What’s the most important ingredient in how to discipline your child? Love. Yesterday, I was with a mother of four small boys ages 5 and under. Her calmness and patience were impressive! First, she let them be who they were. They’re boys, so she allowed them to run around the house, throw a ball at each other, and get loud. Her expectations were right where they should be.
“A bad choice,” he said.
“What would be a better choice?” she asked. “Not to throw the ball in Samuel’s face,” he answered.
“That’s a great choice!” she said, with a whole lot of love.
That very night, I used her loving approach to discipline with my own son. Here’s how to discipline your child with love.
Yelling and love don’t go together—unless you’re yelling “I love you!” When we scream at our children, we might get their attention but their interpretation of what we’re saying will be tinged with things other than love, such as fear or anger.
So when it’s time to discipline, try to stay calm. If you do feel like you’re going to lose it, leave the room until you can pull yourself together. Loving discipline requires us to keep a clear head so that we can talk to our children and reach their hearts as well as their ears.
You don’t have to justify yourself when you discipline your children, but if you want them to learn the lesson behind the discipline, take the time to explain it. For example, my children tend to lean back in their chairs at dinner. Besides driving me crazy, what they’re doing is unsafe and can break the chairs. So instead of barking, “Don’t lean back!” I say, “That could break the chair or break you.”
By reminding them of the consequences of their behavior, I’m letting them come up with the needed action step themselves. I didn’t tell them not to tilt the chair back, I just pointed out what could happen.
Stick to the facts.
When we get angry with our children, it’s easy to throw in a few verbal zingers when we’re disciplining them. What don’t you understand about turning off the TV? Does that scream love to you? Where there is love, there will be respect. Even though we’re the boss, we can still treat our children with respect when we’re disciplining them.
Just think about the shaming videos you might have seen of mothers yelling all kinds of stuff at their kids. Yes, their children may have the fear put in them. And yes, their mothers are likely acting from a place of love, but their actions don’t show it. Love and public shaming are incompatible.
Physical affection outside of discipline time is a crucial element of disciplining with love. Physical touch—hugs, a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the back—are tangible reminders to your child that you love him. And if you’ve established a bond of touch in your relationship with your child, it will be all the more natural to conclude your time of discipline with a reassuring and reconnecting hug.
How do you discipline your children with love?