When the 1,2,3 method, the naughty step and bribery don’t work

My friend Rob has a two-year-old daughter and has just become a dad for the second time. Here’s his great guest post on his epiphany regarding his eldest and her refusal to listen to him or his wife. Rob blogs over on Struggles of a Self-taught Programmer

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I have been meaning to write another blog post for a few weeks now. My wife and I just spawned for a second time (once again of the female variety) and Fran thought it might be interesting to get a Dad’s perspective on having multiple daughters; whether I had any worries beforehand and if the reality is different to the expectation.

Well, that was some weeks ago now and I still haven’t managed to get around to it. Instead I’ve been trying to deal with a toddler who finds her new sister fascinating. This is trickier than it sounds.

No matter what we say or do, our eldest refuses to listen to us. The girl clearly has no discipline. I don’t mean discipline in the Victorian sense of: “you must do this absurdly stringent thing else you will be beaten to within an inch of your life,” I mean it in more of a: “please stop trying to pull your sister’s head off” sort of a way, with the actual result being that head pulling ceases.

Not this kind of discipline

Not this kind of discipline

We have tried pretty much everything. Doing the 1, 2, 3 method, the ‘Naughty Step’, going to bed early, bribery… everything. All we get are bemused looks and a continuation of the behaviour.

But then I had an epiphany!

As I said above, I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for Fran for a number of weeks, but always put it off. Shock! Horror! It turns out that I don’t have any discipline either!

How the hell can I be expected to imbue a sense of self-control and discipline on my daughter when clearly I don’t have any myself? She doesn’t see any discipline from me, so why would she practice it herself (granted, I may be reading too much into this, but run with me on this one)?

Kids are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear. If my eldest doesn’t see me doing what I said I would do, or what her mum has asked me to do, then why should she? Before I can persuade my daughter to stop trying to wake her sister up so they can go dancing, I need to instil into myself a sense of the discipline we require from her.

Clearly then the objective is to foster discipline within myself. But how to go about it? I realised I have tried pretty much everything: to do lists, kanban, Getting Things Done, Remember the Milk, HabitRPG, reminders on my phone, post-its on the wall; everything except the Naughty Step. They all last for a few days, but then slowly I drift away.

The problem is that in order to garner a sense of discipline, time and effort is needed. In fact exactly the same type of time and effort you need discipline to achieve – horrible catch 22 scenario.

Fortunately, discipline is not an all or nothing thing. If you can practice a little bit of it, you can build it up into more; sort of like exercising: the more you do, the better you become.

From my point of view, I have started to try and wake up earlier so I can get about an hour’s worth of work in before the rest of the house wakes up. I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now and it’s going pretty well. I am roughly sticking to it – I don’t get up immediately some days, but mostly I am up before everyone else. In that hour or so I have, I am able to power through some tasks. I quickly leaned that the night before I needed to leave a list of things to do, else my comatose self would just sit there staring at a blank screen. With this list I am still comatose, but at least I have instructions as to what to do.

Once I have mastered this, then I’ll be onto other things. And once I have fully mastered my own discipline, then I’ll be in a better position to help with my daughter’s.

And when she's older...?

And when she’s older…?

Check out Rob’s The Realities of Fatherhood post.



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