I love both of my daughters with all my heart. They are the light of my life, and I would do anything for them.
That said, they are still sinful little girls, and they exhibit their sinfulness on a regular basis, which presents me with plenty of opportunities to discipline them. I adore my girls, and I don’t want to discipline them harshly, but I do want them to learn. I also want to respect their unique personalities, so I try to teach/ discipline them in a way that is most effective without being unnecessarily punitive.
This is not an easy task.
My almost-seven-years-old daughter, Lyd shares some strong characteristics of my personality, but has some noticeable differences as well. She is thought-full and artistic and imaginitive and intelligent and all together wonderful and lovely, but she can also be moody and grumpy and pouty and sullen in certain situations.
I’ve had to deal with her in a few of those situations lately. It’s not been so fun.
Over the seven years that I’ve been parenting her, I have learned that I can’t force Lyd to do something she doesn’t want to do. It simply won’t happen, and if it does happen by the sheer force of my will or my physical strength, she will greatly resent me for doing it and will regress even further in her behavior. Plus it will be even harder to make her do it the next time, because she’ll be “on to me.” In order for her to do something, she must want to do it herself. My best strategies for working with her are to first make sure I understand why she didn’t want to do it (because sometimes I’ve missed something that she was trying to tell me, and once I knew that fact, her behavior made sense), and to secondly let her know exactly what I expected her to do. If her behavior is due to willful sinful behavior on her part, I let her know how disappointed I am that she did not do it and why. If a consequence of some kind is in order due to her sinful behavior, it usually works better to take away something she really likes, rather than to administer some kind of separate punishment to her.
For example, she knows how she is to behave in church and what she is to be doing in church. Today that didn’t really happen, so as the announcements were being given after the service, I informed her that we would not be going to Coffee Hour, which is our congregation’s post-service social time where treat foods are served. Well, THAT hit her where it hurt! I also informed her that we were going to re-do church at home, practicing all the things that she was supposed to do in church but didn’t do. She now understands, even more than she did before, exactly what is expected of her. If she does fail to do those behaviors again next Sunday, she knows what the consequence will be.
Another, more common, scenario is when I ask her a question of some sort, and I get a whiny/snippy/sullen response in return. My preferred method of fixing that problem is to firmly tell her, “Let’s try that again.” I will re-ask the question the exact way I did before, physically returning to the place I was prior if necessary. (Lyd has now learned that she also should physically go back to where she was before, too!) Then, Lyd answers the question again in a better tone of voice. Sometimes we do this 3 or 4 times, until she gets her tone of voice correct. I don’t punish her persay for her lousy tone of voice, but we instantly practice a way of speaking until she gets it right. I like that method better than just telling her to “watch your mouth” or some similar phrase. It teaches her how to speak while also immediately driving the point home that her tone of voice was not acceptable.
If I am simply angry with Lyd, that’s not enough. She is one who very much needs to understand why I am angry at her. But, I am always very careful to be angry at her actions, not at her herself. And, when my stern words are finished, I make it a point to tell her that I always love her, even when I don’t love what she does. She really needs those assurances of love from me. In good times and in bad, she needs cuddles and hugs and kisses and lots of physical touch and verbal affirmations of love. She’s always been that way, even when she was a baby.
Lyd is a great kid, and I can’t wait to see what she will be like as an adult someday. However, I need to disciple and discipline and train her up now to learn to control her emotions and impulses so that she can indeed by that amazing adult that she someday will be.
Some days it feels like a huge task. I’m thankful to have God on my side, and I pray every night that I can do my part to raise my daughters into the godly Christian women that God would have them be.