Your child misbehaves. She speaks disrespectfully, or he breaks a family rule. Feelings or bodies are hurt and your emotions rise. What do you do next?
Parents have countless choices to make in any given day, but the decision to punish or discipline is one we must make carefully. What is the difference?
When we punish our children for their behavior, the focus of our actions and words is on what is already done. It looks back on their choices and causes our children to feel guilty or fearful.
While we may want them to reflect on what they have done, leaving them with these emotions can lead to a breakdown in communication and honesty between the parent and the child. Since correction looks back on the behavior, often teaching is overlooked. When the child must choose behavior in the future, will they know better how to choose?
When we use discipline as the method of correcting our children, the focus is on teaching them what we would like them to do in the future. When we talk to our children, without shaming them, they more easily sense our love for them and understand that we, as parents, are concerned that they learn to make better choices. This feeling can build relationship and increase trust allowing both the parent and the child to feel secure in the relationship.
When relationships are based in fear, intimacy falls away. When relationships are based in love, intimacy grows. We see this reflected in our relationship with Christ, as well.
Since our roles as parents can greatly affect the way our children connect with Christ, it matters that we shower them with the love and grace that are also showered upon us. Learning that mom and dad forgive, teach and enfold can help our children see a glimpse of the far greater gifts of God.
Accepting Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, we find that our own sins and short-comings are awash in His grace, and we enjoy continued relationship with Him because He loves us, not because we always do what is good and right. Modeling this in our parenting gives us the opportunity to help our children learn this important truth as well.
When our children struggle with behavior, it is natural to feel upset, frustrated, disappointed or mad. We have many choices to make when deciding what we will do those emotions and the situation at hand.
But, when we step back, take a breath and begin to think it through, what we will remember is that we have a limited time to teach our children all that they need to know. We will remember that maintaining a close relationship with them helps to keep us in the right position to do that teaching.
And we will remember that lessons couched in selfless love have the greatest ability to change our hearts.