Parents use a variety of disciplinary methods on their kids

March 08, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

Teresa Lyons counts to three as she tries to quiet a group of Danville Christian Academy students at the Boyle County Public Library. Her stern glance, coupled with a calm demeanor, accomplishes her goal. "One, two, three, look at me," works for her.

Things are a little trickier for the stay-at-home mom and her husband, Richie, when it comes to the day-to-day task of keeping in line their own children, 4-year-old Elizabeth and 8-year-old T.J.

"The biggest thing we have found with (T.J.) is if he's had a rough day at school - he likes to stay up - we say early bedtime."

Depending on how much trouble T.J. may have gotten into, the bedtime may change from the normal 8:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Problems might include if he misbehaves at school, is extremely disrespectful to his parents, or says things he should not say.


Another method of behavior modification is to take away the privilege of playing with friends.

"He has been grounded from playdates for up to a week," Teresa Lyons says. "He usually has one to two playdates a week, so that's a big deal."

With her 4-year-old, timeouts are the most frequent form of discipline. A timeout clock is set at four minutes - one for year of age - and set on the couch with Elizabeth.

"We have a little clock that when it goes on it's a frowny face and when the time is up it's a smiley face."

Toys also have been taken away for Elizabeth's misbehavior.

Whereas changing bedtimes and curtailing playdates works for the Lyonses, ideas about discipline vary from household to household. Lyons, who has an education degree, is quick to point out that methods have to vary from child to child.

"No two children are alike. They're all different. What works with one child may not work for the other."

Other methods work for other parents

A couple of other parents, one a single mom raising young children and the other parents dealing with the growing independence of the teenage years, gave their views about what methods work for them.

At the home of Lee Ann Hunt, a couple of charts are posted on the refrigerator. One is for 9-year-old Sarah Beth and the other is for 8-year-old Lucas. One of the behavior modification charts' categories is for getting out the door on time in the mornings and the other is for having homework done. A bonus category might recognize a good grade on a test.

"I decide what the bonus will be," Hunt says.

For each success, the children add a sticker. At the end of the week, their stickers are tallied and they receive 25 cents for each. Sarah Beth plans to use the $2.75 she earned last week for the family's upcoming trip to Disney World.

Their mom settled on the idea of using the chart about a year ago as a way to straighten out some discipline problems she was having with the children. The categories change as the areas of concern change.

"Next week we'll probably add brushing teeth because we're having a problem with them brushing their teeth."

Getting out of the house on time was a major concern after the children received several tardies. Lucas has found a way to solve the problem.

"He gets dressed at night. It doesn't sound very comfortable to me, but it works for him," says Hunt, who has been a single parent after divorcing about four years ago.

Hunt says being on her own presents enough stress, so she has learned not to worry about any more than she has to.

"I would rather not sweat the small things because when they get older, I want them to come to me and talk to me and not feel like I'm going to get upset."

She admits that there are times when every parent has reached a limit. For her, it happened when her son was about 3. She put him in his room and he repeatedly came out. Both of them were getting angrier until she hit upon a solution.

"I took Vaseline and smeared it all over the door knob and he couldn't get out. It gave me time away from him as well."

She laughs now when she recalls her messy solution that day, but she knows that it kept her from blowing her cool. She does believe in spanking as a form of punishment, but uses it sparingly.

"It's probably the least used form of discipline. I use it (in) willful defiance."

To spank or not to spank?

She notes that one of her guides for discipline is James Dobson, who discusses family issues from a Christian standpoint. Dobson does believe in spanking.

As a domestic violence therapist, Hunt also believes that some people do not have the self-control to spank.

"I definitely do not recommend spanking to the people I counsel."

Hunt hopes that her influence at home helps the children when they are away from home, but she knows children sometimes get in trouble at school. She thinks it's important to reinforce any discipline handed out by the school.

"I think it takes the community working together to discipline."

Hunt gets a kick out of the fact that most of the information about problems at school is revealed at the evening meal.

"We sit at the dinner table and they tell on themselves."

Hunt says she tries to involve the children in the solution.

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