We all know that babies and children thrive when expectations are clear and consistent. By establishing defined limits and boundaries AND communicating these expectations, we create the atmosphere of early discipline from which we can build.
To be honest, I don’t love the word “discipline” because it sounds harsh and intense. But it doesn’t have to mean yelling or other authoritative measures. I understand it’s a part of parenting and one that is essential to the cohesion and cooperation of the family unit. What’s cool about this whole parenting journey is that you choose your own approach!
That being said, consistency is crucial because if you think about it, how can a child know and learn how to behave if the rules change daily? Or if one day something is allowed and the next day it’s forbidden? It can be confusing, overwhelming and frustrating for everyone. They need us to be both steady and dependable.
Here is a key component to remember. As the parent, you get to decide and define where your lines are. You are in charge and you are never not in charge. I’m not saying that you should be mean, cruel or insanely strict. I’m acknowledging that our kids NEED and WANT us to be the leaders, the steer the family ship and to create the framework within which they can live, function and express themselves. It is important that WE create the container for them to exist within because it is way too much power to have our kids define their own limits.
The key then is to really know yourself, your boundaries and then stick with them! Kids cooperate when they are aware and understand what is expected of them. The more consistent you can be with your “rules,” the better your child can respond and act accordingly. It won’t always be perfect, there still may be some pushback or even tantrums, but you hold your line, honor your child’s feelings while giving them the space to express their emotions. They don’t have to like the line but they do have to respect it.
Also, it’s important to consider that maybe over time your rules change or adjustments need to be made because you’re family has evolved so the boundaries must evolve as well. This is life! But then take responsibility, communicate with your child about the new rules and provide some context and understanding for the changes. And then of course give yourself and your kids an extra dose of patience as everyone learns to adjust. Children are so resilient and adapt brilliantly as long as they are given time to integrate what is being asked in a clear and consistent manner.
Lastly, while you do not have to tolerate behavior you do not want or like, it is important to set the tone and boundary BEFORE you get upset or resentful. Of course this is not always easy as kids can trigger us in mere seconds but keeping this intention in mind, it becomes easier to address annoying or unacceptable behavior before we start losing our shit! It saves us and our kids intense outbursts when challenges get nipped in the bud before they turn into big, emotional outbursts.
I personally love the RIE approach to discipline and have been using it with my daughter since she was an infant. I find it has given me to the tools to be really clear on where I stand and the confidence to be firm, even and sturdy in my boundaries. It’s saved me from a lot of emotional turmoil because I am able to address it from a matter-of-fact, neutral and clear tone instead of frazzled and pushed beyond my capacity (most of the time!). That being said, she is only 2.5 years old so I assume things may get more challenging but for now, I really appreciate the RIE® approach to early discipline as it’s setting the stage and equipping me for what’s to come!