I stood at the door to her room and looked down at my watch, it was 1:21 a.m. nearly 7 hours had passed since I had put her to bed. I had to be ready to leave for work in about 5 hours. The door to her room slowly opened and a little face peeked out through the crack. I opened the door, picked up my two-year-old daughter and put her back in the bed, closed the door, and waited. Two minutes later, the door slowly opened again and a little smiling face looked out the crack; repeat. Raising kids is challenging. You will never be perfect and you shouldn’t try to be. You won’t succeed.
Just realize that you will grow in understanding as things go on. If we are going to talk about steps to making parenting better, you should make sure to fully discuss the topic of discipline with your spouse, future spouse, and/or boyfriends. Honestly, all of the above. Discipline is one of those aspects of parenting that if not agreed upon, will tear a relationship apart quicker than almost anything. Discussing this topic is a big deal! Make sure, whether or not you two fully agree on how it is to be done, that you both agree on what will be done. Consistency in discipline is a major key to success with parenting. So, here are several key ideas to keep in mind when disciplining kids and teens.
- If your marriage is not solid, your kids won’t be either. This is number 1 for a reason. I say marriage because actually being married is more than important. A solid marriage is the best thing you can do for your kids. I understand that sometimes it’s not possible to be married anymore or that the other parent isn’t willing, but if at all possible, marriage should be on the table and put up on a pedestal above all other relationships. Put God first in your life, then your marriage, then kids, then work, etc. Priorities of importance should be examined and agreed upon.
- Prepare by talking with your spouse about what you will do when discipline issues arise, and they will. Talk through issues you know you are going to face as they come up and before they happen. Don’t undermine each other, even if you don’t agree with how your spouse is handling a situation. Back them up, then talk about it later. If the way you all want to handle it changes, let the kids know that the rules have changed. Children are pretty flexible and can adjust to almost anything. If you need to change the way you are doing things, do it.
- Tell your kids what your expectations are for them and allow them to live up to those expectations. Let them know what the consequences of failure are. Hold to your commitment to discipline and make sure the kids fulfill their side of the commitment.
- Realize they are only (insert the child’s age here) and don’t fully understand things the way you do. If you need to do some research into age-appropriate discipline, that’s why we have google. For that matter, understand that kids are going to make mistakes and even outright defy you. Know this going into the situation of being a mom or dad and prepare yourself to take what your kids throw at you with a degree of humor, understanding, and firm diligence.
- Get on your kid’s level, physically and verbally, to speak to them and make sure to end ALL discipline with a discussion of the event, error, etc. Understand that those leading children to the feet of Jesus make a huge difference to them in connecting the truth of scripture to everyday life. Make sure to show them cuddles and love at the end. I find a discussion about how I feel about them and why I discipline them (because I love them) helps them to understand why they got in trouble and how they can avoid being in trouble in the future.
- Don’t give discipline in anger. If you are angry, it’s time to step back and distance yourself from the child. Regain your own composure and then return to the situation. Recognize your own frustration. Seriously, putting your child into the crib and walking away when they are screaming will not scar them for life. Sometimes you have to let them cry. Let me say that again, sometimes you have to let them cry. If they are older, step back and give them some space and then come back. They might need some time to compose themselves too. Distance gives you both an opportunity to consider your tactics for discipline.
- For a baby in a crib, that you are trying to get to sleep through the night, remember the 5,10,15 rule. Let them cry for 5 minutes and then go in to check on them and lay them back down or rub their back till they are calm. Then leave for 10 minutes; repeat other steps, return again after 15 minutes, and repeat the above steps again. Under no circumstances should you pick them up or remove them from the crib, unless there’s blood or you know they are wet, poopy, etc. Allowing a child to teach themselves self-soothing is important and you will thank me for telling you it’s okay to help them learn this.
- With teens, realize they own nothing, you own basically everything they have. Be willing and take the time to understand what is most important to them (this applies to all ages) and then be willing to take that away and give it back to get compliance of behaviors. If it’s not motivating enough for them to change their behaviors, then you are wasting both of your time in disciplining the child or teen.
Discipline can be challenging. There are times that it will seem overwhelming to you. Don’t give up hope. Consistency in effort and a united front as a couple are the keys to good parenting. Remember, royally screwing up kids takes a lot of effort. Kids are very resilient. They bounce back from completely horrible stuff. They say, that as long as a kid has at least one adult in their life that actually cares for them, they can make it. Throughout my time working with kids, I have seen kids go through absolutely horrendous abuse, and yet once they are away from that abuser and are in a secure place with people who care about them and love them, they thrive. So basically, as long as you are loving your kids and giving them clear boundaries, most of the time they are going to be fine. It doesn’t take a village to raise a good kid, it takes parents who are involved and love their kids enough to discipline them.
D. Michl Lowe