When you discipline your child, what’s it look like?
What words or tone of voice do you use? Are you impatient or calm? Do you ever regret your disciplining choices?
I know I have.
I was recently listening to a podcast by a local mother and entrepreneur, and in a discussion on discipline, she mentioned the book, “Don’t Make Me Count to Three! A Mom’s Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline” by Ginger Hubbard. In the book, the author encourages parents to look beyond a behavior and speak instead to the heart of the issue.
I was intrigued, and I realized something.
When my child is disobedient or behaving badly, do I ever take time to ask myself WHY the behavior is happening in the first place? Often, no. When a situation is awry, we are so quick to say, “Stop” or “No” or “Not now,” just to end any misbehavior, but that only helps the situation, not the child.
What about the child? What is causing their behavior anyway? This is the heart of the issue, and it deserves our attention.
For example, if a child refuses to share their toy, the issue on the surface seems like selfishness. But when we discipline that behavior, we likely aren’t getting to the real reason the child didn’t share the toy. Perhaps they’re saving it for a sibling. Maybe they don’t know they’ll get it back! It’s habit to just demand, “Share.” End of discussion.
And will that benefit the child in the long run? You’ll likely be repeating yourself during the next play date.
Understanding behavior begins with the power of observation. How closely are you watching — and then reflecting on — your child’s actions? How aware are you of your child’s thoughts and wants and needs? With awareness comes conviction in how you discipline, down to the words you use. And wouldn’t that feel good, to know that you aren’t disciplining your child out of impatience, but to teach and foster growth?
Deep listening skills will also help you to realize the heart of an issue. Ask your child why they are acting this way, and then allow time for a discussion on the matter. Respect their feelings as much as you expect them to respect yours, and you both win.
Discipline looks different for all families, but when we choose to look beyond a behavior, I bet we could find some common ground: Our children don’t need to be chastised, they need us to guide them.
About the Author
Angela Tewalt is a writer, storyteller and mother to two boys. She shares parenting stories and inspiration in Guidepost Parent.
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