Dear Dr. Meg,
We have four children, ages seven, five, three and two. I struggle with discerning the root cause for our kids’ poor behavior. My husband struggles with feeling frustrated whenever they misbehave and disciplines from a place of frustration, rather than using these as teaching moments for our kids. Can you help us?
Disoriented by Discipline
First of all, I get it. With four kids under eight, you are both exhausted. That has a huge influence on how you discipline. It’s hard to discern why your child is acting a certain way when you’re tired. And it’s hard to not discipline from a place of frustration when you’re tired. Here are a few things you can try that will help your kids’ behavior and help relieve your own exhaustion.
1. First, know that sometimes you can figure out bad behavior and sometimes you can’t. Don’t make it your life’s goal to know why your child is misbehaving every time. This will exhaust you even more. And knowing why doesn’t necessarily mean you will prevent the behavior in the future.
2. See if there is a common “theme” to your children’s behavior. Do they backtalk, refuse to go to bed, refuse to listen? If this is the case, then your kids are taking advantage of you because you’re tired. Sit them down and say, “Look, here's the deal. No one in our home is allowed to [insert bad behavior]. So if any of you does this, I’m not going to yell, but I will [insert consequence].” This consequence will vary depending on the child. Taking away screen time and time-outs are effective consequences for most children of this age.