One boy shoves. And the other pinches. And before I know it, we’re on the brink of a full-out brawl. I run as I hear the screaming and scramble to break up the situation as it escalates.
I’m tempted to yell, as I see how they’re acting. And I’d be lying if I said I’d never done that before.
But as time passes I’m realizing more and more, they take their cues from me. And more often than not, the behavior I see in them is the result of what they’ve seen in me … selfishness, impatience … being ungentle and unkind.
I cringe as I’m reminded again how I fail. And I take a deep breath and whisper it to my own self: grace, grace, grace.
I debrief each one so I can try to sort through what happened. And it doesn’t take long to figure out they are both guilty.
As they go to their rooms to think about their choices, I gain time to decide what to say, how to act, and the punishment to give away. Because sometimes I need time. Time to ponder and consider what is best. And in my seventeen-plus years as a parent, I’m always needing to learn new things which help make my discipline more effective.
4 Tips to Effective Discipline
1. Find a private place
I used to correct each child immediately, as soon as the event happened. But as our family has grown there is always an audience, and it can make discipline an embarrassing experience. So I’ve made it a practice, as much as possible, to find a private place to be alone with each child. Boys especially respond to this, as it conveys a level of respect and privacy which is often more important to them than we realize.
2. Get down at their eye level
No one likes to be talked down to. And although the content of our words may not be condescending, the body language and height discrepancy often is. I have found my children to be much more responsive to the discipline of the moment, when I not only remove the embarrassment and distraction of an audience, but also get down at their eye level as we talk. It gives them a more free route to humility and communicates how much I think they matter.
3. Speak in a calm, quiet voice
A calm quiet voice garners attention, especially when my kids are expecting a raised voice. Because let’s face it, most often when we are upset, we raise our voices in decibel and intensity, often preventing others from hearing our message. But when we speak in a calm quiet voice, ears perk up and lean in to hear our controlled and dignified response. We convey a significance to our message when we demonstrate self-control and patience. And as we practice speaking in this manner, we may be surprised how much they’ll begin to use their calm quiet voices too, since habits are so much more caught than taught.
4. Emphasize their strengths
We are all born with innate strengths. And during a disciplining moment I try to redirect the conversation to at least one of their strengths–identifying it out loud and communicating how much I believe in them to use it to make better decisions. It is a powerful thing to hear words of affirmation, knowing someone not only identifies a strength in you, but also believes in the power you have to use your strength for good. And isn’t that the goal of discipline? To make a disciple? To speak hope into a heart and plant positive seeds of change? And this is what we accomplish when we emphasize strengths instead of focusing so much on weaknesses.