It’s our first day of school! So . . . I’m going to throw up a question from the mailbag, since it’s already typed up. Perhaps it would be of interest to some other newish mamas out there.
(it was a long one so I’m going to excerpt it here . . . )
We’re getting to the stage where discipline needs to begin and I was hoping you could share your advice. I know many things depend on the child, but I’m curious at what age you start the “crying is for babies” timeout and hand-spanking? I know Andy, our nine month old son, is starting to realize right from wrong but I’m unsure if I say “not for babies” and he does it anyways and then I put him in his crib that he will “get it”. What have you found?
Also, I’m curious from your experience, do children feel like hand spanking is a punishment? Do you hand spank relatively hard?
Do hand spankings help if a child is throwing a fit in a public place? I’ve read that you should just threaten to leave that place but that seems like more of a punishment for me. I don’t want to have to leave the grocery store because my child is having a tantrum.
Lulu is just about at this same age, she’s eight months, and for me it’s a transitional time. I’ve started saying “not for babies” and “not food” to her, and I remove the thing she shouldn’t have from her, even if she gets upset about it. But I don’t yet do hand spankings or time outs in the crib. She doesn’t seem to me to be doing things intentionally yet.
But, once I get that feeling from her, once she starts looking me in the eye and doing it again, then I’ll start consequences. I want to give her time to gain an understanding of what the words I’m saying mean. I think she’s just starting to get that understanding now. But not quite yet.
For a nine month old, I really focus on trying to avoid situations that are going to cause a meltdown in the first place. So I make sure she’s getting plenty of sleep, I always bring snacks for her (which I don’t do with the older kids) and I gauge how she does with errands as I plan my day. Lulu loves being out and about and between smiling at people from the cart or snuggling with me in the Ergo, she doesn’t mind errands. Frankie was different, I had to pretty much just do one errand, then come home, or I risked a meltdown.
I think you’re right to start thinking about discipline now, but I’d start slowly, focusing mostly on consistency and communication and appropriate expectations.
As my kids get older, I expect them to be able to control their behavior more.
We’ve really gotten to the point where we don’t have meltdowns in public. I’ve probably just jinxed myself, but I can’t remember the last time I had a kid freak out in a store. They just know better. It’s important to me that my kids learn to keep their emotions under control. They are allowed to be upset or frustrated or mad, but they’re not allowed to freak out.
Frankie was a shrieker, and I had trouble getting him to be quiet enough for places like church and the library, but it wasn’t an issue of tantrums. He was just a really noisy kid. I make a big deal with my kids of behaving properly in public. Even if they’ve hurt themselves a little. But I mostly just do it by talking to them. Eye contact. Huge gasps of surprise that such a nice little boy would behave like that. Strong voice. “We do NOT behave like this in a store. You need to compose yourself right now.” That sort of thing.
I mostly use hand spankings at home to stop repeat behaviors. “No slamming doors. If you slam a door again you will get a hand spanking.” Mostly, for me, there aren’t situations in a store that would necessitate a hand spanking. Mostly things in a store are “No shrieking. If you can’t use an inside voice, I’m going to put the mini wheats back and get plain Cheerios.” Or “You must stay next to Mommy or you’ll have to be buckled in to the cart.”
Hand spanking in public is tricky. I’m not against it, and I’ve done it, and I’m not going to limit my parenting choices based completely on other people. But I do know of a handful of people who have had to deal with lots of unpleasantness and inconvenience based on other people’s opinions of their parenting. So, you do have to exercise judgment on your public parenting decisions.