Is There a “Right Way” to Correct Children?

It's not a blog about spanking...

If you were born during a time when you were physically beaten as a child…you’re my people! 

I wasn’t raised in a culture of time-outs, taking electronics away, or writing essays on why I could make better choices.

When I screwed up…I was lovingly (most of the time) physically corrected in a manner that I wouldn’t soon forget.

The boomers didn’t always get everything right, but I appreciated the love my parents put into make sure that I WAS actually disciplined in a way that I was able to connect the dots between my bad choices (behavior/attitude) and the consequences of those choices – discipline.

Now, I don’t disagree that we are living in a different time. Taking a kid’s tablet/ipod/phone away has POWERFUL emotional ties to their behavior and produces a much better result than if you were to take my etch-a-scetch away (or my Rubix cube).

No matter how you choose to discipline, there are a few things that have to happen for it to be REAL discipline.

1. Clear Understanding.

When a child doesn’t know why they are being disciplined, there’s already a problem.  They have to have a clear understanding of what behavior/attitude/choice they are being disciplined for and why.  Even when I had to wait ALL DAY LONG for my dad to come home and reign the fire of discipline over me (just kidding, my Dad was awesome), I knew what I had done, and why I was going to be disciplined. Even when I entered my tweenager years and my biggest issue was my sarcastic smart mouth, my mother was extraordinarily quick to administer a sharp correction (usually a hand to the back of my head) so that I understood IN THAT MOMENT why I was in trouble.  When kids don’t have a clear understanding, your discipline is not doing what you hope it’s doing.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you are in the habit of disciplining your kids for making mistakes…STOP IT.  Mistakes are NOT something you discipline – they are teachable moments that exist because your kids is always LEARNING.  Choices that affect attitude & behavior are the primary issues to discipline.  EXAMPLE.  If my son knocks over a lamp and breaks it as an accident, then it’s a time to teach my son why that happened and have him clean it up and possibly buy us a new lamp. That’s the way life is.  If my son knocks over a lamp and breaks it because he was playing basketball in the house, even though he was told at least one time to STOP, then my son is not only going to be taught the consequences of knocking the lamp over (clean up and buy a new one) but he will also be disciplined because his choice/actions were a primary component in what happened.  Mistakes are made all the time.  You will CONFUSE your children if they don’t understand the difference and have a clear understanding of WHY the are being disciplined. 

2. Emotional Connection.

We make decisions on how we FEEL, not what we know.  When I stole a candy bar from the local corner store, it’s because I WANTED IT and didn’t think I would get caught.  Not that I didn’t know it was wrong.  I FELT like taking it… so I took it.  My parents, of course, knew I didn’t have any money, so when I was sitting in the living room eating the candy bar I had just stolen – it wasn’t too hard for them to catch me (even though I tried everything in me to talk my way out of it).  WHAT WAS MY DISCIPLINE?  Not a spanking, not a time-out or grounding. I had to walk back up to corner store with my Dad and confess to the clerk that I had stolen the candy bar.  It was HORRIFYING.  I was afraid, guilty, ashamed, and about 30 other negative emotions that we all try to “protect” our kids from feeling in today’s world.  WHY DID IT MATTER?  Because my parents knew that if they connected my emotions to the discipline, that I would probably THINK TWICE the next time I simply FELT like taking something that didn’t belong to me. Don’t underestimate the power of the emotional connection that needs to be made when administering discipline. I’m not saying we should destroy them with emotional terrorism or do anything intentional to harm them…but they need to FEEL the weight of discipline in their emotions (not just the physical pain of being spanked).

3. Leave ANGER at the Door.

“For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:10-11

We are all disciplined by God (if we are his kids).  The writer of Hebrews helps us understand that (even though we are doing the best we can) the goal of discipline is FOR OUR GOOD… NOT A VENT FOR YOUR ANGER.  If you need to just HIT something, go find a pillow – or better yet, smack yourself in the face before you “lose it” on your child. The OUTCOME of discipline is PEACE for those that understand that ANGER has no place.  I use my VERY LARGE, VERY LOUD voice to quickly nip attitudes when they rise up in our house.  It’s my effort to correct and do it quickly so my kids have a CLEAR UNDERSTANDING of why they are going to be disciplined.  However, even though it sounds like I’m angry with them, the fact that I can calmly change my tone once I understand that my children know I mean business helps them understand I’m not MAD AT THEM.  My INTENSITY is FOR THEIR GOOD.  I want my kids to grow up to RESPECT those in authority, and will guide them in that FOR THEIR GOOD. Now, this strategy doesn’t ALWAYS work, and often I have to do some damage control through tears to help my kids understand I’m really not mad at them – but it’s a continued effort to make sure they have a CLEAR UNDERSTANDING as to why they were quickly corrected and disciplined.

4. Consequences are Opportunities.

This one is a two-sided coin.  I understand one side better than the other.

HEADSlife is filled with the consequences of my bad choices.  I don’t want my kids to experience what millennials are just now realizing as they are 24 years old and unprepared for the world they live in because they were shielded from consequences their whole lives. If you make the wrong decision, you will experience the consequences, YES, even after discipline was administered and forgiveness granted – they will still have to possibly experience the greater and longer lasting consequences.  They might get thrown off of a team, lose friends or lose privileges for a long period of time.  That’s simply the harsh reality of life that I know my kids need to experience.

TAILS life is also filled with unmerited Grace from God.  I have been given SO MANY CHANCES by our great God and have been shown MERCY instead of consequences. There are times (lead by the Holy Spirit) that NOT giving your kid the consequences he deserves is an opportunity for you to TEACH Grace and Mercy to your children. I’ve not had as much experience with this as I think I will have in my future teenagers, but I’m surrounded by godly men who have displayed this as a tangible example to me in their parenting, and I’ve seen the long-term results of it.  You may not do this right every time, and you may struggle to hear the Holy Spirit say “now, offer mercy instead,” but if you are preparing yourself for it, I believe you will have opportunities that God will use in your children’s lives that will be unforgettable.

As I said early, I’m not a “new-age” parent and you may disagree with how I discipline my kids… and that’s okay. I’m not sure if there is a RIGHT way to discipline children as much as I know that we ARE CALLED to DISCIPLINE OUR KIDS as God disciplines those He loves!

Hopefully, these examples will challenge you to at least consider if you are really administering discipline that will prepare your children for their future.
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