Disciplining our children can be one of the hardest parts of parenting. It's an ongoing process that requires consistency and commitment. One goal of disciplining our children is to train them to learn self-discipline. We are teaching them the boundaries of right and wrong so, at some point, they can make the right choices without our input.
The Big "L"
Before we get to the 3 Rs, let's talk about the big "L" – love. When you discipline your child, you need to make sure you're approaching the process with a spirit of love. What does that mean? Well, for starters, don't discipline out of anger. When you're ready to explode, take a deep breath, say a prayer and then approach your child. In other words, think before you act, and have compassion.
Disciplining should never involve personal attacks. Never call your children names or label them "stupid," "lazy," or "mean." Don't say things like, "How could you do something so dumb?" Never compare them to their siblings or to other children. Negative motivation might seem to work in the short run, but in the long run it can have devastating effects. Children can eventually feel worse and worse about themselves and will either throw in the towel, "I can't do anything right, so why even try?" – or if they do try, they'll feel like they are never good enough.
So, once you've looked into your own heart and have determined to discipline with a loving spirit, it's time to talk about the first "R" – remove.
The First "R" – Remove
When trouble arises the first thing you want to do is remove your child from the situation and send them to their room. Removing is not timeout. The goal in "removing" is to let your child (and you) calm down, and give him time to think about what he's done – in preparation for talking about it with you. "Remove time" should last at least five minutes. When you sense that your child is ready (and calmed down), that's the time to talk.
The Second "R" – Reflect
First, ask your child what he did wrong. Don't let him make excuses or blame others. Next, ask him why it was wrong. And, third, ask him how he'll act differently the next time. The primary goal of reflection is for your child to understand their motives behind their actions. You want to shape his heart, so he'll be self-motivated to change his behavior. Finally, tell your child the consequences for his actions.
The Third "R" – Reconnect
Now comes a very important step – reconnecting – making sure the bond between you and your child is not broken. Tell your child you love her – unconditionally. Give her a hug and let her know you believe in her ability to make the right decision the next time. One final note – if you did lose your temper during the disciplining, you now owe her an apology. Your humble spirit will give her a living example of how to accept responsibility for her actions and set things right.
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