Two things this dad aims for while disciplining his (very different) kids
My wife and I waited seven years to be in a better spot personally and financially before having kids. Since that plan worked out, we prepared for a new plan: it was time to become the perfect parent.
(For the record, it has been zero days since my last moment of perfection in parenting.)
I began sifting through all the promises I made as a teen while enduring the deficiencies of my own parents - especially regarding discipline. My mom and dad let me get away with too much growing up, and I'd vowed to do it all differently if I ever became a dad.
The only problem is that I didn't know how to do things differently. And there were so many opinions out there on how to parent the “right” way.
For example, my wife bought me a book the Christmas before our first son was born that introduced me to all kinds of "dad" wisdom. I expected chapters on how to produce bodily gas after having your kid pull your finger, but it was actually filled with practical tips.
I also became aware of other sources on parenting that recommended a harder line when it came to discipline. These voices outlined ways to not let your guard drop with your kids.
With so many differing opinions, I was absolutely confused.
It didn't help that I'd seen too many sitcoms where "discipline" involved solving every issue with a dozen jokes and several winks at the camera, all within a half-hour. I wondered if God had any wisdom that might yield a better approach.
My wife and I are still on this parenting journey. Our oldest kid is fifteen, our middle child is twelve, and our youngest is five. Each has required a different style of parenting, and we've kept disciplining, one way or another.
Here are two things we've always aimed for:
One: Questions are secondary to respect.
If we ask our kids to do something, the first response needs to be "Okay, Dad" or "Okay, Mom." Only then can our kids offer any pushback, such as "Okay, Dad, but why?" or "Okay, mom, but can I have five more minutes?" Sometimes we bend on our original request if they follow this pattern, but we always stick with it if they don't first recognize us with a respectful reply.
We likewise take the time to honor our kids when they get it right. I recently gave my son some extra video game when he was ready to turn off a game before beating a boss because he knew his time was up. Integrity like that needs to be honored.
One catch: my wife and I need to model giving respect in our own lives even when we're under authority that we want to push back on. It's all rooted in putting ourselves under God's authority in everything we do. One of our theme verses as a family is Colossians 3:17:
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Two: Intentional consequences go a long way... literally.
Kids and teens will at times only do what they're told because they fear punishment. Parents can't solely rely on this approach, though, as kids aren't always under our watchful eye. My wife and I instead took the approach of showing our kids how the decisions they make create consequences.
A friend of ours creatively implemented this with one of his daughters who routinely ran out into the road to dare cars to stop for her. He kept warning her of how dangerous this was, but it didn't register since she'd never been hit. He ultimately took her on a drive where they stopped a few times near animal roadkill, got out of the car and cleaned it up together with a shovel. She never again ran out in the road.
In what ways do our kids need to realize the natural consequences of their choices?
What do you think about all of this? Even better, what's been your approach on these matters? Maybe we can learn from each other. Share your comments, below.