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The Three Times Rule

Often what happens when we try to discipline our children is we tell them to do something over and over again until we are incredibly angry and frustrated. For instance, if you say, “Johnny, stop hitting your brother,” and he doesn't stop, you will probably say it again. If he still doesn't stop, you might say it several more times until you become furious. Then, you might grab him and put him kicking and screaming into his room, turn off the TV set, or take away a toy he's playing with.

A method that works much better for both you and your child is the three times rule. First, you simply say, “Johnny, stop hitting your brother.” The second time, you say it with a consequence: “Johnny, stop hitting your brother or you will have a time-out in your room, you can't watch TV anymore today, or I will put away the toy that you are fighting over.” And the third time, no matter what, you apply the consequence. The third request is usually accompanied by counting slowly one … two … and, at three, boom, they're in time-out, or have met whatever consequence you warned them about.

You have to use this rule every single time for it to be effective. Don't give in! If you follow through with your punishment, your child will really learn that you mean what you say. And he or she will know that not listening to you will bring a consequence, not just a threat. It also will give your child a sense of control because he or she will always have a warning before the punishment is actually carried out.

It's also important to choose the punishments carefully. You should keep two things in mind. First, the punishment should be something that you can and will carry out. If you tell Bobby that he can't come to the party with you and you know you will take him anyway, that is not an appropriate choice. Second, you should also get in the habit of making the punishment fit the crime. If Susie is coloring on her sister's book, you should give her a time-out in her room, or put the crayons off-limits for the rest of the day. Taking away dessert after dinner would not be as fitting a punishment. The closer the consequence is (in time and relationship) to the inappropriate behavior, the more likely the child will understand the relationship of his or her actions to the punishment.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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