Our children weren’t perfect and they didn’t come with an instruction manual. I longed to be Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and discipline my children with her flair, but alas I wasn’t quite as creative. If you have children or grandchildren or work with children, you should read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as she has a magical way to help children behave.

Our kids offered all levels of naughtiness in our home and away from home. Thankfully they came one at a time and hopefully we grew in our skill of discipline as our numbers grew. We started with a classic strong-willed child and I wore out my James Dobson book, The Strong-Willed Child. It was very helpful with this particular little person. My all-time favorite book on discipline is Kevin Leman’s Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. His practical and varied suggestions for discipline fit our family.

We did spank with specific boundaries, though we preferred consequences that fit the offense. If a toy was thrown or mistreated, it was put away; if one was verbally unkind, their mouth was washed out with soap; if someone stuck their tongue out at someone else or made a mean face, they stood (on a step-stool if needed) and were required to make that face into the bathroom mirror for an amount of time set on a timer. For some a time out was costly, for others it was a perk. We had to know what cost whom and what didn’t. As adults when we disobey authority we get applicable life consequences. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours emphasizes this approach. Leman is not opposed to spanking, but for children with reasoning skills he gives other helpful ideas for discipline as well.

The spanky-spoon proved to be our instrument of choice. It was a flat, wooden spoon and it went everywhere with us. It was visible in the front pocket of the diaper bag – on purpose. Sometimes I only had to point to it to adjust behavior; other events called for full usage. We committed to not spank in anger. To succeed in this we didn’t swat at them like flies. When the kids were old enough we would tell them to meet us in the bathroom. This accomplished 2 purposes: the misbehaving child had an opportunity to think about their actions and the parent had time to cool off before spanking.

Every child is different and needs discipline according to their bent, so you need to study them to know what works. Some children just need a stern look or verbal warning, while others need a more complete package. You have to discover what costs them – what works to correct behavior. Your children are the best investment you’ll ever make: relationally, emotionally, and financially. Make it a priority to learn about disciplining skills and each child’s bent and personality. Help your children understand that obedience brings blessing.

I’m not trying to be all June Cleaver-ish and say we never blew it with our kids. We did. I can only hope and pray they won’t need to attend a support group due to our discipline techniques. My only disclaimer on discipline: Do not spank in anger. If you can’t spank without anger – don’t spank.