Discipline: Connecting with Your Child During Correction

Your responsibility as a parent is to discipline your child.  It proves that you love and delight in him/her.  This is the example set by our Heavenly Father when we are His children.  He disciplines us because He loves us.

My child, don’t reject the LORD’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.  (Prov. 3:11)

As a parent, you are committed to the process of correcting and teaching your child acceptable behaviors and attitudes.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with your child is important during correction.  Some strategies are better than others in accomplishing this.  Let’s look at some successful techniques from the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis and Love and Logic authors, J. Fay and F. Cline.

A.  Use words that connect you with your child. 

The Bible says, in Colossians 3:21,

Don’t embitter your children or they will become discouraged. 

“Embittering” means to make a person resentful, irritated, or hostile.  The way you say things to your child can build relationship or cause feelings of separation.  When you use ineffective discipline strategies, such as yelling, nagging, or harsh words, your child can become frustrated and angry.  When there are angry feelings between you and your child, learning stops, the relationship is damaged, and a negative atmosphere develops within the home.  As parents, you model the acceptable way of talking with one another.  In many cases, the way you speak to your child will be the way your child speaks to you.

Many times you can avoid a conflict or power struggle when you use the right words.  What and how you say something to your child can make a difference in the way he/she responds.

Demanding words, like the following, cause conflict and can create a worse situation.  These words are usually spoken in anger and frustration.

“Clean up your room NOW!”

“Get your homework done!”

“Don’t talk to ME like that!”

Instead, try using words that encourage your child to think about his/her decision. These words are spoken calmly and “matter of fact.”

“As soon as your room is clean, you can go play with your friends.”

“When your homework is finished, you can play video games for 30 minutes.”

“I’ll talk to you as soon as your voice calms down.”

When you use words that encourage your child to think about the results, your child begins to evaluate the consequences of his/her decision.

Your turn!  Rewrite the following phrases into words that will encourage your child to think about behavior. The first one is done for you.

“Stop fighting over that toy!” “Play nicely, or I will put the toy away until you decide to share.”

“Don’t argue with ME!” “I’m happy to_______________________________________.

“Quit bothering your sister!” _____________________.

B.  Allow your child an opportunity to make choices

As you can see in the above example, giving your child options, allows him/her to take responsibility for decisions.  Giving your child choices can be very uncomfortable for parents.  It’s so much easier to tell your child what to do, rather than involving him/her in some of the decision-making.  The goal, however, is to give your child practice in making good decisions.

Appropriate decision-making for a young child:

“Would you like an apple or banana for dessert?”

“Do you want to wear your red shirt or your blue one today?”

Appropriate decision-making for an older child:

“Do you want to play for 30 minutes, before, or after your homework?”

“All of us will take turns doing the dishes.  Which 2 days would you prefer?”

“You need to clean your room sometime before lunch.”

Here are some guidelines in offering choices.  Begin by offering two good choices to your child.  Since you have decided the choices beforehand, you do not have to worry about your child making a bad choice.  Both choices are good and acceptable to you.

Make a list some ways that you could give your child choices.

By offering choices you are helping your child develop decision-making skills and responsibility.  You are also sharing power and control with your child.  This is especially effective with an older child or a strong-willed child who wants freedom and control.  By sharing power and control, many conflicts can be avoided and a positive relationship maintained.  Give appropriate levels of control and freedom as your child grows older.  Start with a little freedom and increase it over time, as your child matures.

C.  Understand that your child will make mistakes.

Your child will make mistakes.  Use your child’s mistakes as teachable moments.  Give your child the opportunity, immediately, to practice the correct behavior.  By consistently practicing the right behavior, your child will eventually learn a new pattern of behavior.

When your child makes a mistake, don’t get angry.  Anger and harsh punishment are destructive and will keep your child from learning.  When you are angry about your child’s mistakes, your anger keeps him/her from paying attention to the real issue of poor choices.  Rather, his/her attention is on your anger.  Using criticism, rejection, and the withholding of love hurts the relationship between you and your child, too.  A child needs to know that your home is a “safe” place to make mistakes, because you are there to help him/her.  Your child needs to have the confidence that your love is unconditional.  You may not like the behavior, but you love your child.

Mistakes teach your child that:

  • His/her choices can hurt people.
  • He/she is capable of solving some problems, and you are available to offer suggestions.
  • You are confident that he/she will do the right thing.
  • There are alternate and better ways of behavior.
  • You are there as a guide and teacher.
  • Your love is unconditional.
  • You are committed to the relationship.
  • He/she can be forgiven.

D.  Allow natural consequences to do the teaching.

When your child makes the wrong choice, express disappointment, but allow your child to experience the natural consequences.

From our “family archives”:

Each morning, shortly after our 9-year old daughter arrived at school, the phone would ring.  She would ask me to bring her forgotten homework, lunch, or athletic shoes to school.  I would stop what I was doing and take the items to school.  One day, the teacher called to say that it was time that our daughter took responsibility for herself.  The teacher asked that I no longer bring her forgotten items to school.  Our daughter quickly learned that no homework meant a failing grade in the grade-book, forgotten athletic shoes meant that she couldn’t participate in the activity, and a forgotten lunch meant that she would eat when she got home.  She learned responsibility through natural consequences, with no dangerous results.

Naturally, if you think that your child’s life is in danger, take action.  You are the protector of your child’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Your turn! Write a natural consequence for the following situations.

a. The teacher has told your child not to bring toys to school. Your child secretly takes a   favorite toy to school and it gets stolen.

b. Your child borrows a sweater from a friend and it gets ruined.

E.  Use negotiation and compromise.

Parent:  I know that this is your night to do the dishes, but I see that you have a big test in math tomorrow.  How about a compromise? We can switch nights.  I’ll do the dishes for you tonight and you can do them for me tomorrow night.  Agreed?

Your Turn!  Describe a situation in which you could make a compromise with your child.

F.  Plan ahead

Sometimes, you can avoid a nasty situation all together.  Be observant.  Is your child hungry, thirsty, tired, or had too much activity?  Have you spent enough time with your child?  Physical and emotional needs can trigger wrong behaviors.  Know your child.

Be proactive.  Establish the expectations before you go somewhere new.  Anticipate normal childhood battles, such as food, bedtime, music, and homework, and have a plan in place. When we are surprised, we often overreact and make an irrational decision.

G.  Repair the relationship immediately after correcting.

Many times, after disciplining a child, angry or hurt feelings exist.  This is normal, because parents and children are human.  It is necessary to make every effort to reconnect with your child as soon as possible.  Having fun together or working together is a good way to connect after hard feelings.  Both of you can put the conflict aside and enjoy being together.  This takes a lot of time, but it’s worth the effort.

From our “family archives”:

Our daughter, during her teen years, had a very difficult time with school, friends, family, and God.  She had a lot of anger and we felt that our relationship with her, as her parents, was deteriorating.  We started to spend individual time with her and did things she particularly enjoyed.  We were able to forget the conflicts and concentrate on valuing one another.  The connection with our daughter began to improve and conflicts were fewer throughout the remaining teen years.

Try Something New:

Practice giving your child 2 good choices when a decision is to be made.  Allow your child the freedom to choose.  In this way, your child will soon begin to recognize what good choices look like and gain experience and confidence in decision-making.

Verses for Encouragement:

Provide Christian discipline and instruction

Ephesians 6:4

Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry.  Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction.

Use words that connect you with your child

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 

Restore the parent-child relationship after conflict

1 Peter 4:8

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.