Disciplining kids can be a hot topic among parents. How can we find a healthy balance that incorporates what’s best for the children without causing marital conflict?
“It’s happening again. We are arguing over how to discipline our child. When we were married, we had no idea this would become such a source of conflict. Both of us have strong opinions and we both come from very different models. How do we know what is right? This is driving a wedge in our relationship. We want to do what’s right for our children. We need help.”
This scene is played out in many homes. One spouse errs on the side of rules and the other on the side of grace. And the child learns to play the parents against one another. Unless you come to some kind of agreement, this nagging problem can have a negative impact on your entire family.
Picture a seesaw. One of the fun things about 2 kids playing on a seesaw is trying to achieve balance in midair. For this to happen, the heavier child needs to move in a bit while a lighter child moves back. It will take some moving around to achieve balance in disciplining.
This analogy can be helpful in creating a positive approach to discipline. If one of you tends towards being strict you may need to back up. If the other tends towards grace, you may need to move in.
Ask, “Where do I see myself on the seesaw – too heavy or too light?” “Where do I see you?”
“How can we move towards a more balanced approach?”
Whatever your approach, I hope these 10 tips for disciplining your kids will be helpful:
- Realize: grace and discipline are not opposites. They are partners. Both are needed in order to raise healthy adults.
- Determine your goal: As believers, we want to raise our kids to love the Lord with all their hearts and love their neighbors. (Matthew 22:37) Our desire is that our kids grow into independent, confident adults who will make a positive contribution to our world.
- Set aside some time to create your own discipline philosophy. Pray over it. Listen to each other. Be patient as you implement it. Change takes time.
- Seek the advice of a couple a season or more ahead of you whose parenting you admire. (Remember, no one does it perfectly.) Meet with them together.
- Establish clear expectations, and clear consequences, and be sure to follow through. If you are inconsistent in following through your child will learn that you are not reliable, and you don’t mean what you say. Have fewer rules that you enforce instead of a lot of rules that you don’t insist on.
- It might (especially with teens) be helpful to write and post your family policies. This will help to avoid misunderstandings or confusion over what was said.
- Be firmest in the first 5 years. Then loosen up as they get older. A young child needs the security of knowing that Mom and Dad call the shots, that they as a child are not the boss. Be sure you present a united front, or your child will go to the most lenient parent, and this will cause long-term problems. (If you disagree, call a time out and come to a solution together in private.)
- Teach your children to wait (for that device, that privilege, etc.). A lot of life is waiting, and our children will not know how to wait as adults if they haven’t learned it when they are young.
- Pray your kids get caught if they are doing anything wrong. It’s far better to get caught when you are young. Do not bail them out but let them suffer the consequences of their actions. Otherwise, the message is your actions don’t matter. Support them as they suffer and tell them this is a “life lesson” which will be good. (They won’t like that but it’s true!) Walk beside them through their punishment.
- Don’t expect your kids to be happy with any of this. Our job is not to make sure our kids are always happy. Our job is to raise responsible adults. You will likely be accused of being the “meanest mom or dad” in town. That’s ok. It’s not what your kids think of you now that is nearly as important as what they will think of you 20 years from now.
Above all, tell your kids that you love them – over and over again.
Say it out loud to them. Remind them that your love is not based on their behavior or their accomplishments. You love them simply because they are yours.
This is the way our heavenly Father loves us. If they hear this and experience this in their youth from us, they will be more likely to understand their heavenly Father’s personal love for them.
For further help on disciplining and raising kids, check out Susan’s books:
Grab Susan’s free ebook, “Camp at Home,” right here. This valuable resource is based on her book Cousin Camp. It includes 100 things for you to do with your kids of different ages including toddlers, the middle years, teens, and specific things for the whole family. In addition, there are ideas for grandparents to use to stay connected with their grandkids.
100 Ways to Love to Your Son/Daughter
You love your son and daughter–but that doesn’t mean you always know the most effective ways to show that love, ways that will connect with their hearts, and stick with them no matter what life throws their way.
These practical books by the authors of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife and 100 Ways to Love Your Husband give you 100 specific, actionable ideas you can implement to show love to your children, no matter what age they are.
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