We’re in the midst of a 5-week series answering questions posed by our Facebook group. Truthfully, I feel 100% ill-equipped to answer this week’s question (How do you discipline your kids?) because I know the heart behind it. It’s really less about how we discipline our kids and more about how you should discipline yours.
Our kids are still young (8 and 10) and we are constantly learning, implementing, screwing up, and apologizing as parents. With that being said, I think the best route to take with this blog is not one as an educator but rather as a co-laborer.
I’ll share what we’ve learned, what we do, how we screw up, and what we do when that happens. In return, we would love to hear the same from you. Please leave us a comment at the end of the blog, so we can learn from you and get better ourselves.
5 Things We Think About When We Discipline Our Kids
Let’s just get right into it. Here’s what we’ve learned and what we try to implement consistently. When disciplining children it really depends on the age. We focus on quick and appropriate discipline. The punishment has to fit the crime. When we screw up, we apologize. And ultimately, we keep our “why” front and center.
Ok now that we’ve laid that all out there, let’s break everything down.
dis·ci·pline noun The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
You have to know your ‘why.’
Why do you even want to discipline your kids in the first place? Is it because you think kids should be obedient? Is it because you like to be in control? I don’t disagree with either of those things, but I don’t know if they’re the greatest place to start.
For us, we discipline our kids because we want their character to reflect Jesus. And in the process, we want our character to reflect Jesus, too. Are we perfect at it? Nope. But that’s our ‘why.’ When we keep that front and center things tend to go well. When we start to discipline our kids because we want them to not embarrass us… well, things go sideways.
We discipline our kids based on their age.
This is probably a super basic concept. Time-outs work well for little kids, but they aren’t a great tactic with an 18-year-old. We all get that. So many things change as kids grow up, and they need different things from us at each stage. Check out this video by Andy and Sandra Stanley. He breaks down the 4 stages of parenting, and it’s a must-watch!
We’re quick to discipline our kids.
I don’t love the idea of letting bad behavior go undealt with. I also don’t love the idea of telling my kids, “Just wait until your father comes home.” It just seems like that makes kids fear their fathers and lack respect for their mothers. Plus, it stretches out the brokenness of the parent-child relationship unnecessarily.
If one of our kids disobeys a rule, we deal with it then and there. If they treat someone disrespectfully, we try to get to the why. We help them figure out how they could have handled the situation better, and then they go apologize. This is a training type of discipline.
If they disobey a rule like no riding your bike where I can’t see you, then they immediately lose their bike for the day. This is a punishment type of discipline.
The punishment needs to fit the crime.
If a punishment is necessary it needs to match the crime, like the example above with the bike. If a child disrespects a time boundary when playing video games, an appropriate punishment would be losing their video game privileges for the rest of the day (or for the following day).
What about lying? Well, lying mean I can’t trust you, so you have less freedom. Your sibling can ride their bike around the block, but you can’t. You’ve shown yourself to be untrustworthy, so you’re confined to riding in the driveway. For now…
If our kids are overtly disobedient or treat us disrespectfully? This is rare, but it could lead to an early bedtime (which means no family time or nighttime routine).
Is their room a mess? I try not to yell about that anymore. When they go to bed I’ll just take a tote and scoop up everything that’s on their floor and take it to the basement. When they can show us that they can manage the items in their room they can get some additional stuff back.
If I can’t come up with an appropriate punishment…
I’ll tell my kids that their behavior has to be dealt with, but I’m not exactly sure how just yet. I learned that tactic from Parenting with Love and Logic.* It gives me time to come up with something that makes sense.
One other thing I use quite a bit is forcing my kids into time-outs, but here’s why. As our kids got older time outs transitioned from disciplinary actions to coping mechanisms. If you’re angry you need to take a break. Not because you’re in trouble, but because you need to calm down. I try to remind them that time outs are something they can give themselves. Even as an adult, at times I struggle with dealing with my anger. I need to give myself a timeout, and I’d rather help my kids understand that as a child, instead of having to undo years of bad habits.
When we screw up, we apologize.
None of us is perfect. Sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us and we discipline out of our anger. When that happens we apologize. Sometimes we do the very thing we tell our kids we don’t want them to do. When that happens we apologize.
Ultimately, our task is to raise kids that love Jesus and reflect his character. When they mess up we try our best to remind them that mess-ups are a part of life, and that’s why Jesus died. He’s ready and willing to forgive them. So are we, and we ask that they would be willing to forgive us.
I don’t know what caused you to read this article, but I know there’s hope. There’s hope for your kids, and there’s hope for you as a parent. If we can offer one piece of advice, it’s to search the Bible and take as much wisdom from it as possible.
God is our Father. When we reflect His character as parents, we’re on the right track. Figure out how he deals with disobedience. He definitely holds us accountable, but he also offers grace and forgiveness. He’s able to do all three of those things perfectly, which can feel like a tall order. Don’t expect to be God. Just try to be like Him. And like we already shared. When you screw up, just apologize. Take that opportunity to tell your kids that they have a perfect Father in heaven that will never let them down. You’re just trying your best.
Because there’s a better way,
Sarah (and Trent)
QUESTION: What’s something you keep in mind when disciplining your kids? 👇
Check out the other blogs in this series here: 5 Simple Routines That Make Family Life SO Much Easier
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