04/10/2012 03:01 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2012

The No-Scream Discipline Solution

There are few things more annoying to me than kids that don't listen, and here I am with three of them!

While I am a very patient person usually, I can be pushed to the point where completely unhelpful instructions come from my mouth in a very loud manner. Okay... I yell.

In my own defense, let me say that my kids have developed earplugs that allow them to completely tune me out. Two of them are boys, so I guess I am just their training zone to be able to ignore their wives later. (No worries, women of tomorrow, I'll have them whipped into shape before you get hitched to them! That's what I'm here for.) Words like candy, store and surprise seem to seep through their ear blockages, but other words like work, chore and NOW fall on deaf ears.

Why threats don't work

Threats are a completely useless tool in the parenting tackle box. The reason is simple: If your threat is not a promise, kids see right through it. Grandparents, for example, that say, "No, you can't have a cookie. No, not before dinner. Well okay, but just one," have just taught the kids that if they beg enough, you will give in. I am a firm believer that we teach people how to treat us. I want to teach my kids to listen to me. That's why I believe that threats have to be consistently followed up on. I know this, but for lazy parents like myself, that just means that I don't threaten my kids with losing movies, losing TV, losing video games or losing playdates. If I don't threaten, I don't have to follow through. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that my kids listen any better. That just means that I find myself doing their work to avoid the fight.

The problem

Yesterday, I asked my kids to clean up their toys from the living room... twice. I returned to discover that it was still not done. This is not a unique scenario. This is pretty typical of my frustratingly lazy kids. I had three choices: do it myself, yell until they got it done or find a way to make them learn their lesson.

My solution

Recalling a previous period in which my children tuned out all my instructions, I decided to dig out my old standby -- a trash bag. I sat them down and told them in a calm voice, "I am choosing not to yell, but I need you to listen very carefully to what I am about to tell you. I have now asked you twice to clean up your toys. This is my last request. If you choose to not clean up your toys, I will clean them up but then they are mine. I would highly HIGHLY recommend you take five minutes and clean them up."

They didn't, so I did.

I filled one trash bag of meaningless junk and tossed it. I also collected a box full of prized possessions including video games, journals, favorite stuffed animals and movies. They will not discover the full brevity of the situation until after school today, and they will be allowed to begin earning back their toys at the end of the week.

Yes, it will be a very loud few days, but a very natural consequence to a bad choice will teach them quicker than guilt, manipulation or ongoing passiveness will.

This is not a drill

The difference between making threats and getting stuff done is following through with what you say. With kids, consistency is absolutely essential. And while it is easy to fall into the consistency of screaming, that isn't necessarily getting us anywhere. Finding an alternative, creative, constructive solution is a much more valuable use of my time. And, as I said, I'm pretty lazy in my parenting, so I am all about getting the point across harsh and fast and moving on to a new problem -- like teaching them to flush the toilet rather than letting poop fester all day. I mentioned they were lazy, right? Ugh.