Discipline is not a one-size-fits-all problem. Every kid is different. Every parent is different. Book sellers try to make you believe that your favorite author’s 10-step guide to a perfect kid will solve all your problems. It won’t, but it might inspire you in some way. I like parenting books. I view them as idea bags. Borrow the ideas that fit your family, ignore the ones that don’t.
We have one discipline principle that we’ve successfully applied to both our kids and some innocent neighbors who have mentioned problems they have with their kids. We call it, “the trump card.” Every kid has a trump card: a favorite thing, a favorite activity, a favorite way of being treated. And when all other techniques have failed to get the desired results, we pull out the trump card. The trump card is not static; it’s dynamic and so it changes as your child grows. You can call it a bribe or a punishment. It depends on what you want your end results to be. Let me give a few examples:
|Bug had her first hair cut with her first trump card.|
- Both girls had favorite pieces of fabric that they slept with as toddlers. Bug had a flannel pillowcase and Bird had a fleece blanket. For a time, these fabrics were the trump cards. If behavior was out of control, I would take the fabric away at night. Sometimes it was for 10 minutes and sometimes it was for the whole night. Perhaps it sounds cruel, but behavior changed quickly.
- Bug likes to dawdle. The other morning her dawdling left me with the decision of being late or skipping high priority activities like morning prayer. Because I was leading the meeting I had to attend at the girls’ school, I opted to be punctual. The trump card on this day was keeping Bug with me at the meeting. This meant she couldn’t sit in the gym with her friends while she waited for school to start. It also meant she would have to walk up to class on the second floor alone. And she is terrified about being late or standing out in some way because she doesn’t follow procedures. Bug was speedy this morning.
- I haven’t had to use it yet, but I know the trump card for Bird right now would be not letting her go to soccer practice or not letting her play with her guinea pig for a day. Hubby says we can’t have her skip games because that would effect the teammates.
Trump cards are reserved for times when nothing else has worked. They are not daily or even weekly practices. I consider them extreme measures. If they were used more often, they wouldn’t be effective. If you don’t know your child’s current trump card, brainstorm with your husband or another caregiver. There is always something.