When kids feel always under review, always a work in progress, always on their guard, they start to feel like projects instead of deeply loved and accepted children. — Gary L. Thomas
Discipline is a part of raising children that isn’t always fun. Do you ever just wish your kids would listen to you the first time? I know I do.
But we sometimes forget that children are just that, children. Sometimes they don’t know better, even when we wish they would. Sometimes they test our boundaries to see how far they can go. Sometimes they push our buttons to see if we’ll really follow through with a consequence.
As parents, we can find ourselves tired or worn down from the stresses of the day. When we’re in that state, a conflict or discipline issue may bring the worst out in us. We can lose it in the moment if we let our emotions get the best of us.
In those times, we must remember that love is the key ingredient for discipline to be truly effective. When we wrap our discipline in love, the truth we’re teaching can be better understood. When we reassure our children that we love them for who they are, regardless of what they’ve done, they will walk away better for the experience.
Here’s my theory:
Love + discipline = strengthened relationship
Discipline – love = weakened relationship
Over time, these equations compound. It’s vital for us to consider how we consistently discipline our children. Are our methods achieving the relationship outcome we desire with them?
Think back to when you were a child. When you got in trouble, how would your parents react? Were they harsh? Did they yell? Or did they discipline you in love? How did their discipline methods affect your relationship?
With our own children, let’s begin with the end in mind. We all desire a strong relationship with our kids where they know they are unconditionally loved. How can we combine love and discipline to create a strong relationship?
Here are a few ideas:
- The Art of Apology: When we’ve messed up, it’s good and necessary for us to apologize to our kids. It helps them understand that mom and dad aren’t perfect, we mess up too. Ask for their forgiveness. Be vulnerable with your kids and tell them about times you were disciplined as a kid and how it didn’t feel good in the moment, but it’s what you needed.
- Be Empathetic: Tell them about times you were disciplined as a kid and how it didn’t feel good in the moment, but it’s what you needed. Vulnerability is powerful and kids appreciate when we let them know we understand.
- Physical Touch: While you are explaining a lesson or consequence, sit close to them. Hold your child’s hand. Hug them afterward.
- Words of Affirmation: After I discipline my kids, I often tell them, “I love you always and forever, no matter what.” Then we sometimes make a list of things they could do that wouldn’t stop me from loving them, like going to the principal’s office or getting a bad grade, etc.
- Time Together: Kids need and want time with us. After you’ve disciplined your kids, consider doing something special with them, like going for a walk, doing a chore together or playing a game. Your presence with them after some tears or an argument will reassure them of your love.
- Pick Your Battles: I love the quote at the beginning of this post. It reminds me to carefully pick our battles with our kids. There are many things we can be picky about, but do they really matter? Are they worth potentially hurting our child’s heart over? Let’s love like Jesus and not overwhelm them with them all things we see in them that need correction. Let’s love and discipline them through one issue at a time, being kind and patient in the process.
Disciplining our children isn’t always easy, but when we remember to wrap it in love, our relationship with them can grow stronger for it.