Think about the last time your child did something you felt required some sort of “disciplining.” What did you do? Did you give a time out? Did you talk it through, discussing what happened and what your child could do differently next time? Did you give a swat on the hand, or on the bottom? Employ a ‘natural consequence’? Now imagine that you are the parent of a challenging child and that these instances happen many, many times each day. How much energy and attention do you suppose you’d be giving to negative behaviors?
I always thought that I would be a natural consequences and discussion type of parent. Ellie doesn’t want to wear her jacket? She’ll be cold. Ellie doesn’t want to put her bike in the garage when she’s done playing with it? It might get backed over by a tractor. Depending on what her behavior is, we might also do some role playing or talk about ways to handle it: “I saw how frustrated you were when Tommy took the toy you were playing with! What do you think you could do next time instead of hitting?”
With Ellie, these methods seemed to backfire. Natural consequences? They were almost so novel to her that she would deliberately do things to see what would happen next. Talking? Holy cow did that ever just piss her off royally and add fuel to the fire. The more we would talk and try to calm her down by being understanding and empathetic, the more angry and hysterical she would become. It certainly didn’t seem to encourage her to employ any of the strategies we were so carefully trying to instill. We switched to time outs. She discovered really quick that there was nothing to keep her in the chair, and we decided that any method that relied on physical power-plays was dangerous; it would only work as long as she was physically small enough for us to dominate her, and it showed that the bigger person won simply by virtue of having larger muscles. We thought that was the wrong message to send. We moved to 123 Magic. Same result.