In the many families I’ve had the privilege of offering therapeutic support, one of the common problems I have seen is the difficulty many parents have in letting go of their own frustration and/or hurt feelings and moving on after the discipline occurs. All too often, parents may address the situation, then unintentionally keep the stress and tension going by dragging out consequences, continuing to add to consequences, dwell on the consequences, etc..
I have heard many parents vent frustration that the kids are able to “get over it” quickly and go on “like nothing ever happened,” even though the parents cannot do the same.
I have a theory. Sometimes, it seems we believe that enforcing instructions and issuing consequences takes us using our “mean side” to be effective. Effective discipline does NOT equal mean. It just doesn’t. Effective discipline requires a balance of firm, consistent follow-through and nurturing. If it takes a mean tone of voice before your children will listen to you, it may be a red glad that discipline has not been consistent; i.e. that they haven’t yet learned that no means no and yes means yes.
Another theory is that it may be the result of human nature to dwell on the negative, unhelpful thoughts that play on our insecurities and trigger negative core beliefs. For example, if a person believes that a child should NEVER tell his parents “No!”, he or she will likely feel some intense emotions! (frustrated, infuriated, offended, angry, aggressive, etc.).
In reality, children inherently add a desire to assert their own will while learning the boundaries of their independence. When we talk about how all have sinned, here it is! Sin is selfishness and we’re born with it. We spend our lifetimes (hopefully) learning how to put self aside to love others as Christ commanded.
Sometimes it can be helpful to remember that the goal is to lovingly set boundaries. Let you “no” be “no,” but don’t withdraw your love while you say it. You can be firm in your answers and boundaries without being harsh. Just because your child chooses to lose a privilege due to his or her behavior does not mean he or she needs to be shunned for the remainder of the day.
When providing discipline, acknowledge how your child may be feeling. Stand firm in your decisions, and don’t hold back on the nurturing!
Remember, God the Father still shows His children love, even in His boundaries… He is, after all, the very definitions of love – and we are to strive continually to be like Him!
Keri Kitchen is a devoted wife and mother, blogger, author of Love Isn’t Selfish, licensed mental health counselor, and founder of The Carys Rainn Foundation. To read more about what God is doing in her life, visit her blog at www.aftertherainn.com