The Honest Mommy

Uncensored thoughts on parenting & more

No discipline is pleasant at the time… June 10, 2010

Oh my, what a day. The extent to which we are trying to compel our children to do the right thing is something I think few, if any, of my friends would understand.

First there is my son Adam, almost 5 years old. He has had a “hold and wet” habit for years, where he will withhold his urine until he slowly wets himself. This goes on for hours sometimes, and I refuse to accept that he isn’t aware of what’s going on. Last weekend, DH and I had had enough of this habit of his, and we agreed to confine him to his stripped-down room until he kept himself dry for three days in a row. A “mistake” would start the three days over again.

Sunday was the day of his offense, so Sunday he spent the entire afternoon until bedtime in his room (except for meals and necessary outings). On Monday, his one break from his room was an outing to Mommy & Me, where he decided he “just didn’t want to go” potty there, and therefore wet himself. On Tuesday, during/after a trip to the grocery store, he wet himself. Wednesday, he managed to stay dry all day, with no real reminders from Mom or Dad. That brings us to today, Thursday. He has kept dry, but has broken the rules a few times, with compelling consequences afterwards.

His first infraction today was that he took a book from a shelf (one of the few things I hadn’t removed from his room) and was looking at it. He tried to quickly put it away when he saw me coming, and he looked very alarmed and guilty. Therefore, I knew that he knew that he was breaking the rules.

Just last night I was reading in John Rosemond’s Parenting by the Book about how consequences need to exceed the seriousness of the offense. I believe he states that if an offense, on a scale of 1 – 10, rates as a 3, the consequence needs to rate as a 6. Keeping that in mind, I sent Adam to sit in a chair for one hour, with no talking, horsing around, or getting up allowed (except for potty breaks). I do hope that this long hour, with nothing to do, impressed upon him the importance of following the rules.

Later, he kept stepping out of his room to have a peek at his little brother (more on this later). At first I felt sympathetic to the idea that it might be hard to remember the rule (he is used to having the door closed or to having a gate there). But after reminding him of the rule five or six times, I felt I was being played. So, I sent him to stand in a corner for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes were up, I had him tell me why he was sent to the corner and also why he was spending three days (more, actually) in his room.

It seems to me that he is becoming a little more humble-minded and meek as time goes by. It seems to me that being “kicked out of the Garden of Eden,” as Rosemond calls it, is giving Adam a lot to think about with regard to his normal privileges and freedoms.

To be continued….


6 Responses to “No discipline is pleasant at the time…”

  1. 30 minutes, an hour, 3 days – wow, this seems quite harsh, especially for a five year old. I am not trying to attack you, and you are certainly free to choose how you discipline your own child, but this is just my gut reaction to it.

    I don’t have a typically developing child, so I may see things a bit differently from you, but why not just make him go sit on the potty for five minutes every hour? This would be a negative consequence to him in that he would be interrupted in what he was doing, and it might also help him get more in touch with what his body is telling him.

    Also, the way to get redeemed from being kicked out of Eden isn’t through following the rules and doing the right thing, it is through accepting God’s grace and sacrifice for us.

    Again, I truly don’t wish to offend, just offer another viewpoint.

  2. lotsofopinions Says:

    Hi Trish, Thank you your comments. No offense taken! If I didn’t want people’s opinions, I wouldn’t have a blog, I guess!

    Over the last few years we have used a number of different strategies to try to get past this “holding” issue, some of them along the lines of what you suggested.

    At this point, DH and I feel that it has truly become a defiance issue and that it needs to be put squarely on DS’s shoulders. As long as we are directing him to sit on the potty, it is “our problem” instead of his, and we are giving him something to defy against (us), and he still has the choice to not release into the potty, thereby landing us right where we started — a 5yo boy lost in the effort of holding back his urine, dancing around, grabbing himself, not focusing on any particular task except for the battle he’s creating for himself.

    No matter what we do for consequences, etc., DS has the choice about whether to “hold” or go. So we felt it was time to make the consequence for holding & wetting so unpleasant that making the right choice would become a no-brainer.

    The first two days in his room, he decided to play the game, and it seemed to slowly dawn on him what the consequences for wetting himself were — yet more time in his room, which, he was beginning to figure out, was no fun at all. We had a simple chart which showed him the days of the week and his track record (smiley/sad faces) for each day.

    Also, as each day went on, I would give him SMALL privileges and explain that he had earned them by using the potty and not “holding it.” But if he wet himself, all of those privileges were revoked.

    It is now his 3rd day of freedom, after he earned it with 3 consecutive days of dryness, and I couldn’t be happier with the results so far. We have had a few brief talks about what the consequence will be if he holds & wets, and it seems that he really grasps the importance of taking responsibility in this area. In other words, what I see thus far is a decision (series of decisions) on his part to avoid playing this game, in order to avoid the compelling consequence which he experienced.

    As for the Garden of Eden analogy, it is not a perfect one, I agree. I think the analogy’s usefulness does extend to the point of helping the parent(s) realize that a child’s everyday privileges and freedoms are just that – priviliges that a parent can and should take away if the child is consistently and consciously making defiant choices (if the child is of an appropriate age and developmental level).

    • I really appreciate your in depth response to my comment! I am amazed at how well it seems to have worked – and glad for all of you that it did. I’m sure the small privileges and visual chart were helpful for him.

      The more I think about the control issue, it seems that this showed him that the choice to obey will bring more good things than the choice to defy. Either way, he is in control of his own behavior, but he is seeing clearly what the results of his behavior choices are/will be. I am just blown away that a kid his age was able to understand that and accept it.

      This also really challenged me with my own son. Even at age 8, he has a very different developmental picture, but the other day he was complaining that he doesn’t know how to stop wanting things (new toys, more time to play, etc). I told him that I understood how he felt and that part of my job as a parent was to tell him when he could have those things and when he couldn’t. He felt better knowing that I was not asking him to stop wanting things, but simply to obey me in not asking for them over and over again.

  3. FlyBaby Says:

    Wow! I sort of agree with Trish. This does seem like a lot for a five year old, but then, it does seem to have worked.

    I was just wondering (and you likely addressed this and just didn’t blog about it) if you had seen your pediatrician about this issue. I only ask because I had a similar problem from the time I was about 4.5 until 7 and it was related to a problem with my bladder (I’m not sure what the problem was – it was something I outgrew and at age 7 those big long names don’t mean much!) I also used to take care of a little girl who had the same time occasionally because she had a UTI – I know little boys are not as prone to those as little girls.

    Anyway, glad you got him to start using the toilet!

    • lotsofopinions Says:

      I guess it’s always struck me that he is willfully and consciously “holding it” and deciding not to use the toilet. Grabbing himself, standing on tiptoe, seeming rather preoccupied/distracted, and then a panicky look in his eyes when he’s finally waited too long and he starts leaking. But, his 5yr check-up is coming up soon, and I will bring it up with his doctor. Thanks for the input!

  4. […] Discipline, John Rosemond, John Rosemond's Ticket System, Parenting, reward charts, rewards My recent post about helping my almost 5yo son overcome his desire to withhold his urine has garned a fair amount […]

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