Discipline by Challenge

A friend was visiting us with his wife and four-year-old and six-month-old sons.

As they were about to leave, the four-year-old jumped onto the driver’s seat of the van. The mother mentioned what a challenge young Adam is becoming and mentioned that trying to get him out of the driver’s seat will be a real chore.

I suggested to her that every time she tried to make him do something or stop doing something, he would resist and that her most successful approach would be one that did not involve coercion. I suggested that every time she tells him to do something, he will interpret it as an attempt to control him and that she will be creating a challenge for herself. Sharing (rather than telling), asking a reflective question, or challenging him are options that will be more effective.

To demonstrate the third option, as my wife was standing next to us, I leaned towards Adam and said, “My wife and I have just made a bet. She said it would take you two minutes to get into the back seat and buckle your seat belt. I told her that I bet you could do it in one minute.”

Little Adam jumped out of the driver’s seat and almost knocked my wife over as he ran around the van, climbed into his seat, and buckled his seat belt.

I told him how surprised and amazed I was that he could do it—and even in less time than I thought he could.

The youngster knew where to sit. Having him demonstrate responsible behavior merely took some thinking on my part, viz., “What could I say or do to prompt him—something that he would not interpret as coercive?”

Young people love a challenge. It is a great motivator, requires just a little creativeness, eliminates stress, and can be great fun for all involved.