Sometimes trying everything is as ineffective as doing nothing. From your daughter’s point of view, she never knows what reaction to expect from you. I realize you’ve been trying first one thing, then another, in an effort to find a method of discipline that will work. But the end result is that you have been terribly inconsistent so nothing is working for you. Being out of control is actually scary for children. It’s like being in a runaway car and not knowing where the brakes are. She’s counting on you to figure out how to help her learn to behave. You need to feel more confident that you can manage her, especially before she reaches the teen years.
There are many ways to parent children. You need to find one system that feels right for you and stick to it. You also need some support for yourself since it will probably be hard going, at least at first. For one thing, your daughter will have trouble believing that you mean what you say. She will test you until it becomes clear that you are firmly committed to using the method you have chosen.
EmpoweringParents.com’s website describes a healthy, productive approach: “It’s almost never effective to give your child a consequence in the heat of an argument. Often, parents will be either too harsh or too lenient, because nothing appropriate comes to mind immediately. I advise parents to sit down and write a “consequences list.” You can think of this as a menu of choices. When compiling this list, keep in mind that you want the consequence to be unpleasant, because you want your child to feel uncomfortable. It’s also important to think about the lesson you want him to learn—and this lesson should be attached to the consequence. If, like most teens, your child’s cell phone has meaning for him, don’t be shy about using it as leverage. So let’s say your child curses and is rude to his sister, and you want him to learn how to manage his feelings. I think an effective consequence might be that he would lose his cell phone until he doesn’t curse and isn’t rude to his sister for 24 hours. In those 24 hours, he might also have to write a note of apology to his sibling stating what he’ll do differently the next time he gets frustrated. If he fails to write the letter, he doesn’t get his phone back—and the 24 hours starts all over again.”
I strongly suggest that you get involved in a parent education class. Usually 8 to 12 parents get together on a weekly basis with a trained facilitator to learn new parenting skills and to get some much needed support and encouragement. I did a little research for your area and found these organizations:
Parents Anonymous® of Phoenix, Arizona at UMOM New Day Centers, (602) 889-3594. umom.org
The American Red Cross sometimes offers parenting classes: Red Cross 602-336-6661
The Arizona Adlerian Association offers workshops and classes. Adlerian Association
I can’t endorse a particular group since I don’t know the people personally but you could call and investigate what they have to offer. Ask your child’s teacher or school counselor what they would recommend as well.
I wish you well.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on January 1, 2008.