Local Couple Using Discipline That’s Smart
By Kathleen E. Conroy
(Editor’s Note: Here’s a great article about Dr. Larry Koenig’s Smart Discipline System that originally appeared in Charlotte Parent Magazine. Smart Discipline can help solve a wide range of child behavior problems, and for a limited time parents can try out the complete system in their own home for free. Click here for the details.)
Waxhaw mom Mary Thompson knows that her children will never interrupt her (unless it’s a dire emergency) when she’s chatting business on the telephone with her builder-employer. She’ll only have to tell Travis, 11, to comb his hair and get his backpack just once before a day at school. And she feels confident now that 7-year-old Wesley will stay at the dinner table and use his very best manners.
Thompson, 36, and her husband, Dale are confident because they feel their family has “wised up” when it comes to disciplining their two boys. Parents who’ve exhausted timeouts, groundings or their voices by yelling might want to sit up and take notice.
For the past four years, the Thompsons have used Smart Discipline, a technique that encourages children to cooperate (and behave!) and to boost their self-esteem in the process. The pair learned the method at a PTA seminar sponsored by Wesley Chapel Elementary and then went on to host a workshop conducted by a Smart Discipline teacher at their church.
(Note: The same Smart Discipline System that the Thompson’s used to solve their child behavior problems is now available as a complete in-home kit. Click here to check it out.)
“With timeouts, there was no punishment — not for my children,” she said about their move to the Smart Discipline system. “This was the clincher, when we really knew that it was working for us: My children were constantly interrupting me when I was on the phone and I was always saying, ‘Do not interrupt me when I’m talking on the telephone!’ After we started Smart Discipline, one of my children came in and saw me on the telephone and just turned around and left the room. I just knew then that this would work for us.”
Family therapist and Smart Discipline founder Larry Koenig says there is hope for parents at their wits’ end who are losing their minds when their offspring won’t mind. Koenig, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., has put the program that he teaches at schools and churches across the country into an [in-home kit -- click here for details].
According to Koenig, the first, key step toward creating a harmonious home is to establish firm rules that children are expected to follow — and that means rules that children help create.
In the Thompson’s case that meant meeting as a family to develop a list of house rules. “We met with the children and said, ‘This is what we want fixed and here’s how we will fix it.’”
The Thompson family focused on whining, fighting, good table manners, telephone interruptions, making beds, feeding pets and doing what you are asked the first time in their basic rules.
Koenig says that the top seven misbehaviors that most parents want to banish are: disrespectful language, fighting and bickering, morning and bedtime hassles, homework hassles, interrupting, procrastination and messy rooms.
The real key to setting up the Smart Discipline system and making it work is then defining what happens when rules are broken. Children should be in on determining what privileges matter the most and parents can determine in what order privileges are to be revoked.
In the Thompson household, privileges range from use of television/Playstation/computer to having friends over to using a bike or scooter or enjoying a regular, later bedtime.
That’s when a chart comes into play. It can be a computer generated chart, a dry erase board or wipe-clean charts. (Note: The Smart Discipline in-home system contains handy pre-made dry-erase charts that parents can use right out of the box. Click here for more details.)
Parents then monitor their children’s behavior and put an X on the chart if one of the rules is broken. Children can receive up to three free X’s before privileges are affected. Each X after the first three eliminates a privilege for that day. Older children can use a seven-day chart and privileges are lost for a week.
Does it work? Thompson nods an affirmative yes. “It’s a matter of telling them what they need to do one time,” she said. “I don’t have to count to three or be stressed.”
Son Travis admits it works, too. “It makes me behave a little bit better,” he said with a grin. “I almost never get to the third X (to lose a privilege). I’ve gotten used to being good.”
Besides parent follow-through and consistency, another key to the program’s success is making sure children know that rules are not punishment. Too often, says Koenig, rules are a reaction, which makes them feel punitive. Setting rules before a problem arises allows parents to give a rational explanation.
A lot of the yelling and screaming that turns otherwise happy houses into battlefields is over the confusion about what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not — and why the children were allowed to do an activity yesterday but it’s suddenly forbidden today, Koenig says.
Setting boundaries, living by them and enforcing them when necessary is the premise of Koenig’s Smart Discipline parenting program. When parents are clear about expectations, the therapist and father of five says they are doing their children a favor because there is no wiggle room on either side: Parents can’t change conditions — for better or worse — based on their mood.
“Kids much prefer knowing the rules, the consequences and the rewards,” he says. “Consistency is the key. Parents know that but it’s hard to do. In smart discipline, there is no gray area. Just say to your kids, we’re just not going to allow something. It’s perfectly doable.”
(For more information on the Smart Discipline System and how it can work in your home, click here for the full story.)