We’re jumping into the deep end of the pool, people! For the next three months, our “how to” section will focus on discipline. Yipee! Help? Uh oh…
Discipline is a major theme at school. One that we are constantly learning about and tweaking in our classrooms. Our hunch is that’s a major theme in your home as well. If thinking about discipline issues makes your heart race and your palms sweat, don’t worry. It’s a huge topic and none of us wants to feel overwhelmed by information or insecure about our parenting. Instead, let’s take it one step a time.
Understand that being a good parent means being a good disciplinarian.
Being a disciplinary can get a bad rap because we often associate it with doling out punishments. Like a drill sergeant who’s always on duty barking orders and getting in peoples faces. Nobody wants to be like that.
Instead, we need to adopt the mindset that discipline is about teaching children appropriate behavior, not about punishing them. Less drill sergeant, more Mary Poppins. Discipline comes from the word “disciple.” A disciple is one who is being taught. As parents, we are called by God to discipline our children - teach them the way to go.
“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” Proverbs 22:6
When a child misbehaves, we need to view it as opportunity to teach them the right way to get their needs met. That may involve a negative consequence (like having to put a toy away), but the heart of good discipline is teaching a child what to do (the acceptable way to play with a toy).
You may be thinking: “But she is just three years old. She is so young.” Yes. She is three years old and she is learning all the time. Being a good disciplinarian means starting early. When a child is young and small and the stakes are low and parents have a great deal of control over the environment and can physically manage challenging behavior. It is important to learn what behavioral expectations are reasonable for a young child and tailor our approach to what is appropriate for their age. But we do not wait until we feel children are “old enough.” Young children need to know with a doubt that their parents are their leaders. They need to know that their parents are going to guide them, direct them, and correct them as they are growing up staring at a young age.
You may have said: “I have tried to get him to obey me, but he starts crying and pitches such a huge fit that I back off.” Being a parent is not for the faint of heart. Remember that your child is the little one and you are the adults. Your child won’t overpower you, so don’t be afraid of strong feelings. Feelings and just feelings, they come and in go. You can expect some young children to react to limits with strong emotions - especially if you child has a strong will. This is no cause for alarm or for you to back down from reasonable expectations. Our children need to feel that we are not nervous about their behavior or ambivalent about establishing rules. They find comfort when we are effortlessly in charge.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace
for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Want more support in this area? Here’s an excellent podcast that give you practical examples to confidently setting limits with your child: