Help With Your Mother's Rule

Help With Your Mother's Rule is a forum for women who want trouble-shooting help with their Mother's Rules or about any aspect of the 5 Ps of the married vocation.

Ask Holly: This blog is composed of your questions. Contact me at the address listed on Holly's Helpers page and I will respond. Please share your unique ideas as well. The more ideas and experience we share, the more successful every mother will be in designing her own unique Mother's Rule.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Discipline the Kids or Establish a Rule - Which Comes First?

Dear Holly,
I have read your book and would like to apply it in my life.  I am unsure of how to start.  Let me tell you my situation.  I am the mother of 6 young children under 10 years old.  The 2 oldest attend public school and the 3rd is in preschool.  I deeply desire to homeschool, but my husband had been against it for many years.  Now he is willing to let me if I can get our house and our lives organized and in order.  This will be no easy task.  I have tried for years.  The house is always a mess, I can't get the kids to help.  The baby is very clingy and doesn't tolerate being put down.  We have serious discipline issues.  The kids fight constantly.  The 7 year old is very defiant at home, but she is perfectly good at school.  Should I try to establish a rule first, or try to fix the discipline problems first?  I have no clue what to do with discipline, I have read many books but it hasn't helped.  Do you have any advice for me?


  1. I will have to answer this in two posts, I think. Part One:

    You have a challenging situation on your hands, but not one that grace, reasoning, effort and spousal agreement cannot handle. God has blessed you with a large and lively family and He is willing to give you the enlightenment and strength to live it. You will need your rule for this.

    As the home is the stage upon which the family drama unfolds, you will need the help of a rule to bring order, not only to the home, but also to the children. The development of home routines is a solid aid for establishing discipline (ie: self-controlled behavior), and will assist you in doing so. By engaging the children in the daily routines - from prayer to regular meal prep and clean up, to homework routines to play and rest routines, this will do a lot to stabilize their behavior. The children need and want to know what to expect - they will thrive on order. They must know what is coming, have something to look forward to when there are yucky tasks, and fully expect it will occur, properly, when it's supposed to. A rule of life will assist that. And a rule of some kind will be essential if you are going to fulfill your educational duties toward your children in an orderly way.

    So, it's not an either-or situation. It's a "both" - a rule and discipline.

    A few things right away, to think about and implement.

    1. You will need to declutter. Clutter is a mother's nightmare and keeping order in routine or possessions is impossible when there is too much stuff. Stuff piled around the house usually means too-full drawers, closets, toy bins and shelves and no room and no place to put anything. So, you will need to remove what you do not need, what the children do not need, and you will need to organize according to the activities you want to see happen in your home.

    Some key points:
    -if I haven't used it in months
    -if I won't need it really soon
    -if I have more than I need
    -if it doesn't beautify my home
    Then either a) pack it away, b) give it away, or c) throw it away.

    2. Also, sometimes it's not just clutter but lack of organization that is the problem. Doing a Room Analysis - figuring out what you want to have happen in each of your rooms - will help you figure out what to put/keep in these rooms. If you want the kids to color and do gooey stuff only downstairs, then remove all crayons, paper, gooey play dough, etc from their bedrooms, from the living room and put it in a single spot in the kitchen by the table. You may have to purchase some cheap plastic bins or some of those nice cloth-lined baskets, to give things a permanent home. Everything in your home should have it's own 'spot' and you will need to create this, as well as teach it to your whole family. It will also help to schedule in a regular "put away" time - I do it before some meals or at weekly clean-up - that puts everything back in its 'right spot'. Have your children help you, even at their age. The littlest ones can sit in a high chair or swing or bouncy toy while you work , right beside you. The older ones can work alongside you.

  2. Part II:

    3. The kids won't help. Hmmm. That is because a) they are being 'permitted' to not help, by you and/or Daddy, and b) they are rewarded for this, by being permitted to play with toys, watch tv, play games etc in place of work, instead of following work.

    Keep your responsibilities in front of your eyes: You and your husband owe your children a) love, b) faith education and practice, c) food, d) clothing, e) shelter. You don't owe them games, Wii, sleepovers, toys, TV, or other entertainments. They need to participate in the chores. Simple as that. There ought to be no entertainment, friends, social events, snacks outside of meals, treats, etc, until they agree to help. St Paul in Scripture says - "If you don't work, you don't eat."

    Obviously this needs to be tempered for the littlest ones, but the same principle applies, said happily:
    The "When you've finished..." principle:
    "When you've finished feeding the dog, you can come for supper."

    The "As soon as you've...." principle:
    "As soon as your bed is made, come down for breakfast."

    The "Let's get this done quick..." principle:
    "Let's get the kitchen cleaned quick so we can watch that video."

    The "You Can..." principle:
    "You can go out to play after chores."

    The "Hurry up..." principle:
    "Hurry up! We won't start without you! Finish wiping the table quick quick!"

    Fun things are what I call "motivators" - just like for us adults: who among us doesn't use the coffee break to spur us to complete the kitchen a bit quicker; or time on our email to help us finish our laundry when we don't feel like it; or the Saturday evening out to round off a hard-work week. Fun things are not, however, human rights. We do not have a right to entertainment, etc etc etc... This is a privilege, wisely used, to assist in making our lives enjoyable, but they are not owed to us. Neither to our children.

