I would like to preface this post by saying that, though almost half of you checked the 'discipline' box in the poll, my kids are still young enough that I haven't necessarily had to test out any of my discipline theories. That being said, I was a teacher for 3.5 years and used a number of discipline tactics on high school aged kids that worked. Three year olds are probably another story. So with that, please understand that my Discipline posts will be ideas to try - but not necessarily road tested by me with my kids.
You've heard it said: "the punishment should fit the crime," but as I thought about that saying, I started to wonder if "the punishment should fit the 'criminal'" instead. If you have more than one child, you inevitably know that they are inherently different. They have different temperaments. They have different attitudes, different interests, different soft spots. Knowing this, you can probably guess that a punishment to one of your kids is not necessarily a punishment to the other.
For example, let's say you have an extrovert and an introvert on your hands. If they both throw a toy, and you tell them both to go to their room, the extrovert might be in agony while the introvert is in heaven. You see, sending an introvert into a secluded environment isn't punishment, it's exactly what they prefer. Maybe a better punishment for the introvert is that they aren't allowed to *fill in the blank* (do puzzles, read books, listen to their iPod...) for a certain amount of time instead.
You need to be fair in your punishments, but fairly punishing two kids is not the same as identically punishing them.
The catch is that 'fairly punishing' your kids takes a lot more work! It's easier to tell them to go to their room or put them in time-out or spank them, but to fairly punish your kids, you have to know what makes them tick. You have to really know your kids.
A friend of mine has a three year old that she calls 'particular about cleanliness.' She went in to check on him only to discover that he had used his new birthday markers to color all over the paper, the table, and himself in the process. For him, the perfect punishment for 'the crime' was to not let him wash his hands for five whole minutes. You might as well have been torturing him! In her words, "he must have apologized 12 times that night; it was easy." He'll think twice about coloring on himself next time, whereas if she would have cleaned him up and tossed him in his room for a time out, it wouldn't have been nearly as effective.
My challenge to you is to get to know your kids. Know them well enough to reward them in ways that they would truly appreciate and punish them in ways that would be truly effective to them as individuals.