There’s not a pretty way to tell a story that begins with WHOMP
But when your kid pushes another kid down for the first time, it’s the best place to start. Yeah, earlier this month Katie did this very thing to a perfectly sweet, adorable kid . . . and then refused to apologize.
So I reach into my parenting toolbox to see if I have anything to “fix” this situation. You know how we mamas like to pack for a blizzard when we’re headed to the beach **just in case.** Some kind of social duct tape will do the trick (rummages) . . . surely there’s something useful in here (discards stray gum wrapper) . . . . ah! Wait, THIS is what I brought with me?
As I looked into my toolbox, I found I didn’t have much to work with. There was:
- Shaming – Hadn’t worked out all that well for my parents, so no.
- Eye for Eye – “”How do YOU like it when someone pushes you down, missy?” No again.
- Breastfeeding/Babywearing – Hey that’s Micah’s stuff. How’d that get in here?
- Love and Logic – Not a perfect fit, but I’m at a loss
After that quick mental inventory, I opted for Love and Logic, which tries to instill accountability by allowing kids to experience the consequences of their actions. So I picked up our things and said “If we can’t play with our friends with kindness, then they aren’t going to want to play with us at all. It’s time to go home.”
I’m kind of okay with how I handled the situation, but something more was needed. Obviously, it was something I didn’t have.
The Thing Is . . .
Love and Logic is great for things like teaching kids to that if they ditch dinner they’re going to be hungry by morning. But if we constantly use behavior modification techniques that simply keep our kids from hitting, or annoying us, or making us look bad, then how does that teach them to love?
I am Katie’s guide and teacher, not her drill sergeant. She is not here to make my life easier . . . I am here to help her become a person chooses love, honesty, and all that other good stuff.
The problem is, that every time I think about “discipline,” the parenting task becomes about ME – whether my child is behaving in a way I LIKE, or is making ME look good, or any number other lame motivations. I don’t think this is what discipline is supposed to mean. I think it’s changed from something constructive to a punishment model, and somehow we just kept using the word without noticing (like how “face book” used to mean a hardcopy school directory and now it means, well, Facebook).
It’s tempting to try to rescue this old word and restore it to it’s former glory. After a lot of trying, though, I realized that’s about as easy as stopping salivary glands from going nuts anytime someone mentions biting into a juicy lemon.
So I decided to perform a little experiment . . . a linguistic lobotomy of sorts. What would happen if I cut discipline from my vocabulary and found a new word? A word that, in the way we understand it, is actually a more accurate picture of what discipline is meant to be. Like discipleship, maybe.
I Have Standards, Really!
Ditching discipline is not about letting my kids run wild. It’s an acknowledgment that when someone says “don’t think about lime green sherbert,” that’s exactly what I do! In the same way, my current definition of discipline automatically draws out the negative. But when discipleship is at the front of my mind, opportunities to shape character go way beyond trying to curb unwanted traits. It’s easier to see and build on her strengths while celebrating small victories over her weaknesses.
More Instructing, Less Correcting!
One of my fave ways to do this was inspired by Clay Clarkson’s book Our 24 Family Ways. The book is a little too advanced for Katie, so we created our own sayings like “It’s not our family way to grab things out of other’s hands.” Katie is thriving on the sense of belonging that comes with sharing in her parents ways (instead of having them dictated to her). I love that it helps me remember to lead by example AND it reminds me how difficult it can be to keep our own standards sometimes. Instant formula for grace.
Want to try the experiment yourself? Here goes: Think of your child . . . really picture them in your mind. Picture them doing something that really irks you. Now think of discipline. Negative vibes right away, right? Now think of them again and replace discipline with discipleship. Did anything change?
Maybe it did for you, maybe not. It could just be a quirky thing that works for our family. Either way, I’m spending WAY less time worrying over techniques and having a lot more fun! Watching this girl grow is like watching an orchid unfold and reach for the light. Love her!
Even when she’s a little scoundrel. Because sometimes, we all are.
What works in your house???