The happy/sad face discipline system is very simple but there's some powerful psychology behind it. The reasons why it works so well are:
And now for how the system works, in fourteen easy points:
- It takes away the confrontation - no longer is it parent versus child to see who is the stronger willed and the more determined. Kids always win, they've got nothing to lose; parents can lose their sanity, kids haven't got theirs yet! Under this system, it's now the parent and child as allies - on the same side - helping each other to fix things up.
- It's fun - kids always take to discipline that makes it's point but doesn't get personal or heavy.
- It's visual - kids become immune to parents nagging and yelling.
- It's logical, not vicious - if kids won't cooperate, it means that parents won't cooperate until it's remedied.
- It focuses on healing, not on hurting back and destroying the bond you need and love.
- It prevents silly, long-term punishments. It's up to the kids to fix things up as soon as the repair work or practice has been done. Then it's back to normal family business. You don't have to cancel outings or ground them - they just fix it up. No fix, no cooperation.
- It puts responsibility for change where it belongs - on the kids - without the discipline being diverted into a heated discussion about who's shouting, or favouritism, or the legal consequences of your smacking them, and so on.
- Put simply, it's about using 'playfare' not warfare.
There is lots more to this system (including rewards & punishments according to ages) but my fingers have almost fallen off from typing this lot so you'll have to make do with this...
- Draw/trace the happy/sad fridge discs. Use red for the sad face and green for the happy face. If you have more than 1 child, make a set of each child of the family.
- Put a removable adhesive substance (such as Blu-Tack) on the back of them or use a button magnet.
- You can use the discs separately or back to back.
- Keep them on the fridge. When your child is cooperating, the disc remains on the happy (green) side.
- When your child doesn't cooperate, or abuses you or hurts you in any way, don't yell and don't smack. Let the disc do the talking for you by putting the sad (red) side on top and telling your child what you're sad about. At first your child will see this as a game, but if you let them know firmly the consequences of their behaviour - and these don't suit their 'game' - they will respond to the system quite quickly. Occasionally little kids are so sensitive that the sad face really does upset them. If your child is like this, instead of replacing the happy face with the sad one, just remove the happy face and say, "Oh dear, I've lost my happy face; now I can't do anything until we've fixed it up."
- The faces should not be used as a threat. Constant threats that your child will earn a sad face for inappropriate behaviour ruin the impact, as the child will see this as a challenge. If your child has acted inappropriately, the sad face must be presented and consequences must apply.
- If the face is on the sad side, or the happy face is missing, make sure your kids know what they've done to make the face sad. Then use discipline that heals, not hurts. As mentioned previously, healing discipline bonds the family, drawing everyone closer together, while harmful discipline makes parents and children feel torn apart.
- Near the faces on the fridge place a 'make up' or 'fix up' list, which specifies some activities for the offending child to do to make up, or return the sad face to the happy one. Often this just means doing as they were asked, so they can see that you mean business, but sometimes it means doing another job, which you can select from the list. If they've been rude, for instance, it might mean that they have to speak properly to you for 30 minutes. Set the oven timer for this period and let the buzzer indicate a return to the happy face. The idea is that rather than using your tongue or your hand to hurt because you are hurt, you use the face to show how you feel and then you give them a way to fix it up.
- For hard-core problems or habits that keep re-emerging (such as continually getting out of bed) despite how many happy or sad faces you display, you need to take one more step. What you need to do is use 'firm love' to train new habits, to train the brain's behaviour sequence out of old, annoying habits. Kids won't stop being rude, or getting up and down out of bed, or being lazy or uncooperative, or not taking 'no for an answer just by parents being nice, giving soft love, warning, threatening, screaming or smacking. At best they teach what not to do. If you want better habits, these have to be trained - and it won't happen in one go. For 2 to 10 y/olds, stick an empty note page (like a shopping list) onto the fridge and write on it, in positive terms, those behaviours that do not change and keep cropping up, with the child's initials after them. So, instead of writing 'stop being rude' on the list, write 'speaking nicely' etc.
- When the problem behaviour appears - generally when you're busy doing something and can't deal with it - just write the preferred behaviour on the list and warn the kids that they've got it wrong, and that they'll have to practice the desired behaviour when you have time. This could meant getting your partner to work on the behaviour at a time to suit him/her. For those without a partner, or whose hours prevent this, choose a time to suit you, and not the children, such as when they want to watch TV or are dying for dinner or want to play with their toys/mates, so that they will be more motivated to change.The following are examples of familiar terms on training lists (generally no more than 2 at a time):
- going to room when asked
- staying in room until the buzzer goes
- not interrupting until the buzzer goes
- coming when called
- listening the first time
- doing as asked without answering back
- speaking and answering politely
- Until you've had the chance to retrain the unacceptable behaviour, keep the face on sad so that the kids know there's unfinished business. When you're ready to train the preferred behaviour, tell them what you're trying to do and why. If they complain that they're missing out on something they enjoy, tell them you'll only need to take as much time as they require to change their behaviour. If they get the idea in one go then one practice is all that's needed. You can flip the face back to happy and they can get on with life. If they complain, or misbehave similarly the next day, then you would ask for at least five repetitions of the behaviour you are seeking. And more the next day, if necessary, until they see that you are serious. This way, you're training the desired behaviour and not getting yourself caught up in the undesired behaviour, such as yelling or smacking.
- To help you get the desired behaviour and not the old one you're trying to remove (rudeness, laziness, answering back etc) use a special name to save you shouting, and train this name to be their special (listening) name. Often I use kids' first and middle names or their initials. When they hear their special name being used, they know they'd better listen and cooperate or they'll be in for more 'training', which they learn to dread.
- If young children refuse to practice, put it down sympathetically to tiredness and give them a spell in their room.
- Whatever the child's age, if they get the behaviour right on the next day, reward it. Example: 2 y/olds it's probably a hug and a smile. 3 y/olds you can play 'hangman' with a water based marker on the fridge, say which behaviour you liked and give them another feature. Save the smiley mouth for last. When they get that one, give them a treat to return the smile to their mouth!
unless I get another burst of energy in the near future!
Hope this helps...we're starting it all in the next day or so...the boys won't know what hit 'em!