tool in the long run (and easier, I'm pretty lazy, I can't imagine myself to be a very consistent chaser and hitter lol), but what do you do when kids have those moments where they just give up on life? Like when they have a nuclear meltdown, tired, hungry, been stretched way beyond their capabilities and they just tell you to go @%$& yourself... how do you explain and redirect your way out of that? lol 

Well, there is always The Look.  Pretty clear, nonverbal message that Mama ain't happy.

 

When that doesn't work, I try not to take it personally. I have been called every name in the book (generally only by foster kids), and it really doesn't faze me. I walk away from most nastiness, literally. Just walk away. The message was, I choose not to be around people who act like that. And try to fix the tired, hungry, or whatever problem as quickly as possible. If a meltdown happened in public, I calmly escorted, or carried if necessary, the child to a safe place to wait it out. No discussion during a meltdown. And little or none after. Unless there was some important lesson I thought the child didn't already know, I did not restate the obvious. She already knows she is not supposed to hit, for example. I recall very little direct conversation about behavior, ever. Maybe a simple one-liner, here and there. "No, you may not hit your sister", as I took away the stick.

 

I dealt with kids with pretty extreme behaviors (sexual reactivity, fecal smearing, fire-starting, etc.). But really, those behaviors went away pretty quickly. I guess that taught me to not worry too much about the little stuff. But even the most troubled kids were soon saying please, eating politely at the table, and were generally cooperative, without ever really being told to. I am sure the natural modeling by my bio-kids was an important aspect of that learning. And even the most serious problems never brought about anything like punitive consequences. Higher supervision, yes. Keeping the matches and kitchen knives locked up, certainly. But no taking away privileges, time-out, or whatever other punishments parents think up.

 

I believe a major part of treating children with respect is respecting their intelligence. Generally, they know what is expected of them, and do it when they can. My job as a parent is to set up their world that they can operate safely within it at an age (ability) appropriate level; a safe environment for a 2 year old is much different than for a 10 or 20 year old. Then gradually remove the scaffolding, and allow them to become independent. As a radical unschooling family, we have watched this process unfold with complex tasks such as reading. Philosophically, I see no reason this should not work with learning how to get along in society.


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#19 of 22 Old 04-05-2013, 09:03 AM
 
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No discussion during a meltdown. And little or none after. Unless there was some important lesson I thought the child didn't already know, I did not restate the obvious. She already knows she is not supposed to hit, for example. I recall very little direct conversation about behavior, ever. Maybe a simple one-liner, here and there. "No, you may not hit your sister", as I took away the stick.

 

I relate very much with this. IME, we GD parents can sometimes talk too much. I like how you described this - in that constantly talking over things can give the subtle impression that we do not respect or honor our children's intelligence. It also has the effect of, perhaps, being somewhat unsympathetic to the "out of control" or impulse issues that the child is dealing with by implying that if they just remembered the expectations then they would not be feeling/behaving in x way. 

 

Great post! 


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#20 of 22 Old 04-05-2013, 11:14 AM
 
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My daughter understood discipline at a very early age, shortly after being able to feed herself. She began to understand what control was, and that it was open to her OR to an authority figure. In my household, the more self-discipline she exerted, the less imposed discipline was exerted. She preferred self-discipline, and I think that is common to all human beings.
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#21 of 22 Old 04-06-2013, 06:46 AM
 
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I'm a big believer in gentle discipline, but I think if you want results you need to start early.  To be clear, I'm not talking about beating your baby, but giving them little cues that let them know your expectations and nudge them in the direction you want them to go. 

 

For example, if your baby is swatting at you, you might get quiet and look away, letting him know gently but clearly that this isn't how you get attention, then reengage with a smile and a giggle when they stop.  

 

Or if your baby is playing with something you don't want them to, I'm thinking outlet not the pots and pans because exploring is good, then slip it out of their hand and replace it with a toy, or call them away and "reward" them for coming with a tickle or a game of peekaboo.

 

If your baby is on the changing table, sing to them, babble to them, make it a fun time, but if they start flip and flopping and making your job harder, shift to a slightly more business like tone.

 

Of course, for these cues to work they need to be built on a foundation of mutual respect.  If you listen to your babies cues, not just his demands but smaller shifts in his demeanor, he'll feel respected and do the same for you.  Not every time, of course, but more and more gradually over time.  

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#22 of 22 Old 04-06-2013, 07:35 AM
 
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My thoughts are really scattered and I'm having trouble figuring out how to answer this.

First, no 12-month-old is "disciplined." They're still babies and have no impulse control. I think all you can do at that age is pick them up and carry them if they're getting into trouble, or redirect them.

But also, there are different ways of thinking about "disciplined." I think when people say that, they mean that kids have an inner kind of discipline - that they know how they are supposed to behave, and they have enough self-control do behave in that way. I think a lot of people assume that can only happen if children are punished, and therefore equate "discipline" with "punishment", but really I think they're talking about whether they children have learned self-control. Also, they might in part be talking about how well the children are supervised. Like if one of my kids were running in a store, I'd be on top of that and keep them with me so they couldn't run into anyone and hurt anyone. I would not allow them to continue running in the store because it's dangerous, and we'd leave if we had to and go someplace better suited to their need to run at that point, like the park. I would do that both to meet the needs of other people in the store, and to meet their own needs.I wouldn't keep a child who was feeling very active due to diet or level of stimulation somewhere they had to be still. That is a supervision issue and not a discipline issue, but people would see my kids not running, or see them leaving if they wouldn't stop running, and think of it as a discipline issue.

Now I'm going to completely contradict myself where I said that no 12-month-old is disciplined, and say that we start disciplining our children at birth, and they start to understand it at birth. Discipline means teach, not punish, and we start teaching our kids at birth that we listen to them and make sure their needs are met and make sure we take other people's needs into consideration as well. If our baby cries, we pick our baby up and feed, play with, whatever we need to do to help our baby. If our baby is so loud that our baby is disturbing others, we take our babies out where they aren't disruptive. Those are all ways of teaching, or disciplining, our babies, and we do it their whole lives. They start to pick up some of those lessons very early, and if we are consistent with them, they do get it eventually.
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