There are times in my short-lived parenting life that I realize I am learning the importance of parenting with compassion, especially when it comes to disciplining. Last night was a prime example of the need for more compassion and understanding. You see, Monte and I were out on a date night (can you say "Costco here we come!"?) and Claire was watching her younger brothers. All was going well until my cell phone rang. Due to the fact that we were in an extremely loud restaurant at the time, I had to step outside to take the call. It was Claire calling me because she had a situation on her hands that she didn't know how to deal with. See, Iain and Ellis had some friends over (strike number one: no friends are allowed at our house if there isn't an adult at home), and she said that they were all downstairs in the boys' room (strike number two: definitely no friends allowed in the house when there are no adults at home) making prank phone calls. So, I asked her if I could talk to Iain, and the conversation with him wasn't extremely pleasant. He admitted that he and a couple of friends were in his room, but that they were making prank phone calls and he was just laughing about it. I explained to him that they are not to use the phone for anything but calling their parents (if necessary) and that he was to put the phone back and to tell his friends it was time to go. Then I asked to talk to Claire. It was in the passing of the phone that I heard Iain loudly say, "guys you have to go home because Claire is being her usual self again."
So, I asked to talk to Iain again and made him correct what he said and tell his friends that they had to go home because what they were doing was not okay by any standards and that it had nothing to do with Claire (that she was doing exactly what she should in informing dad and I of what was going on). I then returned to the restaurant, Monte and I paid our bill and we proceeded on our way home.
It was during the ride home that I really believe we were the most productive in our parenting than we have ever been. You see, both Monte and I have a tendency to yell at the kids when they've done something wrong, or when we're feeling frustrated with them. I know for myself, this is a trait inherited from my father, as he was one who yelled at us quite frequently, and it's not one that I am proud of nor is it one that I want to pass down to my children. So, Monte and I discussed how we were going to handle the situation and what the boys' punishment would be. Upon arriving at home, we called the boys upstairs and made them wait at the table for us as we unloaded the car from our Costco trip. We then sat down with them and asked them to explain what had happened and how things transpired. During this discussion, we let them know the areas that they should have made a different decision, and let them know how, while they were not the ones making the calls, the calls were being made from their house and by their friends - both of which would NEVER be allowed if Monte or I were home. The boys both said they knew they wouldn't be able to do something like that if we were home, and we expressed the need for them to know that they need to make decisions as if we were at home all the time.
The talk continued for about 10 minutes, after which we issued their punishment (no screen time [i.e. TV, computer or video games] for one week) and sent them to bed. Monte went downstairs to tuck them in and I proceeded to Colin's room to get him some medicine and tuck him into bed, and then to see Claire off to bed as well.
This morning when the boys woke up they were still a little bit emotional from everything that had transpired the night before. I spent some time hugging and loving on both of them, expressing how much dad and I love them and that it is because we love them that we punish them when they do something they aren't supposed to. I also let them know that they owed an apology to their sister for disrespecting her while she was in charge (which they agreed and gave truly heartfelt apologies to her!). I then told them that we don't need to dwell on what happened, we need to just abide by our punishment and make sure that we go forward with our best intent on making better decisions.
Since then, there has been such an amazing peace inside of me over the fact that we didn't yell at them or freak out at them, we rationally talked to them and I really think the message was more effective. From now on, when things happen and kids have to be disciplined, if I'm feeling frustrated/mad/overwhelmed/stressed by the situation, I'm giving myself a time-out first to sort through my emotions until I'm level-headed enough to calmly talk to my kids, because the end result is so much more positive!