Disciplining misbehaving kids is often a difficult and emotion-laden task. Our oldest son Daniel, sometimes said to Lynne, “Mom, you just bursted all over us!” And he was painfully right. Jim had his share of quick, harsh reactions as well. Those were discouraging times for all of us, and we wished we knew how to get unstuck from that negative pattern.
We began applying our professional knowledge to develop practical strategies that helped us become calmer and more effective when disciplining. As we “field-tested” these ideas in our own family, we were equipped to help thousands of parents defuse their explosive reactions as well.
Parents who learn to calm themselves before disciplining usually find they are much more effective as they access their wisdom and good intentions for their kids. We suggest that parents stop, breathe, and get perspective. But what does that look like? Here are six practical ways to “get perspective” as you calm your heart for discipline that connects with your child’s heart.
When kids fight, the typical way many parents try to resolve things is to tell the kids they have to say they’re sorry.
While parents may be aware that this can be a very shallow, “go through the motions” sort of consequence for kids, they may also struggle to know what to do instead — “How else will my kids know that they should say they’re sorry?”
We can’t make our kids give a heartfelt apology. But we’ve found that not only can kids learn the importance of apologizing and reconciling from the heart, but they can even learn to the point where they value reconciliation enough to mend broken relationships themselves!
In this short 3-minute video, Lynne shares a helpful illustration to explain conflict resolution to kids and some practical tips for how to teach and model reconciliation in your home.
It can be hard work to change the way you parent. Especially when your efforts to stay calm lead to more pushback from your kids.
Along the way it’s normal to fall into the old habit of huffing and puffing to get your own sense of control. Don’t lose heart! When this happens, let the dust settle for you and your child, and then ask your kids the following powerful questions:
When kids make a mistake, especially when they hurt others, most parents would agree that it’s important to learn repentance — to feel sorry for what they’ve done.
But in our pursuit of this goal, many parents settle for the appearance of repentance — a quick and skin-deep “Sorry.” This approach does NOT teach kids to repent. It only teaches them that conflict can be “resolved” by going through empty motions, or saying the magic words even when their hearts are not in it. This actually hardens hearts to true repentance.
In our family, one of the realities we face is siblings who fight. I tend to want to stop my children’s rivalry in its tracks, but I have found that I sometimes contribute to the problem rather than solve it. Ultimately, I really want my children to figure out how to stop fighting on their own, but at first, I didn’t have the tools. Through Connected Families, I learned how to teach my children to solve their quarrels–a life skill I want them to carry into adulthood.
“Don’t jump to conclusions” and “believe the best in people” are two phrases I repeat often in my family — especially to my 11-year-old son.
But, if I’m honest, when my kids fight I am the one who jumps to conclusions and doesn’t believe the best in people.
As the youngest of four kids myself (poor, innocent me) I naturally see life from my daughter’s point of view (age 9). My husband, who grew up as the older brother of two, naturally sees life from our son’s point of view. When we get involved in our children’s fights it is almost impossible to act as neutral parties, since we’ve got our own baggage to deal with!
This is why, when I started immersing myself in Connected Families content a few years ago (before I was employed with them) parenting tips like “When Kids Fight” helped guide me through some really difficult times. Here’s one of my favorite lines:
It was a Sunday evening. I was emotionally and physically done for the day and looking forward to a quiet house. Suddenly I overheard squabbling about who was the rightful owner of a large stuffed panda bear.
My engagement with sibling conflict has often aggravated my son’s anger: he feels criticized by my effort to protect his younger sister. I should have known better than to get involved in this panda bear affair, especially when I was already a little bit cranky! But I was tired and I just wanted them to go to bed so I could have a little peace and quiet to start my week.
“Knock it off! Stop it! Get over here, NOW!” These are familiar phrases for most parents. When kids act up we get frustrated. We get demanding and even disrespectful. Kids may comply with our demands in the short run but over the long run they learn from our example to be frustrated, demanding, and disrespectful when they’re not getting their way.
Dustin was becoming this kind of parent. He saw where it was leading and knew he wanted to walk a different road. He looked at numerous resources and when he discovered Connected Families he knew he had found what he was looking for. For the past 14 months he has immersed himself in Connected Families resources and support. Where once his primary goal was quick fixes and parental control, his primary goal is now to come alongside his kids as a model of God’s grace and guidance. It’s been hard work and it’s far from finished. But this recent report from Dustin shows the results:
It is often said that consistency is an important key to effective parenting. We agree wholeheartedly.
However, we believe consistency is not so much about the method we choose, but the heart behind the method. If our heart is consistently operating from an abundance of God’s grace and truth in our lives, we can effectively use any variety of methods for dealing with our children’s misbehavior. But if our heart is filled with frustration, fear, or anger, no method for dealing with misbehavior is likely to be effective.
This following scene has played out hundreds of times in our house between me and my son. We know the scripts and we play the parts well. Too well.
The first scene opens on my 9-year-old son, who is outside playing with his neighborhood friends, making up fantastic make-believe games or throwing the football or shooting hoops. I love our neighborhood and I love that he has the freedom to be a kid. This is what I want for him! It’s a 9-year-old’s dream come true.
I call him inside to do something responsible like eat a meal, get ready for practice, do homework, take a shower. He explodes and tells me I’ve ruined his life.
“You’re dumb!” “No, YOU’RE dumb!” “Well you’re a loser!” “I know you are, but what am I?” “You’re a butthead!” “MOMMMMMMMMM!!!!”
Name-calling between children is a challenge in many families. Once kids get on a roll of slinging names back and forth it can seem like an express train to a sibling meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way — you can help your kids turn their angry words into an opportunity to connect and rebuild even stronger relationships.