Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Discipline or Diversion

Having toddlers is one of those parts of being a dad that we all love and fear at the same time. It is an exciting time as a child's development is so rapid at this stage. They are learning to talk and communicate more, learning to read, learning to draw, and learning more and more about their surroundings.

Then they are learning things that aren't exactly the great and fun things mentioned above. They start learning how to test their boundaries and the best way to sneak around and do things that mommy and daddy wouldn't let them do if they knew. They learn the power of the word "no" and the phrase " I don't want to". This can become a very tricky time, not just for parents, but also for the kids. Obviously we all have certain expectations of how we want our children to act. Even at such a young age it is important to have boundaries and expectations to help curb bad behavior and promote development of good social skills and family practices. This is when one of the hardest parts (at least to me) of parenting starts: discipline. This is also when one of the toughest questions of parenthood get asked: Discipline or diversion?

"No" is one of those words that is thin ice for parenthood. It must be used in order for our children to know when they can't do something or have something, or when they are misbehaving and need to learn that it is unacceptable. On the other side of that ice is the fact that it will become a steady word in their vocabulary as well. So it now becomes a very tricky decision sometimes. Do you go right on into disciplinary mode, or do you try a diversion? I asked this question of Twitter to see what some of the responses were. It seems split right down the middle. Some people prefer discipline, some prefer diversion. It all depends on the child and/or the situation.

My Take on it All - There is a time and place for everything. This is also a step in learning what is appropriate reaction and when. I think that sometimes there are situations where discipline may not be necessary, but something must be done to calm a situation down. This is a great time for diversion. Tantrums and fits that don't really revolve around bad behavior don't particularly warrant disciplinary action. Getting everyone out and away from the situation may be the best way to go. Finding a book to read, new toy to play with, or getting a snack, all can be great ways to break everyone out of a stressful situation and restore the peace in the home.

Discipline should be about teaching a lesson between right and wrong, therefore action should be chosen carefully when there may not be any wrong doing. Discipline should be firm, decisive, and always followed through with. I believe every household has the issue of "daddy says this" but "mommy says this" when it comes to disciplinary action. We run into that often here. Setting guidelines, rules, and specific courses of action can help with this so that when the need arises, there is no doubt of the punishment. At the same time, punishment should always be followed through with a little talking. Take the time to explain why it happened, and how the child can prevent it from happening again. There is always an opportunity to teach a child the difference between right and wrong, but the middle of a tantrum is no place to do it.

As always, discipline and diversion should always be done in a loving manner. We may be angry or feelings may be hurt, but acting out in anger and taking it over the edge is just not healthy for anyone. It is easy to lose your temper when tantrums become too much, or maybe we're just having a bad day. But always act in love, and let your children know that you love them.

Now it's your turn! -  What do you think? Do you prefer discipline or diversion? What do you find works the best for you? Share in the comments section your thoughts on discipline and diversion. I would like to see what different parents think and where people stand on such a tricky issue. Share your thoughts!

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