Decoding Discipline: Using CAPS to Change Your Game
The essential ingredient to being an effective parent is keeping the relationships you have with each child fed and strong. This is a delicate balancing act between making deposits and limiting withdrawals in the Parent-Child Relational Bank Account. One necessary withdrawal that can complicate things is discipline.
Redirecting our children and helping teach them different ways of behaving is part of the parenting challenge. The discipline approach we take has a big impact on our effectiveness as a parent and the type of withdrawal we will make from the relationship. Unfortunately, there is no surefire way of discipline that is the best way to go.
Our approach to discipline will impact the type of withdrawal we make from the relationships with our children. Parenting out of anger leads to higher withdrawals than proactive and positive methods. This is why we need to know what our goals for discipline are and whether or not the techniques we use are getting us there. This is a tricky process, and the more frustrated we let it get us, the more likely we are to use discipline methods that take more from the relationship than was necessary in the first place.
To complicate matters even more, the methods we use will have varying results with each child or over time. Just because your idea worked for a problem yesterday does not mean that it will be a viable solution today. The different personalities of our children will also impact how effective we are. Why does discipline have to be so difficult?
The truth is one reason that discipline can be so tricky is we save it until we are having to react to the situation rather than responding. When we are reacting in the moment of misbehavior, we are more likely to use more emotion and less thinking to get the job done. We will not look at the situation objectively and the more steamed we are the more our emotions will lead us to use harsher tactics than necessary.
How do we keep ourselves from reacting? We put ourselves in a position to respond. What does that mean? Responding means we are balancing emotion and thinking so we can keep our cool while working on solutions to the situation. Responding is more effective when we have taken the time to be proactive in our parenting and set limits and the consequences that follow beforehand. This helps us know what to do when situations arise rather than trying to wing it.
Discipline is an essential part of parenting, and also one of the trickiest things we have to do. Helping correct misbehavior in ways that is productive and helpful can quickly go south when we let our emotions, fears, or pride get in the way. It’s also a lot easier said than done to talk about proactive and positive parenting techniques. The truth is, if you want to use more proactive and positive methods, you are going to put a lot more effort in upfront before getting the payout down the road.
The CAPS framework was created to help take some of the stress off for this process. It looks at four different domains of effective discipline to help you decide if what you are doing will help you reach the goal you are going for. If you are unable to answer yes to all four of the areas, you might need to rethink your plan. The CAPS acronym stands for Clear, Applicable, Practical and Steady, and these four words can help revolutionize the way you discipline. Let’s take a look at each one.
The first domain looks at how clearly the expectations are in the home. Also, we need to be clear about what will happen if the expectations are met or if they are not. As parents, a lot of the time we believe that we are clear because we understand what we want, but that does not necessarily mean that our children know. It is worth taking the time to assess their understandings of the expectations and outcomes to help make this domain work in your favor.
Take the time to think about the following question and where you stand on it. Are the expectations and consequences in my home clear for everyone? No one likes to get in trouble for violating a rule that they did not know was there. The clearer you can be on expectations and outcomes the more effective you will be. If your answer to the question is a no, it is time to put in the effort to clarify your expectations and outcomes. You can include the voices of your children to help with this to improve the clarity and buy-in to the structure you are putting into your home.
Do not feel like you have to come up with a rule for every situation you are likely to encounter. This would be impossible and stress you out to the max! Instead, use umbrella terms such as respect, treating others well, and sharing to help ease the process. The key to making these types of terms clear is defining what the desired behaviors you are looking for are. If we assume everyone is running off the same definition of respect, we are likely to be disappointed and frustrated when our child acts in a contrary way. This puts us back in reacting territory! Take the time to clarify and get a show of understanding from everyone. This step alone can change what we see in our homes!
What is one of the consequences for us when we let our emotions, fears, or pride take the wheel of our discipline? Often we start thinking in terms of how to get back at our child or really make them feel their mistake. At this moment we might want to ask ourselves, what are we trying to do and is it worth it? What will it do to our relationship?
The second domain of the CAPS framework forces us to look at what we are doing for discipline techniques concerning our child’s behavior. In this case, applicable is looking at whether our disciplinary actions fit our child’s behavior. For lack of better wording, it’s asking does the punishment fit the crime? Let’s use sports to take a quick look at what this means.
In football, if a player moves before the play starts they will get flagged for a five-yard false start penalty. It’s not a huge penalty, but one that the team still feels. What would happen if instead of being flagged for a five-yard penalty that player was ejected for the game? That would be outrageous, right? Jumping before a play starts does not warrant an ejection, that penalty does not apply to the situation at hand.
Yet, how often as parents, if we are letting our emotions, fears, or pride run the show, do we go straight for the ejection when the situation only calls for a five-yard penalty? Or, we may only throw a five-yard penalty out on a play that requires more. The more we let our emotions run the show, the more our perception of the situation changes. We want them to feel the teaching of the penalty rather than be overwhelmed with it. Ask yourself this question, is what I am doing applicable to the situation? If the answer is not truly a yes, then you need to reevaluate and try again.
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“I can’t believe you did that; you are grounded for three months!” Sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself spouting out a threat that there is no way you can go through with? Let’s face it, even if you were going to follow through on grounding your child for three months, what is the outcome of that? When we let our emotions, fears, or pride take the wheel, we are likely to throw out threats that we will not follow through on.
The domain of practical looks at whether or not we can follow through with what we say we are going to do. Believe it or not, one of the ways we build trust with our children is when we follow through with what we say we are going to do. Being practical in our approach to discipline allows us to remain true to what we say we are going to do. The nice thing, if we are working with the other parts of CAPS, we do not have to rely on threats either!
When we are clear and have set the expectation beforehand that our children need to get their homework done before video game time, which is applicable, the practical solution is we do not turn on the game system. That is easy for us to follow through on and it will mean that we are true to our word. The more proactive we are in our approach, the more likely we are to be using tools that are practical enough for us to follow through on.
Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions. Am I able to follow through with what I say I am going to do? What types of things have I done that are practical? When do I tend to use threats and throw out things I can’t follow through on? If you are not able to answer yes to being practical, take the time to look at your game plan and make the necessary changes.
What happens when we are not able to follow through on what we say? What will be the outcome of us switching back and forth on our expectations or the consequences? We definitely will not be fostering trust in our children that we will do what we say we will. They will learn to trust that we will be all over the place and not that reliable, not necessarily something we want going for us. We will also put a lot of stress on ourselves as we try to navigate disciplinary situations.
Being steady means that we will not only do what we say we are going to do but that we are consistent in how we handle situations. We start to become predictable to our children in that they know we are going to do something about the situation. If we are only implementing discipline only every now and then, we are going to have a hard time. The steadier we are in our expectations and consequences, the less trouble over time we will have to deal with. Children function in predictability and misbehave in chaos.
Think about your discipline style and your ability to follow through. Are you being steady with your discipline? Is there consistency in what you are doing? This is the final domain of the CAPS model and it ties them all together. If you answer yes to all the other three, but it’s a no one this one, you need to make the changes now to get yourself more consistent. You will be making a lot more work for yourself, and a less predictable environment for your child, if you don’t!
Using the CAPS framework can help change your game when it comes to discipline. When each domain is accounted for, you are more likely to be an effective parent. Discipline can help prepare your children for the real world by teaching them powerful skills. As strange as it is, even when making a withdrawal with your discipline, you will be strengthening your relationship over time. Your children will know what to expect of you and that you will follow through, which builds trust and security. This also means they will come and talk to you when they need it most. Change the game with your discipline and you change the relationship with your children!