Let’s get Specific.

Since I so generously shared with you that last picture of Blaire having a misbehave, many of you have wanted to hear some specifics of how to discipline. I wanted to clarify that there is a reason we don’t usually share them. While there are a number of helpful resources for these sorts of questions, I think that it is all too easy for parents to slip into trying to tick off the boxes of the discipline flow chart, and quit looking at the child they are actually dealing with. It is better that discipline be something you need to really think about. It is better that you feel a little lost sometimes. It is a wholesome feeling. You should never rush into discipline thinking you have it all, like your child is a computer and all you needed was a keyboard shortcut. People are complicated, and this is why principles are what we need to be armed with. Sometimes parents need to change it up. Sometimes you see that what you are doing isn’t working, and you need to reevaluate it in light of the principles you know. Sometimes the fool-proof method of another family will not even begin to help yours. That is all well and good.

One thing that is often mentioned about discipline is the value of consistency. Just be consistent, and it will work. This is true on some level. But it isn’t necessarily true that whatever you are doing will work if you just keep on doing it. Children need consistency, but the most important thing to be consistent on is caring for them. If you are faithfully dealing with them, then the consistent thing is you. Your presence in their life, you working through their issues with them. If your methods change, you are still there. If you try something different, you have not thrown everything out the window. It can actually be an encouraging sign that you are still there. That you are still engaged in dealing with them.

When your kidlets are little like Blaire, keep it simple.  Use the same words. For Blaire, we say, “No, no” and “No flopping.” When she is rough with the other kids – scratching, biting, pulling hair, etc., we always say, “No, no. Be gentle,” and then we practice touching softly. When push comes to shove and a discipline situation is upon you, stick well within the child’s range of understanding. Even little children are very smart. But this doesn’t mean they will track with you as you talk a lot about self control, or change the command continually. It is easy to add frustration that wasn’t there before by talking too much. With Blaire (17 months), when she flops, I stand her back up right away and say, “No flopping.” If she has gotten carried away with it and this does not affect her, I hold her on my lap. This is usually not what she wants, and she will not take too kindly to it. But, she has to sit on my lap until she stops the crying and is willing to give me high five. The important thing is that she should be running into a wall of parent when trying to indulge herself this way. She will not give a high five unless she is in fellowship, and for her, sitting on my lap without fighting is letting it go. The high five is just something that we know she knows how to do, and know she is able to do.

It is a perfectly clear, baby-level lesson: “You are not in charge, I am. I love you, you are my buddy and you can’t get out of that. You may not be miserable, you may not be alone with your drama. Let it go, I love you.”

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21 thoughts on “Let’s get Specific.

  1. What a great post. Your tip on using the same simple words in training really resonates. A friend mentioned that when our first was little. Doing it has prevented a lot of confusion and frustration – for the kids and us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They’re appreciated.

  2. Love it! I have often tried to think through -when I am trying to be consistent and when I am I just being legalistic. How freeing to consider that the consistent thing is ME dealing in some form or fashion with my child’s sins! Thank you!

  3. I just finished reading your book, “Loving the Little Years”. The main thing I took away from it (aside from stepped-on-toes!) was your use of metaphors. Wonderful, practical metaphors.

    You mentioned principles in this post. We all want our children to learn principles (“you must obey mommy and daddy,” “you must be gentle”), but in order for parenting to really work, we parents must first “get” the training principles.

    Your metaphors clicked with me, and they are clicking with my children as I use them in our daily training.

    Keep the good advise coming, mama!

  4. Love! So good, thank you for posting. Here’s my favorite part – “But it isn’t necessarily true that whatever you are doing will work if you just keep on doing it.” Lol, so true and so easily missed.

  5. My parents made us smile as a restorative to fellowship. Man, I remember really not wanting to! We would try to fake it, but even a cheesy smile made us feel silly and pretty soon we were laughing and feeling so much better! I like the objective high five. I don’t let the kids get down until the stop crying, but they’ll often stop just to get down, but I can tell fellowship hasn’t been restored.

    Thanks so much for all your articles and of course your book. You have been very encouraging and have helped me grow in wisdom rather than just giving me a checklist for perfect kids.

  6. I’ve so enjoyed these last posts on law/grace parenting. With 11 children, 4 1/2 of them grown (don’t ask! :), I have been on both sides of that fence. It’s wonderful to see this next generation of parents (including the parents of my own amazing grandchildren) starting to “get it”. Maybe they won’t have to struggle with the wishy-washiness of their well-meaning parents.

    I do have one question. Do any of the parenting books by Canon Press deal specifically with parenting teens? With 7 teens still at home, I could use some “specifics” about the grace/law balance with them.

  7. I love that last part . . . “you may not be alone in your drama.” Discipline is really difficult. It’s exhausting and trying and makes ME want to fall down on the floor and cry sometimes. But what a powerful message to send to our kids that we will walk WITH them through the issue they are facing and help them walk OUT of it. I think that speaks something so strongly to a child. Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. Rachel, thank you! Its ok to not know how to handle every discipline situation beforehand? Its ok figure things out as you go along? Sweet relief!

  9. Rachel, thank you! Its ok to not know how to handle every discipline situation beforehand? Its ok to figure things out as you go along? Sweet relief!

  10. Might be a touch tangential, but thanks for confirming something for me. In the nursery I used to have babies that would pitch an absolute fit and try throwing themselves out of my arms. My eventual solution was to just hold them a little tighter while playing with a toy (their favorite if possible) until they calmed down. Sounds like maybe I was actually helping them? Now I just need to find some kids of my own :)

  11. “It is better that discipline be something you need to really think about. It is better that you feel a little lost sometimes.” Thank you so much! I so needed to hear this-it is so very freeing! I have been guilty of seeking that perfect formula to spit out the perfect product, rather than rejoicing in the chance to reflect on these little people of mine and how I can best serve them. Thank you.

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