Creative Consequences: Discipline your child without yelling!

Are you a parent that yells, a lot, then feels guilty about it? Yeah, me too! I hate yelling at my kids, but sometimes it feels like I can’t help it! Disciplining my children is one of the hardest things to do, and my least favorite part of parenting. But we have to correct our children or they won’t grow up to be healthy, happy adults. I needed some creative consequences to keep me from yelling so much at my children.

Correcting our kids is part of being a parent.

But sometimes it’s not so easy. Often, we get frustrated and lose our tempers with our kids, saying and doing things we regret. But when our kids make mistakes and make poor choices, sometimes we have to provide the consequences that will help them grow, learn, and make it right.

Parenting requires a lot of work. It’s not a hands-off endeavor. You have to be present to parent! And sometimes it’s so tempting to just check out rather than check in, follow up and follow through. The consistency it takes to raise happy, healthy kids takes real effort, and sometimes.. it’s just tiring.

Have a plan for correction — before you get mad.

When I’m tired, frustrated, and all out of ideas, I have four go-to consequences to my kids’ poor choices. This helps me stay consistent, and gives my kids the predictability they need to help remember what is expected of them.

A note first: when your kids are little, and they still don’t quite understand cause and effect, the best response is an immediate one. And sometimes, the best response isn’t actually correction but meeting the need behind the behaviour. All behaviour is communication, and this is especially true in toddlers. I’ve found most toddler issues can be fixed with a hug, a snack, and a nap.

A. Chores

This is my go-to for kids who are being careless, aggressive, defiant and are damaging property or people. When my kids are full of big actions and big words, when they slam doors, or yell/scream/push/hit, they need an outlet. And I will give them a productive one.

A long time ago, a friend of mine declared that cleaning was her therapy of choice.

Anytime she was stressed, upset or angry, she’d go clean something. Stress-cleaning gave her a productive outlet for her negative feelings, and by the time she’d finished, not only was all that negative energy gone, she had an accomplished something. And the feeling of satisfaction that came with that replaced all the negative feelings.

The same thing works for our kids. When they have big emotions, but they don’t have or aren’t ready to talk about them, give them something heavy or hard to do. My teenager will shovel snow or scrub floors when she’s mad. My middle kids will clean showers, sweep floors (with a hand broom), or carry down laundry. There’s always a dirty pot to scrub, or, if there’s a huge need for an aggressive outlet, the oven can be cleaned too.

They need to do something rather than be alone with their thoughts. So I give them something to focus on, and take their anger out on (dirt!).

If you aren’t sure what chores to use, when you’re faced with a screaming, door-slamming, angry kid, prepare for it. Write down a list of dirty chores they are safely capable of doing, and put them in a consequence jar. Then you can simply hand them the jar to pick on out.

What if they don’t do the chores? Well.. there’s more.

B. Community Service

Sometimes the best way to help a child get their focus off themselves is to get them into a situation where they can give back. This can be a formal volunteering position, if your child is old enough. Or it could be as simple as arranging for them to help out with another family.

What this looks like:

My middle daughters, ages 7 & 8, had spent a day squabbling with each other, and I was tired of the constant bickering. I’d separated them, paired them, had them do chores together and apart, and nothing seemed to work. Finally, I’d had enough of the endless screaming “No!” “Don’t touch that” “I don’t want to play with you anymore!” and cries of “Mooooommmm!”

I bundled them up, and I handed them each a rake. I left my teen in charge of the house. And we marched next door, to our elderly neighbours. I offered them my girls’ services to rake their lawn. I told my girls that they weren’t to talk, just rake. After about 20 minutes, they had the yardwork finished, and we went to the next house.

It took about 3 houses, but I could see the attitudes changing. Eventually, the girls started helping each other instead of ignoring each other, and you could just see the angry tension relax out of their bodies. When we finally went home, the girls were smiling at each other, and skipping on the sidewalk.

C. Boredom (or as I call it, creativity stimulation).

Sometimes, kids get rebellious and disrespectful because they’re overstimulated. They’ve had school, after-school lessons, electronics, playdates, and they haven’t had a moment to sit down. You can see it by the end of the week, when they’re wired for sound, and they can’t sit still. And then the whining starts.

When my kids’ get overstimulated, they get whiny and easily upset.

Every little thing is a huge deal — and I have girls, so the drama can be over-the-top! Melodrama is one of my pet peeves, so this gets annoying fast.

The solution: they have to experience some boredom. I separate them, and I tell them to just sit and be quiet. It usually takes 10-20 minutes before they’re actually quiet, but eventually their minds and bodies still.

And usually about 15-20 minutes after that, you can see them calm, begin to look around with a curiosity instead of sullenness. Sometimes, the hands will begin to move around – flying, twisting, fingers walking, telling stories. Then I’ll offer a book or a creative but quiet toy, and after another half-hour, whatever attitude was there is gone.

D. Chaining aka “staking” 

I had mentioned at the beginning of this post that most toddler issues can be solved with a hug, a snack and a nap. The truth is, most issues, child or adult, can be solved with the same solution, or at least you can feel better with them.

As a single parent, I’m pulled in a million directions at once. And with a large family, it can be hard to give each of my children attention. Sometimes, this shows in their behaviour. And it’s a reminder to me that I need to set aside some time for a particular child.

The art of parental chaining doesn’t refer to physical chains (so no 
hate mail!) , but rather just keeping the child close to the parent. It’s sometimes also known as “staking” as in, staking a vegetable like peas or tomatoes.

You tie the plant to a stake to give it the support it needs as it grows, so it can grow strong and produce better. And you can do the same thing with your kids. You can “stake” them to yourself, so that you can support and help them grow strong.

Parental chaining takes that to a new level, in that your child stays by your side for a while. They do whatever you’re doing. If you’re doing dishes, so are they. If you’re outside working in the garage, they’re right by your side.

This works for a number of reasons.

First, they get your devoted attention.

You’ll naturally be talking to them about what you’re doing, or about whatever they’re interested in. I find that in these periods, I get asked a lot of those deep questions about life, relationships, my faith, my values, and their futures. These conversations are important.

Second, you’ll be able to correct them gently, but immediately.

You’ll be able to remind them to use please and thank you, to open doors for others, and to help out. When they’re close by, you can better model for them the kind of person you want them to be. And there’s nothing like knowing you’ve got little eyes on you to help you check your own attitudes and choices!

Third, you’ll be able to train and teach them.

Since they’re doing or watching whatever you’re doing, you can help them learn how to do it too. Those life skills are incredibly valuable!

Don’t just react, respond and correct.

When our kids’ attitudes stink, it can be so easy to just react to them. But that’s not always healthy, and rather than helping them to cope, you can end up doing more harm than good. But when you respond with creative consequences for your cranky kids, you can help them grow and make better choices.

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