For some reason, I have always behaved my best when people watch me, unless those people were my kids when they needed discipline. That’s when my ugliness most commonly emerged. While God has helped me grow and change, even today I’m still inclined to be at my worst with the people I love most.
This is true for most people, but why do we do this?
I tend to act my worst with my wife and kids because I believe I have little or nothing to lose with them. I am safe with them. I know they will keep loving me even if I act badly. In other words, I’m inclined to take the people I love the most, and their unconditional love for me, for granted.
Lynne and I keep working this out as we grow, and are getting better with time at confronting, confessing and reconciling well. After 32 years we’re at our best far more than we’re at our worst. But since this is a parenting blog, let’s talk about how this played out with our kids.
When I wasn’t aware, especially in the early days, I could be loud and rude to my kids when addressing their misbehavior. As I grew to be more intentional, and aware, there were two key things at play:
- Lynne and I worked hard to describe the kind of parents we wanted to be. We came up with four key ideas that became a framework that guided us. The ideas were so easy to remember that I could actually think of them when my kids’ behavior was unruly. When we decided these ideas would drive our parenting, we did two things to help hold ourselves accountable: we communicated them clearly to our children and we allowed our children to respectfully call us out if we weren’t staying true to our parenting goals.
- I often imagined that my parenting was being recorded. And these days, who knows….maybe it IS being recorded by my Alexa, or Siri, or Google. 🙂 I have to confess: the thought that my parenting was being recorded helped me remember to be the parent I wanted to be, and continued to motivate me to do better.
So I ask, if you knew your parenting – especially your discipline of your kids – was being recorded, would you be OK playing it for your friends, or on the big screen at church? It’s a scary thought!
As we’ve worked with parents over the past 20 years, we’ve found that when they have a framework, like Lynne and I did, to guide them, they feel much more confident about what they are doing, and see better results with their kids. Some of them are even willing to share their recordings when they put the framework to use.
(See this real life clip from our online course of a mom disciplining her son’s tantrum.)
The framework that guided Lynne and me is simple:
- Stay calm and draw on our foundation that our identity is in Christ.”You are safe with me.”
- Communicate love in some way. “You are loved no matter what.”
- Remind our kids about God’s purposes and coach them how to do the right thing when they have done wrong. “You are called and capable.”
- Use consequences that restore. “You are responsible for your actions.”
If you are feeling overwhelmed, take heart. It’s never too late to become a parent with a plan. What is one thing this year you want to pursue in your search to be a more confident, peaceful parent? Would you be willing to share that plan with your kids?
Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook 4 Messages All Children Long to Hear: A Discipline That Connects Overview.