One day while I was principal of a Christian school I got into a conversation during lunch with the 2nd grade teacher. The bell rang indicating her lunch was over and I expected her to leave but she kept talking. Through my window I could see her class lining up on the playground and within a few minutes they marched up to the room. She continued talking.
In a few more minutes I became concerned and said I thought she should check on her class. “Oh, they’re fine. They’ll be working on a Math assignment”, and she kept talking about an issue we needed to discuss.
About 10 minutes later I couldn’t stand it any longer. “Let’s finish this conversation in your classroom.” I had to make sure her class wasn’t running wild. We entered her classroom and all 20 of those 2nd graders were quietly working away – just like she said they would be. I was astonished.
Every year her class was like that but the next year, when those same students went into the 3rd grade, things were totally different. Each year my third grade teacher would – I kid you not – develop a bladder infection because she could not leave her class long enough to use the restroom. Yes, the exact same kids that assembled on the playground, marched to their room and worked quietly unsupervised now could not be left alone for 10 minutes. What was the difference?
Both teachers were effective teachers. They both loved the kids. They were both loved by their children and by the parents. Both were kind and gentle but the 2nd grade teacher was also very firm and consistent in her discipline.
Myth #2 – Being firm with my children requires getting angry and yelling.
Some parents think being firm requires being harsh with their kids. But being firm actually reduces the anger and the yelling because it reduces your frustration level. Here’s what I learned from these teachers.
Firm means you establish clear, measurable rules and if a child violates the rule you take action – first time, every time. When you do this you can impose the negative consequences without anger or frustration. You don’t have to have a debate as to “why” they broke the rule. They broke the rule, they receive the consequences.
What leads to anger and harshness is when we let it slide, look the other way and fail to act. Their misbehavior builds frustration within us. We threaten and they continue to misbehave. We start to take action and they start to argue. We get into a discussion with them about it. We finally only take action when, “I’ve had enough!”
Sometimes the kids will stop just short of pushing us to our action point. They know exactly where that point is even if we don’t. But often they will keep pushing until we explode. We have trained them that they don’t need to obey the first time. They don’t even need to consider obedience until we are frazzled and angry.
It’s easy to think our anger is what motivates them to obedience but it’s really the fact that they know the next step, after anger, is action. Action is what produces obedience.
How much better to take action when we’re still calm and under control – the first time they cross the line. Then we can do it kindly, calmly but firmly. Be kind to your kids by being firm with them and enforcing the rules immediately and every time.
For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
The last two myths we’ll look at in the coming blogs.
- It’s important we understand the feelings behind our child misbehaving.
- Spanking teaches violence, is not effective and should not be used.