His day started with three smiley faces. Taped to the wall of our playroom was my son's behavior chart, and every day I measured his worth with three hanging smiley faces. I know that sounds like a dramatic way to word what was happening, but our children do look to us as they form their self-concept and sense of self-worth. So, for him, each smiley face that disappeared told him he wasn't good.
You're bad. You're naughty. You're wrong. You're not enough.
It was a simple system. On the chart hung three cards. One side of each card had a smiley face. The opposite side had a sad face. Each time he broke a rule or committed some act that I deemed a transgression, one smiley face got flipped. If all three got flipped, he was isolated to a little green chair at the end of the hallway for time-out.
I told myself I was being fair. I told myself that this was "positive discipline" because I wasn't using physical punishment. I told myself that it was simply a visual reminder to him that he needed to control his behavior.
I convinced myself it was helpful to him. So, there it hung—a constant reminder to him of his inadequacy because, let's be honest, 3-year-olds don't behave perfectly,...