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All of us have those days when we wonder how little Suzy can have so much energy and misbehave so radically when little mommy is drained and exhausted and lost her patience hours ago. Why is it that parents are using their own mental and spiritual reservoirs to do all the thinking? Discipling can drain us as much mentally as it can physically. We are constantly thinking of ways to direct behavior, encourage creativity, divy out discipline, deal with catastrophes. We are often times too quick to jump in and solve problems for our kids. We fail to realize the special opportunity for learning that is created during a seemingly big behavior problem.

First of all, it is important to note that although we better ourselves from raising our children, we are really here to help THEM do the learning- AND the thinking. Whether we are 3 or 30, we learn by making choices and living the consequences of those choices. The only difference is that when you are 30, you no longer need anyone there to tell you about the consequences.

Give your kids choices. Allow the natural consequences of that choice to affect them- even if it hurts you a little too. If they begin to do the thinking, and are forced to exercise their brains in the same way an adult would, they will not only learn and grow from the experience, but they will also be taking on the responsibility of the discipline, freeing up the parent's mind for other things.

For instance, if a young child were to steal candy from a grocery store, give him two choices that are both OK with you, and let him do the thinking. And always start with empathy. Tell him, "I'm sorry you chose to steal that candy. Would you rather go back into the store by yourself and tell the clerk what you did, and give the candy back to him, or would you like me to go in with you?" It is important that you choose two choices you would be happy with, instead of giving a right and a wrong choice, because a child will always go for the one you don't want him to choose. By giving choices, the child is more likely to think about what is going on. You are no longer the "bad guy". The behavior is. The child is forced to look at the natural consequences of his behavior.

It is also important to empathize with your child. The more sincerely sorry you are about the incorrect choice he made, the more likely he will be to see that you are on his side. You may be giving the choices, but you are not forced to come up with consequences. Sometimes, if you give a child the option of coming up with a just consequence, he will think of one you wouldn't have. Oftentimes even a more severe one. Whatever you do, let your children do the thinking. The harder they think, the more they learn, and the more tired they will be at the end of the day from productive decision-making.