Going beyond 'one-size-fits-all' discipline

A mother asked me once, "How do you discipline your child? I have tried everything - even time-outs - but they don't seem to work."

I wasn't sure how to answer her. I didn't use the popular "time-out" method of asking my preschool son to sit by himself to calm down. As a matter of fact, I didn't have a specific formula. The question prompted me to give my disciplinary style some thought.

This wasn't the first time a mom had discussed child-rearing techniques with me, but it was the first time someone asked such a direct question.

When the going gets tough, I have learned to always pause and evaluate the situation.

If my son is especially whiny, or cranky, or on the verge of tears, I ask myself why this is happening. It is especially important to do this as soon as possible. If I wait too long, I'll have quite a storm to contend with.

I ask myself: Have I been dragging him around all day running errands? Am I too focused on something else that can wait?

Children slow us down - and that's what they are supposed to do. I find some of my most precious moments come from these difficult times.

When I stop what I'm doing, literally get down on my knees, look my son in the eyes, tell him I love him, and give him a hug, it isn't long before things become calm. After that we usually talk about what happened and what we learned from it.

So, how do I discipline my child? I guess I'd have to say I use "time-in" with my son, and he's learning how to use "time-in" with Mom, too. What a great game we're having!

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to home@csps.com, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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