A few weeks ago we were having discipline problems with Sydney, who is 3 years old. They popped up out of nowhere. Sydney is an extraordinarily well behaved child. She has her moments to be sure, but by and large she is pretty spectacular. So we were a little surprised when we showed up to daycare and were notified that she had been lifting her dress and showing her privates to her friends. Repeatedly. Even after the teacher told her to stop. When she got home we had a sit-down talk with her about keeping her privates, well, private. We also told her that from now on she was required to wear shorts underneath her dresses. We concluded with a reenforcement that she needs to listen to her teacher or she would have consequences.
The next day she promptly kicked her teacher because she didn't get her own way. We did the typical routine of making her apologize to the teacher and then standing her in a corner when she got home (one minute per year of age). We told her that if she got a bad report tomorrow we were sending her to bed immediately after dinner. That we were removing all her stuffed animals and toys from her room and she would have to earn them back with good behavior, one toy per day, after that.
The next day she did an excellent job of not kicking her teacher! This was probably due to the fact that she was so distracted from biting her friend Amon because he had something she wanted.
When we got home we calmly explained to her what she did wrong. Then we put her in her bedroom on her bed and she watched us remove all her toys in complete silence. She stayed in there alone, with the door shut, until dinner time. She ate with us and then went back to bed for the night. This sucked! We hated doing this!
The next morning we got ready for daycare. I asked her if she was going to be good and she said, "Yes, Daddy." I wanted her to have a goal, you know? Something to look forward to. So we looked over her toys and she picked out which one she wanted to earn back first. It was very exciting and she picked out a sticker book that she loves to sleep with. I told her, "Listen to your teacher and obey her and tonight you can stay up and sleep with your sticker book."
I walked into daycare after work that day with an anxious heart. Another kids Mom was in the room talking to the teacher when I approached Sydney, who was smiling from ear to ear.
"Did you bite any of your friends today?" I asked.
"Nope!" she beamed.
"Did you kick your teacher?" I asked, looking hopeful.
"Nope!" she bubbled.
I'm pretty sure I had the attention of the Mom in the room as I went in for the final question.
"Did you show any kids your privates?"
"No Daddy, I was good!" she cheered.
"Great! Job! Sydney!! High five!" I rejoiced.
She went on to earn back 3 more toys and by the fourth we went ahead and moved all her toys back into her room. She has had good reports since then.
I think delivering on a promise to discipline is crucial to building trust with our girls. We didn't blindside her with unexpected consequences, we set expectations and then we delivered. I also think it is important to remind them that toys and fun time are privileges, not rights, that need to be earned and maintained. We do these things out of love, because they are not easy. If you are a parent then you know what I am talking about. It is not easy to disappoint your kids and watch them bear the consequences of their actions.
But I want Sydney and Savannah to bear those consequences in our controlled environment. Because I know if we don't, they will go out into the world and they won't give their own actions the respect they warrant. If Dewdette and I fail, and give in, our daughters will be left to learn about consequences on the world's terms. And the world will be far less predictable, far less compassionate, and far less just.
Worldly consequences, inevitably, leave scars.