What about the parent who sets the boundaries, witnesses her child cross them, follows through on the predetermined discipline, and then begins to feel sorry for her child, and cancels the punishment midstream before the entire “sentence” is served?
Woe to that parent.
The fancy term for what transpired is intermittent reinforcement. Modern science has proved that sporadically reinforced behavior is very difficult to extinguish.
Parents exercise intermittent reinforcement for two main reasons. They feel sorry for their child. (After all, Little Johnny has been inside for two whole days now, and all the neighborhood kids are frolicking right outside his window.) Or, they are too exhausted to administer the punishment.
Strong-willed children are persistent, and as the parent of one, it is important for you to be more persistent. If your strong-willed child can wear you down or convince you that you were overboard with your discipline, he will. If you are inconsistent with your discipline, your strong-willed child will battle longer, imagining that this is another time that you will give in. If you are consistent, the chances of your strong-willed child eventually giving up the fight are increased.
From a listener:
“I have a very strong-willed child. She is so difficult that it’s been putting a wedge between my husband and me, especially at bedtime. We’re having difficulty finding time alone together, because she doesn’t want to go to sleep at night. She says she is scared. She starts cracking her knuckles and licking her lips. She doesn’t want to sleep alone. We are asked why Mommy and Daddy get to sleep in the same bed, and she can’t sleep in the bed with us. A lot of times we end up giving in because we’re so tired, and we just want to go to sleep. All of our alone time is gone, and it’s really causing friction in our relationship. HELP!!!”
Giving in is the opposite of winning the battle. It is losing the battle. Remember that winning the battle is one of the “Rules of the Road” for a successful journey.
When have you been tempted to give in after you have established a boundary and the consequence for crossing that boundary?