For the first years of my sons’ lives, my main discipline strategy was time-outs. They worked well. When my sons misbehaved, they sat for the number of minutes they were old on a white wooden bench inside our front door. They don’t like to sit still, and so time-outs were very effective.
Then one day a few weeks ago, I told one son he was going to time-out. “No, I’m not,” he calmly stated. Uh-oh.
I looked at him and realized there’s not really much I can do at this point. I can’t carry him, plop him onto the bench, hold him down, and make him take a time-out. At that moment, I knew I had to up my game. We had been starting to see some attitude problems, with talking back and defiance, and so it was time for a change.
And so I asked my husband if he was ok with starting a discipline program we learned about when Tyler (now five) was only one year old: Smart Discipline. The program was developed by Larry Koenig, and we adjusted it a bit for our family. My husband and I sat down and wrote five simple rules for our family:
- We do what we’re asked to the first time.
- We keep our hands to ourselves.
- We speak kindly and politely.
- We treat our toys and books with care.
- We do our chores without argument
Then we came up with three consequences–three privileges that our sons would miss if they were taken away:
- Lose your nightly TV show pick
- Lose your nightly small candy/cookie snack
- Lose your opportunity to play quietly in your room before bed and go straight to bed after bath
I made up a chart for each boy with three stars and these three privileges. When our sons break a rule, without advance warning, we cross off a star. Break another rule, lose another star. Break a third rule, lose a third star. Then when they break a rule, they start losing privileges.
As an extra incentive to do well, we added in a rule that if the boys go an entire week without losing privileges (even if they’ve lost stars), they get a dollar.
It took about a week for us all to get used to this new system. But now I’ve seen a dramatic increase in behavior. It really is smart discipline!