At the end of the day, some moms count up all the times they’ve had to nag or remind or discipline their children. Don’t hit your brother. Stop picking your nose. Stop talking back. Don’t fart at the table. Wash your hands. Pull your pants up. Don’t disobey. Listen the first time. Say ‘hi’ to the lady and look her in the face. Don’t use the toilet lid as your own basketball hoop backboard. Don’t, don’t, don’t, stop, stop, stop.
Of course, we feel like we’re ‘helping’, but is telling them something over and over and over again really helping them? Is it any wonder why our children can have selective listening and we’re stuck feeling guilty at the end of the day. Time-out only works for so long. Reprimanding our kid in public looks bad. And to do this several times a day is, in a word, exhausting.
Here’s a creative discipline approach, one that I’ve used on my own kids and has been ‘stolen’ by other moms looking for a more fun yet effective way of promoting positive behavior without feeling like a brute. I’ve named it the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” discipline. Simply put: your child misbehaves three times and he’s ‘out’ on the bench the rest of the day. Boys—and girls too—understand this concept.
Let’s use an example. Your child unabashedly mouths off to you in the grocery store. You don’t want to send him to time-out and make him crouch in the frozen food aisle. You don’t want to squeeze his cheeks together around his adorable but naughty mouth. You don’t want to yell. You don’t want to humiliate him—or yourself. And you most certainly don’t want to ignore it. Imagine if you just said, “Strike One.” These two simple yet powerful words convey your discipline message succinctly and effectively. Believe me, if you did a half-adequate job of explaining the ‘3 Strikes and You’re Out’ approach, your son or daughter will get it. Same thing with Strike Two. If you have to give Strike Three, be prepared. This means your child is ‘out’…no TV, no snacks, no staying up late, no play dates, etc. The rest of the child’s day will be, well, miserable. And your child has to believe that it WILL happen, and then you have to make it so. In baseball, the player who strikes out doesn’t get to return to the field right away.
Creative parenting, though, is built on the foundation of empowering and equipping children with life skills. Positive feedback is crucial to this process. Therefore, while there are the ‘3 strikes and you’re out’, there is also the ‘runs’ and ‘points’ they can earn. The key word here is “earn” because disciplining is about teaching them to learn from their mistakes. And just like in baseball, children can earn home runs. If they strike out but then show exemplary behavior (or are profoundly sorry), you can give them an opportunity to earn a home run—and remove one of their strikes. (Because, let’s face it…discplining your child is like disciplining yourself.) The child must run around all bases, metaphorically speaking. This means four chores or four acts of kindness until he’s home free. It’s how I got my son to happily clean the stairs.
There’s also ‘strike savers’, in that children can earn a strike saver by going beyond the expected—in a good way. You’ll be surprised how well they can forget their homework or what you just asked him to do, but remember exactly how many strike savers they have. I’m still trying to teach my younger son not to use up a strike saver when he has only one strike. Children can use their strike savers at anytime (so pay attention to how many each child has).
In this game of life, it’s important to discipline your child in a way that tames his will without breaking his spirit. And what better way to learn about being part of a family and playing with a positive attitude then threading in some baseball? The strikes revert back to zero the next day; afterall, it’ll be a whole new ball game.