In our busyness, it’s easy to miss the many opportunities to teach our children through discipline and behavioral boundaries that present themselves on a daily basis. When we are busy, rushed, or exhausted, the temptation to ignore or use a temporary fix for bad behavior can be strong.
Properly disciplining children takes time, energy, and know-how. Let’s be honest, there are days when those things are in short supply.
Many parents recognize the trouble that can come with lax discipline, but they often underestimate the tremendous value that comes from the opposite. In fact, many of our fears and reservations about discipline are simply untrue if we are parenting from the place of love—if we are intentional and responsive rather than reactive and explosive.
Here are a few powerful benefits of properly addressing misbehavior that will help you recognize and seize the teaching moments that are before you.
One of the most common hindrances to discipline is the fear of disconnection. "I don’t want my child to be mad at me." "What if he thinks I don’t love him?"
Guilt is another obstacle. "I spend so little time with her; I don’t want our time together to be unpleasant." "I feel bad for [...], I don’t blame him for acting out."
Sometimes the parents may fear disconnection because of their own experience with being disciplined in anger, which can unintentionally give a child the impression that he or she needs to earn a parent’s love.
These feelings can pop up at inopportune moments and often cause parents to second guess how they want to handle a situation. Sometimes they have a paralyzing effect resulting in nothing being done to address the child’s misbehavior.
In contrast, disciplining in love creates deep connection with your children. Loving discipline communicates several messages:
Children are more perceptive than parents often give them credit for. They know when they’re misbehaving and they know when they’re getting away with it. They also have thoughts about it, but if you don’t address the behavior, you’ll miss out on hearing them. What do you think is going on in their little heads?
One of the best things about disciplining is you get a glimpse into your child’s heart and mind during a vulnerable moment. As you know, when you’ve just messed up, you’re not feeling the best about yourself. You might even believe some lies about who you are and what you’re worth. Children go through the same thing. This is when the voice of a loving parent makes all the difference. "You messed up, but you’re not a mess up. You failed, but you’re not a failure. You didn’t make a good decision this time, but you can make a better choice next time."
Your children know when they are messing up or falling short. Can they trust you to be honest with them about it?
Just as love shouldn’t have to be earned, confidence can’t be given. This applies to praise as well as discipline. Parents, understandably, want their children to be confident, but if praise is not based in truth, it won’t do much to build them up.
The message there is: "I will make mistakes, but I have parents who will call me out, encourage me, and point me in the right direction."
Pain is a common reason you may not be entirely honest with your child. No parent wants to see his or her child suffering. Whether it’s struggling physically or feeling emotional pain, the desire to rescue is innate.
People also like to avoid pain themselves, and disciplining is not usually described as pleasant. Sometimes it feels easier to avoid a situation that you know may turn into a battle.
Examples may include cleaning up after your children because they don’t do what you ask anyway, staying up too late to help your child with homework because he didn’t manage his time well, pretending you didn’t hear your daughter say something unkind to your son, or walking away from your child’s rage rather than teaching him to address it in a healthier way.
Although, parents may have good motives, preventing children from feeling the struggle of life or the consequences of their choices is frequently not beneficial.
Remember, before you avoid or prevent something unpleasant from happening, ask yourself a few questions:
Just as our bodies get stronger by lifting heavier and heavier loads, our minds and character also get stronger by lifting the weight of life. By walking with your children through life’s trials, you are giving them the opportunity to build their muscles and develop perseverance. Not only does this increase their confidence to do hard things, but it gives them the strength to do it.
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