Can you imagine life with four young children, all under 8 years of age? The chaos, toys everywhere, all tugging at your waist. Well, that was my reality. My youngest child was born when my oldest was eight years old, unfortunately for him, he was the big brother to three younger sisters, so he was quickly bumped up to ‘lead’.
In those days, life was complicated; finances were tight, many bills and many little mouths to feed. Day care was expensive having four small children, so I decided to launch my own family day care business to be able to have an income and care for my children as well. Patience was low with now an additional four kids to care for. So I needed all the help I could get. And I definitely didn’t have time nor the patience to deal with tantrums or any misbehaving from my kids. They were different times…nowadays, you give a kid a tablet or a smart phone and you won’t even know they’re around!
You know that saying “work smarter not harder”, yeah well, I think I took that to the extreme. To make life easier for me, I paired up the kids – oldest paired with the youngest and my two middle daughters were paired together. This may not sound like much at all, but trust me, this made a world of difference to me. The oldest was was assigned baby duties like grabbing diapers, tossing them away, and was my second set of eyes and ears as my little one started to crawl, walk and run. The two middle sisters helped each other with dressing themselves, putting toys away and as they got older, became mommy’s little helpers. Child labor you say? Hardly. Little did I know at the time how beneficial this would all be.
I will admit, my kids were well behaved children, but every now and then when they acted out and threw tantrums, misbehaved or were simply testing me, boy it only took just one look from me for them to straighten out. That look said it all! I never spanked or hit my kids….well actually there were these two incidents, ahem! But I digress…for the most part all it took was one side-eyed look from me to get them to behave. That in conjunction with the much joked about “time out” punishment is what worked for me. But really, it all has to do with accountability. Holding my kids accountable for what they did wrong and following through on the punishment. If they acted out and misbehaved, I would enforce a time out for 5 or ten minutes depending on the “charge” – but I made sure they completed their time. Oh and if they cried and whined about being on time out, I would double the time limit. Did I hear someone say I was too hard on them…I beg to differ.
Sometimes, as kids always do, they would disagree on simple things like which TV channel to watch or who wasn’t sharing toys – in those cases rather than pinpointing only one of them, I would put all four in time out and boy did they hate this!
Like I said, I didn’t realize it then, but what I was doing was creating a tight bond between them. They knew then they had to learn to resolve their problems before mom found out, they knew they had to get along, share, love and respect each other…if not evil mom was going to put them all on time out and give them that side-eyed look.
Little by little this became the norm. They outgrew “time out” but as they got older a punishment was no longer needed or even a thought. They knew what the rules were and they all followed them. To this day as my son is 25 and my youngest is 16, he continues to look out for his little sister. Checking in on her throughout the week as he now lives and works in San Francisco. My two middle girls are each other’s best friend and they all have a love and respect for each other that amazes me but I’m proud of as a mom at the same time.
Now, I’m not saying they’re perfect, they have little disagreements every now and then, but I tell them “you guys better fix the problem before I do” – but let’s be honest you guys, that’s a scare tactic, there’s no way that an evil look or a 5 minute time out will work now. But It’s my way of letting them know I’m still mom and they’re still my babies and the only people that will ever love them unconditionally and have their backs regardless of anything , are each other – so ya better love each other dammit!
So, how do you discipline your kids and do you hold them accountable and follow through on your punishment?