    4. But you can't enforce what you don't have planned. All of this should be done while you are setting up a basic schedule for rising and bedtime, regular meal times, chores around those meal times - who is going to do what - and your daily personal and family prayer routines. In the in-between times of these activites, work on the decluttering and organization. Other things can be scheduled when the home is cleaned up and organized.

    For additional helps, the MROL Workbook will help you, and it has some good Room Analysis sheets, etc.

    But also, you can enlist an organized friend who loves to do this - get her to come along and work with you for a bit, to give you pointers, suggestions and ideas. I read something the other day that made me laugh out loud - it said "Remember - your organized friend LIKES to do this type of thing! She finds it FUN!" I can't tell you how many times I have told my mother, "But I ENJOY decluttering with you... This is a HOBBY to me!" Ask your friends, neighbours and people at the parish if they know of anyone who is organized and who could assist. Pray for someone. God will send someone your way.

    5. Some good resources on discipline and educating children:
    Children: Their Training, Formation and Education by Abad and Fenoy
    The Work of Children by Esther Esteban
    and don't forget you and your husbands' discussion of the issues and agreement about what to do, how to enforce and how you will both support each other in this. The children need to know you are united and have thought this out. This is KEY.

    As is asking for advice from other mothers who don't appear to have these issues - who live a calm and balanced family life and whom you would want to emulate. There is lots of practical wisdom out there... again - pray for these people to enter your life. God has all these helps in mind for you.

    I hope this helps?

  3. There is a really good video on discipline called "1,2,3 Magic" that someone lent me and I highly recommend it. We had a constant fighting issue in our house too (as well as lying, tattle-tailing, whining, yelling, etc). Things were getting pretty ugly around here. But implementing the advice in that video really helped to turn things around. It wasn't the whole answer, but it was a significant part of it.

    1. Would this video be appropriate for gr. 7/8 level? Lately -just to give you an idea - all we seem to be getting is attitude, fighting(hitting sibblings), talking under breath, constant back talk, temper flare ups, "hating" math, sibbling rivalry. Our son receives time with his parents - especially Dad, we include Mass in our day, there are consistent consequences when needed, we watch what we eat, limited tv/computer... .Maybe this video will inform us of something we are neglecting to provide or instill.

    2. The man who developed this video recommends the method for ages 2-12 and I would agree that this is probably the outer limit of it being effective. We have a 12 year old who I still unfortunately need to do this 1-2-3 thing with fairly often, but I know that it is not going to work with her much longer. I have heard that he has a video for the next stage, but I have never seen it. Maybe you can google it and order it from somewhere?

    3. I just looked it up for you (I guess I should have done that before I replied!) and his website is called and the next book and DVD, which you can buy separately or in a set, is called Surviving your Adolescents for ages 13-18. Since I haven't seen or used this one, I can't recommend it. But his younger one is just so simple, down-to-earth, and effective that I would imagine this one is too.

  4. I just wanted to add one funny thing to my previous comment. About two weeks after I started discipling like that video advised, my parents were taking the kids for the weekend. My four year old (who was my worst repeat offender) said, "Oh, Mom! Tell Grandma about that new thing that we're doing!" We had to try so hard to keep straight faces, but you could tell that he really didn't want the newly imposed discipline to be disrupted by the weekend away. When we were out of earshot from him, my Mom and I had a good laugh and imagined him saying, "Save me from myself!" Later we laughed even harder when we realized that Michael W. Smith has a Christian rock album out with that very title. We call it my son's theme song now. Well, my point is, that you'll probably be amazed at how quickly your kids "buy into" any efforts you and your husband make to get things in order, including discipline. God bless you efforts.

  5. I just wanted to share an article I came across that is relevent to this subject of our mother's rule and the discipline of our children.

    I hope it is a help to you all, I gleaned much from it.

  6. Thank you for the article by Mr Michael. I have read some of his thoughts before and he has some very good food for thought, especially the emphasis on routine and family habits and parent example and our understanding of the purpose of our lives as more formative, more relevant to discipline, than some quick fix technique or parenting theorist gimmick.

    We are called to form our children in choosing the good - to educate - not to control, manipulate or just deal with behavior without teaching them self-control. It starts with ourselves, and a mother's rule is an essential aspect of that.

    1. It seems to me that the biggest challenge I have in teaching and disciplining my children is instilling self control. And really it is likely my own greatest weakness. My children know right from wrong and they know they should listen to me and be kind to each other but why is it then that they bicker and disobey? It is helpful to remember that "i want" does not equal "I will". and this is also what I have begun too teach my children. When I say to my self, "I want" (to sleep in, to eat more than needed, to watch more TV, to skip laundry), I try to follow these statements with "BUT I will...commit myself to my vocation." this helps me to train my will to submit to His will as lived through my daily duties. This is how I can model discipline for my children. I have also noticed that the children and I can enjoy each other much better when the day is ordered and predictable.