I refer to it as the “pop heard round the world.” At least, that’s how it’s felt to me all these years. And nearly 5 years later, that pop I gave to my daughter’s tush, still wet from the bathtub, echoes in my ears…as an ugly reminder of just one of the many lessons I’ve learned about discipline since having children.
I can still see my handprint on her little body. I can still feel my heart beating so fast. I can imagine the anger and frustration I felt…at first toward her and then immediately toward myself.
I remember before I had kids, you know…when I knew EVERYTHING about being a good mom…well I remember thinking how my children would listen and respect me WITHOUT discipline because I would instill those character traits in them.
We wouldn’t need to worry about yelling and time-outs because discipline would be a moot point.
Enter actual children into the picture and all those pipe dreams went down the drain.
But I like to think in the actual role of being a mom, I have learned a lot about myself in learning to discipline my children.
Yes, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work in our family but at the heart of it, I’ve learned what works for ME.
And what makes me feel like a good mom in doing the inevitable of raising kids.
The Truth about Disciplining…
1. Be Patient
Don’t let anger control you. Remember that little example earlier about me popping my daughter…well it was a VERY revealing moment for me that night. I learned that when I am angry, I should walk away. Not because I am going to lose my control and beat my children…but because NO GOOD CHOICES CAN BE MADE WHEN YOU ARE ANGRY.
You are the parent. If you aren’t cool and calm, then no one will be. That little pop 5 years ago was our last “spanking.” I found that if I was resorting to physical discipline, I was simply angry. That wasn’t going to work in our house.
2. Stand your ground
You had better think long and hard before you throw out any ultimatums…because you need to stand by what you said. My husband is notorious for saying something absurd like “If you don’t get along with your sister, we are not going on vacation next week.”
What the what?!
That is TOTALLY not happening. So now what are we going to do IF the girls don’t get along. Stand by your words. If I say “you will lose all electronics for a week,” then by golly, you are losing electronics for a week!
3. Remember that 10 second rule.
Remember when I said that anger can’t be your guide? Well, I still get angry sometimes. And anger clouds my ability to think up rational punishments. Remember that 10 second rule… step away for 10 seconds? Try it.
Sometimes…a lot of times actually…this is what I tell my girls:
“I am so frustrated right now. There will be a punishment for what just happened but I need a few moments to think about what it’s going to be. I will let you know as soon as I decide.”
Now I am free to think up a reasonable punishment that is proportional to the “crime.”
4. Choose your battles
In the beginning of being a mom, I had these ridiculous notions of my well-behaved children. The ones that would be quiet when they were supposed to, always say please and thank you and never argue with their friends or siblings. But that is not real life. Nor should it be, to be quite honest.
Childhood is “coloring outside the lines.” And for good reason – Childhood is NOT about being perfect.
It is about talking when you’re not supposed to. Giggling for no good reason. Taking toys from someone and seeing how your actions can impact someone else.
It’s about being silly and loud and learning when those are ok…and when they aren’t.
I’ve had to learn to resist the urge to “stop” all behavior that doesn’t look “mature.” My girls aren’t mature. They are CHILDREN! So yes, in church they need to be quiet and respectful.
But in the car? It’s okay to go insane and sing as loud as you can and even scream a little.
5. You won’t feel good… it isn’t easy.
I always feel awful when I discipline my kids. There isn’t an easy way around it. It’s an odd mix of guilt that I’m having to do it and guilt that I may have let my girls down. Which I know is crazy because it’s our job to teach them right from wrong and show them that there are consequences.
But there has not been a single time-out or privilege lost that I have not felt a lump in my throat. Which I think is good – it means I’m doing what’s right even when it’s hard.
Remember, we are raising our kids to be responsible. Disciplining, as unpleasant as it is, is just a part of that. As Dr. Louise Hart once said, “If we don’t shape our kids, they will be shaped by outside forces that don’t care what shape our kids are in.”