Because I actually finished my Bible study topic well before my Monday evening deadline, I thought I’d share…
While the topic of child discipline is extremely broad, I kept this as succinct as possible. My main focus with our discipline regimen is to create lessons while making it clear that not following the rules results in unpleasant consequences. Not an easy task.
I think every parent strives to do things “better” or more constructively than their own parents did. Not that they were necessarily wrong with their punishments, but who of us didn’t say at some point, “I’m never going to treat MY kids that way!”.
I know I did. I swore I’d never spank my children. That was my parents’ punishment of choice and I thought they were horrible for doing it. However, whether you agree with spanking or not, we were always mindful of what our punishment would be if we misbehaved and acted accordingly. Not that we never did anything wrong, but we ALWAYS considered the consequences of our actions.
Spanking is frowned upon, and considered abuse much of the time. While I agree that it can, and does, get out of control ( I was spanked out of anger rather than discipline far too often), at the same time I think we’ve become far too lenient with bad behavior.
I’ve spanked my children only a handful of times and it was when they were too young to understand anything else. Never out of anger, but often out of fear. I spanked my daughter when she ran out into a store parking lot without paying attention to what she was doing. I spanked my son when he was trying to put pennies into an electrical outlet. I don’t apologize for those punishments. Although I felt horrible, I knew it was necessary.
However, as children grow old enough to understand right from wrong, I feel as though corporal punishment only manages to instill fear without really teaching the lesson that we intend it to.
Should our children be fearful of us? Every counselor or child psychologist will tell you “no”. They will tell you to get down on the child’s level and speak to them reasonably. Keep in mind that they all change their “methods” as often as we change our clothes. Every new child rearing fad is what they are taught to teach parents. In my experience and with my beliefs, I think our children SHOULD fear us to a certain degree. Or at least fear the punishments we dole out.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched parents try to reason with their 8 year old kids to no avail. I’m sorry, but when you’re 8 years old you don’t have the capacity to reason. How many of you can remember your parents asking you why you did something? And how many times was your answer, “I don’t know”?
I remember doing that ALL THE TIME. I didn’t give the answer to try to evade punishment, I truly did not know why I did it! I remember thinking afterward…why did you do that? You KNEW you were going to get in trouble. But I did it anyway.
Remember that a person’s brain is not developed fully until the age of 25! We can’t expect that our children will always make cognizant decisions. It’s up to us to constantly remind them what is right and wrong.
That being said, how do we punish our children, while teaching them, and without making them want to run away from home?
Hell if I know 🙂
My method works for my children very well, though.
- I try to never punish out of anger. Oh yeah, it happens now and then. I’m human, but I always try to take a few minutes to cool down before I give punishments.
- With every punishment I try to incorporate a learning experience. Even if the lesson doesn’t coincide with the offense, I find that it’s an amazing opportunity for learning.
- Many of the consequences I have for misbehaving end up teaching a lesson. The last time my daughter was mean to her brother, part of her punishment was to write a list of the things she loved about him and read it to him. That not only inconvenienced her but it made her think about why she didn’t want to be mean to someone she loved.
- I’m always firm. I have seen SO MANY parents ask their kids to (for example) be quiet, only to hear them yell a few minutes later. Why? Because they weren’t firm in their demand. Yes, demand. It should never be a request. “Can you please be quiet?” leaves them the choice not to.
- While I consider myself a strict parent, I don’t believe in children being seen and not heard. I always allow my children to ask why I am giving them a punishment and give them a legitimate answer. “Because I’m the Mom”, while true, just leaves room for argument.
- I NEVER allow being disrespected. I AM the mom and that, in and of itself, deserves being respected by our children. Once you allow your babies to speak to you like your friends do, you’ll have to expect them to treat you like your friends do. They won’t listen to you, they’ll turn what you say into a joke, and they’ll never take your demands seriously.
- Make the consequences stick. If you flip-flop with the rules, kids lose sight of them. If talking back got a “hey you little stinker, stop that” one day and a “don’t talk to me like that ever again” another day, how will they ever know what’s expected of them?
- Punish within reason and always with love. My ex husband once made our kids sit in their room for an entire day for leaving a cereal box out. In another instance, he made our 4-year old copy an entire entry from an encyclopedia. What did those punishments accomplish aside from exasperation? Nothing. If throwing a ball in the house means getting grounded for the day but hitting a sibling requires just an apology, little is learned…aside from nothing making sense. Make sure the punishment fits the crime.
- Always remind your child that even when you’re angry, they are still loved. I always dole out hugs and kisses when punishments are fulfilled. I always make sure to instill in my kids that they are loved without limits.
- Along with being a firm disciplinarian, be a parent of praise. Don’t just get bogged down with trying to set your kids straight. Remember to praise them when they do well with ANYTHING. Not all parents agree with this, but I thank my kids when they do their chores, when they behave without being asked and when they do what I ask without argument. Just because it’s something they SHOULD do doesn’t mean that a “thank you” is unnecessary. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and pride.
- Spread the love. I am SO proud when strangers walk up to me and tell me how well-behaved my children are, especially when I haven’t had to remind them. I’ve had people go out of their way to tell me how much they appreciated that my kids weren’t running around or yelling in stores or restaurants. “Let kids be kids” is good advice, but not when in a public venue where it’s disrespectful to others. When I get a compliment about my kids, I let them know. THEY did the work, they deserve the praise.
- Don’t be your child’s friend. Save that status for when they’re all grown up. Usually the desire to befriend your child stems from your own loneliness. DON’T PUT YOUR INSECURITIES ON YOUR CHILDREN. Don’t depend on your son to be the man of the house when there isn’t one. Don’t make your daughter your confidant just because you don’t have one. Those are grown up roles that make them feel responsible for your happiness. Don’t make your child fill those empty spaces.
- Above all, learn to forgive yourself. It’s a cold-hearted person who doesn’t feel a pang of sadness or regret after punishing their child. Yes, it’s for their own good but it’s never easy to see your child sad or hurt. As hard as it can be, forgive yourself for being the big, bad authoritarian.
Love your babies enough to let them not always think they feel love for you. The “I hate you”s will be temporary, the “thank you”s will be forever.
Choose to choose happiness.