It was a normal day in my house, mom was cleaning, I was playing with my dolls, and my oldest sister was listening to records on the record player. (Does this show my age?) My sister’s favorite song just came on the stereo, “Take this job and shove it”. I can hear this song still in my head as if it was yesterday. My mom came into the living room, where I was playing, and told me I had to clean my room. How dare she say this! I was playing dolls! They were all lined up ready to hear me preach a sermon and she wanted me to clean my room? I told her, “No! Take that job and shove it!” Boom! I told her!
Not only did I have to clean my room now but I also got a whack with the wooden spoon. My parents were spanked, my siblings and I were spanked. You know “Spare the rod and spoil the child” an ancient proverb that is better translated as “refuse to discipline and you get a spoiled child”. My parents were not abusive by any means but I would argue even they could’ve put away those spoons.
How does discipline work without the spoon?
- Identify the problem
(You are looking for more than just their sin nature here) Why are they disobeying? Throwing a fit? Or being mean? If you do not know ask them what is going on. Are they tired? Are they hungry? Are they feeling sad over a recent event that has affected them or your family? Are they exploring and learning new things? Is it information overload?
Example: Johnny you just hit your sister. Why did you hit her?????
Johnny “Because she took my IPod from me!”
- Identify the emotion
Is your child feeling sad, angry, depressed, guilty, determined, frustrated, threatened, or lonely? By finding out what the emotion is they are feeling you can better handle the problem.
“When your sister took your IPod you felt ___?"
“I hate her! She is always taking my stuff!”
- Teach them to change the emotion
Johnny hit his sister because he feels like she is taking her stuff all the time. Most children only know two emotions: love and hate. It is important that children learn to identify more emotions because it will make them much healthier adults.
“Johnny you hate your sister?” When your sister took your IPod what other emotion could you have felt besides hate? How about angry? Sad? Annoyed? Instead of getting angry and hitting her what could you have done differently?
- Teach them to problem solve
The ability to problem solve is a skill that will carry them through life and help them be more responsible adults. We problem solve when we look at a problem and think of different ways to handle it.
“Johnny instead of hitting your sister what is another way you could’ve responded?” (Have Johnny come up with several different ways and talk through each of them)
- So what is their punishment?
I am a huge fan of making the punishment fit the crime. Johnny hits his sister and then mom spanks him. This teaches Johnny that when I feel emotion it is ok to hit. Instead of spanking try:
- Time outs - Consistency is the key. They sit in time out one minute for every year they are old, if they get up, you say nothing to them, and you just put them back.
- Take something away - Since the IPod was involved in the incident take the IPod for a reasonable time period. I suggested a few hours to a day.
- Have them write a note - Sometimes when children are really angry with someone it is punishment enough to have them list all the things they like about the person they are angry with.
- Talk it out - Children, just like you and I, have bad days and do not know how to express emotions. The best gift you can give them is to teach them life skills that make them a better adult.
- Give them a hug - sometimes, especially tots, throw fits because they are overstimulated and just need a hug to make everything better. (Remember as adults we also need hugs.)
Spanking them is too easy, it’s a great frustration releaser for the parent but it is not effective in teaching life skills. No one is going to spank them as an adult. You should stick with punishments that model life to them. Take the time to teach your child in the midst of conflict. Also, remember that change does not happen overnight. Just like you and I, it’s a process. Be consistent. Be patient and be loving. It will pay off in the end.