Here’s a question we recently received…“We have two sons – 3 and 20 months old. How do we discipline both children for the same offense: one laughs at a smack on the hand while the other one looks heartbroken when I barely tap him?”
The real question is whether both children should be disciplined in the same way.
The short answer is “no.” Disciplining children is not about equality. That is an easy mistake to make. Each child is an individual and what works and is appropriate for one child might be ineffective and inappropriate for another – especially if one is strong-willed.
Perhaps the easiest way to evaluate the appropriate consequence for each child is to ask, “What is my goal?” Generally speaking the goal parents have is to lovingly control their child’s behavior until he or she is able to exhibit self-control. An example of a specific goal might be to keep the child from touching a breakable item at a friend’s home. The consequence for crossing that boundary will have to fit the individual child.
It is important for every parent to be a “student of his or her child.” One child may need no more than a disappointed look from his parent to reinforce the boundary that has been set. Typically a strong-willed child will require a consequence that is more stern.
Evaluation is simple. If the consequence has no positive effect with one child, for example in the question above the one who laughs at the discipline, the parent will need to try an alternate method. Again, no two youngsters are the same.
Don’t be discouraged if one of your children is strong-willed or more challenging. Simply discover the effective, loving discipline that works with him. Remember your goal. You want to shift the responsibility little by little from parental boundaries and consequences to self-disciple.
How have you personalized the consequences to fit each of your children?