If you are a parent, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “It is easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult. Choose your words wisely.”
No pressure right?
Well… early on in my parenting journey I took it to heart. I decided my approach to parenting would be one of love, positivity, encouragement and grace. When the kids make mistakes, we acknowledge them, forgive and move on. We talk about good choices vs. bad choices. We only say nice things about each other. Chris and I don’t argue. We keep it positive and try really hard to make sure the environment is as healthy as possible.
But what do you do when you have a child where this parenting approach doesn’t really work?
Chris and I are both first-borns, so we’re natural rule followers and people pleasers. And our first born is also like this. Nothing makes Baylor happier than doing something that pleases us. Due to his autism diagnosis, he’s had ABA therapy (behavior therapy) for the past year and that has played a big part in how he behaves. With the exception of a few behavioral issues that we’re still working on, the bottom line is that Baylor is motivated to please.
Because he’s like this, and Chris & I are like this too, our parenting approach revolved around the idea that ALL CHILDREN are motivated this way… and this set our trajectory of how we would discipline.
Then the Lord gave us Loxley.
My girl came into the world with an intense spirit. She is a fighter. She is emotional. She loves hard. She picks at her brothers JUST TO GET A REACTION. She does the opposite of what we say JUST TO GET ATTENTION. She is as beautiful as she is strong-willed and as lovely as she is fierce. She is not motivated by the same things that Baylor is.
And I can already tell that Wells is a lot like her.
So needless to say. Our parenting approach has been turned upside down.
Discipline has been a really big struggle. Not because we don’t know HOW to discipline but how do you discipline consistently with children that are so different? And also, one of my biggest fears is that if I discipline too harshly, it’s a real possibility they will become adults with hardened hearts and trust issues.
So how do I do this?
That’s the million-dollar question. I don’t know… I’m still learning. But I do think it comes back to these things:
1) Relationship & Trust. Just as with adults, relationships do not appear out of thin air and good intentions – they are built. Spending quality time, one-on-one as much as possible, over time will hopefully build a healthy relationship. Kids open up a lot more when it’s one-on-one and that builds trust. Hopefully, the more they trust us the easier it is for them to obey us.
2) Thinking Long-Term. Think of disciplining in the moment as a short-term investment in a long-term goal. When we realize that we’re playing the long game, the meltdown that occurs in the checkout line suddenly loses its grip on us. We are more concerned with the long-term development of our kid’s character than our short-term discomfort or embarrassment.
3) Having a Plan. Discipline requires intentionality. If we don’t have a plan in place BEFORE the public tantrums and meltdowns occur, we become overwhelmed and stressed and angry- and it’s not pretty. Chris and I came to an agreement recently about how we would (and wouldn’t) handle discipline. As our confidence about what to do increases, our helplessness will decrease, and we can respond to chaos clearer, firmer, and calmer.
4) Tell Them Why. Remember, “Because I told you so?” I swore I would never say those words to my kids, but I have. They don’t need to know the reasons behind the decisions we make. However, telling them WHY we follow rules is important. If I didn’t do what my boss asks me to do at work, I could be fired. If I don’t follow the speed limit, I could get a ticket. Real life examples. That will help them understand that PARENTS FOLLOW RULES TOO.
Obviously I’m no expert. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I know. And I’m so tired, that the last thing I want to do is spank my children over and over… but as the saying goes, “nothing worthwhile is easy”… staying the course and staying intentional is everything.
Parenting is hard, man.
Add that to the list of what the baby books don’t tell you. 🙂