Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Three Rules

This is the moment you have been waiting for. What are the three rules for discipline magic? Drum roll please. . .

  1. Follow directions fast
  2. Make smart choices
  3. Respect your parents

Yup! That's it. These three rules are going to change your life.

You might be thinking for a moment - that's it? How are these three rules going to make a difference in my home? When I ask my kids to get ready to brush their teeth they run away from me screaming and act like I'm about make them drink a cup of cod liver oil?

Now, if you just post the rules in your home or tell your kids these are the rules, they are not going to do anything for you. You must have these rules imprinted in your child's mind if they are to be effective. To do that, you need to TEACH the rules.

You need to teach the rules when everyone is in a good mood. Make it fun. Smile. You know your child best, if you need to use some motivation like a small piece of candy for following along the first time, you do what you need to do. (I don't generally recommend that, but if a little bit of sugar is needed to make the medicine go down, it is just a temporary thing!)

Rule 1: Follow directions fast. 

(You could even take a picture of your own child running.)

Parent: I am going to teach you a very important rule. This is rule #1 in our house. It is follow directions fast. Move your arms like this (act like you are running) and say it with me.

Kid and Parent: (Moving arms) Follow directions fast.

Parent: Great job! Let's try that again. I'll say rule #1, and you'll say Follow directions fast while you move your arms.

Kid: Follow directions fast. (moves arms)

Parent: Yes! Follow direction fast. (move your arms every time you say the rule) You rock! Good job learning rule 1.

Rule 2: Make Smart Choices

(You could take a picture of your child pointing at their head)

Parent: I'm going to teach your rule #2. This rule is Make Smart Choices. When I say make smart choices, I want you to tap your finger on your head like you are thinking about something. Let's do that together.

Child and Parent: Make smart choices. (Tapping head)

Parent: Yes! Now, let's see if you can do that on your own. I'll say rule #2, and you'll say Make Smart Choices. Rule #2.

Child: Make smart choices (tapping head)

Parent: Correct. Make smart choices (tapping head). Nice work. Let's see if you remember the motion for rule #1: Follow directions fast. Rule #1.

Child: Follow directions fast (running movement)

Parent: Great. Now we are going to learn the final rule.

Rule 3: Respect your parents

Parent: The last rule is respect your parents. You make a smiley face with your hands while you say respect your parents. Let's try that together.

Child and Parent: Respect your parents (both making a smiley face with their hands around their face.)

Parent: Good. Let's see if you can do that by yourself. I'll say rule #3, and you will say Respect your parents making a smiley face with your hands. Rule #3.

Child: Respect your parents (smiley hands).

Parent: Yes! Respect your parents (smiley hands). Let's see how well you remember rule #1.

Child: Follow directions fast (running).

Parent: Fabulous. Let's see if you remember the motion to rule #2: Make smart choices.

Child: Make smart choices (tapping head).

Parent: Correct. Let's see if you can remember the motion to rule #3: Respect your parents.

Child: Respect your parents (smiley hands).

Parent: You really know those rules!

As a child I took piano lessons. I enjoyed the lessons, but I didn't like practicing that much! I'm sure glad I did practice, though, because I have a wealth of songs that I can play from memory.
I remember that every week my teacher would give me a page that had a 100 boxes in it and she would give me a phrase or line to practice that was challenging. I was the practice the phrase 25 times with my right hand. Then, 25 times with my left hand. Then 50 times with both hands together. You know what, even 20+ years later, I still know many of those pieces by heart.
I'm not suggesting that you make your child practice the rules 100 times every day, but a few times a week will do everyone a lot of good!

Your child will not learn to follow these rules by saying them one time! You need to practice the rules.

When should you practice the rules? 

You can practice them before breakfast, when you are driving in the car, before going to school, before dinner, before bed time. The most important thing is that you come up with a time and practice them consistently.

As a teacher, I had a routine in the classroom. After the bell would ring in the morning, the students would have 5 more minutes to finish eating their breakfast, get their materials for the day, read quietly and be ready for first period. Then, we would stand up and say a morning poem and practice the rules. I know many successful teachers have their students practice saying the rules every single day in the morning!
If it works in the classroom, it can also work in your home. (Although, unless you have a budding Einstein in your home, you probably don't need to practice them every single day!)

How often are you going to practice the rules?  

You need to practice them for 14 days in a row 1 time a day! I will practice them with my children each day before we ___________________. (eat dinner, brush teeth, drive to school, etc. you choose a time that will work for you)

Then, you need to practice them once a week on Sundays.

Why Sundays? 

Well, you really could choose any day, but the important thing is that you do choose a day. If you say I'm going to practice them once a week, but do not have a day in mind, you are much less likely to remember. On the other hand, if you say to yourself we will practice on Sundays before we ___________, you are much more likely to remember and practice the rules.

Here are some more thoughts and details about the rules.

You will probably find that your favorite rule is #3: Respect your parents. What is so special about this rule? It is the rule above all other rules. You are the only person that knows feels like respect to you and what will keep you happy. There is no way your child can get around the rule and argue with you. Either what the child is doing makes you feel respected or not. This rule eliminates lots of little rules that you might need, because they all fall under rule #3.

Can you have more rules?

Sure. You could have up to 5 rules! 

My son Mateo has created a rule for our family which is, "Keep the Earth clean." For that rule, we work on recycling, making sure we turn out lights after leaving rooms and making choices that help the planet.
My daughter Natalia (who is 4) currently has her own special rule which is "Keep your grapes in your mouth." I'm not really sure where that rule came from, but everyone thinks it is cute and funny. Plus, she enjoys having her own special rule that she made up. So, while that is not a real rule, it does help her buy into the system and have some fun at the same time.

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