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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So How Do You Discipline???


I have written and spoken much on what discipline is over the years, but often get this question.  What I am actually being asked is "How do you punish?"  Especially when people find out that we are conservative Christians who are also home educators  and spanking is not a tool we use from
our tool box.

I love having a joyful home! I love watching the girls play and have good relationships with each other, and I love that they have good relationships with Me and Daddy. I love that they have good friends and are willing to share their friends with each other.
We are not a perfect family. Because we are not perfect. :)  But we are happy and we are on a journey together, and we love it.


If you were raised in a strongly punitive oriented family like I was growing up, it is really hard to shift your understanding of discipline and not use it interchangeably with punishment.

People want to know how we take a child who is in a frame of complete selfishness and full of anger, who has no understanding of what a family is, and help them to heal, become part of a family, succeed and be HAPPY!

I like the verse in Romans 12:1-2
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable and perfect." ESV

Well, it isn't easy. :)  And Romans 12 1-2 is my life line.  I have to be renewed in my heart and my mind. We have to lay down our lives before the Lord, each and every moment of every day.  Each of us.

There is another verse that I love: Romans 2:4 "It's your kindness that leads us to repentance Oh Lord."

And also   Micah 6:8--- "He has shown you, Oh Man, what is Good and What the Lord requires of you. But to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

How do these verses relate to punishment?  Or to discipline?
The last verse has effected me so very much in my life.  I can be just, and merciful and humble at the same time.
An example:

I can justly say that one of my children has disobeyed what I asked them to do.
I can mercifully forgive them, because I can humbly see that I have not obeyed perfectly all of what God has given ME to do.
When I cry out to the Lord for forgiveness, he does not turn me away.  If I tell one of my children they are being disobedient, and I patiently wait....they respond fairly quickly.  It would surprise you how even the hardest of hearts can be turned by our own simple humility.

On the practical side to this.  If we want our children to be respectful, we teach them respect, by being respectful.
I remember when Miss Alli came home 8 months ago. She was appauled that she was asked to say yes maam and yes sir, no maam and no sir, please, may I  and thank you.  She thought we were rather nutty. LOL
I remember her saying, "What kind of place is that that I am being treated like a slave, having to say, "YES MAAM".... and she snarled it and made fun of it.. .and it was rather ugly. :(

My  response to her was to teach her right from wrong.  "It is not ok to speak to mommy that way. I know you don't understand this yet, but we are going to work on this every day, because it really isn't ok.  I explained to her how families work together and respect each other. And then I asked her.... "Have you heard mommy say "Yes maam to you?  Have you heard me say please and thank you? Have you heard me ask you "May I brush your hair?"

She thought about it and had a quizzical look on her face and had to say, "Yes."  I told her, "You have lived your first 11 years not understanding that your are missing out on kindness! You have missed out on being respected!   Not only will mommy respect you! You must respect mommy.  That's the deal.....

Lesson over.  She tried from that moment on.  No matter the situation. Angry, happy.... it must be said.  Today, 8 months later. It is automatic.  And I rejoice. :)

So, how do we punish?  Hmmm.  We use what I would call a "naturally RELATED lesson".  It is related TO whatever we are doing.
If you ride off on your bicycle and are not careful.... we have to come in and talk about it, instead of riding bikes. If you do not obey in the store. We go home.  If you don't have your bed made before school. You make it as soon as you get a chance. If you are snotty in the car, we go home.  If you are unable to handle yourself during the day, we don't go anywhere.  Miss Alli has had to miss two play dates because of a bad day.  She knows that I mean what I say and say what I mean.  I do not use that time to punish her further, but to spend real time with her that she needs.  We may take that private time to talk about how our day went and how we can do better.   Much of the time she is actually very calm and sweet, knowing that there is opportunity to try again, and that I have acted out of love towards her to help her.

If I do not feel somebody is ready for a certain activity. I simply tell them.  "I don't think you are ready for this."  "I think this might be too much for you to handle." Or... "Do you think if you were to go there, you could be just as respectful as you are at home?" and see what they say.
We kept Miss Alli with us and did not send her off to her own Sunday School class for 6 months. We did this with our other girls for up to 2 years.   We were criticized for it. So be it.  :)  We knew what the girls could handle. We strive to do things in a way that will help them succeed.

Teaching and requiring kindness is very important.  We do not let the girls get away with being unkind to each other. You may ask... What do you do?  I listen....keeping my ears open.
If I hear anything like that... I may pull somebody aside and say, "How can that be worded differently?"  "Would you want somebody to speak to you the same way?"   If not, how can you change how you are speaking?  A couple of our girls didn't get this at all at first.  It took using the video camera so they could HEAR themselves to show them how things sounded. They didn't like it, and they changed.
BTW- I have done that with myself too. I want to make sure that I am using kindness in my voice and not sounding harsh.

What we do NOT do, is say, "Because you didn't listen, no games or you have to go to your room, or you have to do chores."  These are not related and it is hard for many children to understand.
AND CHORES are part of our everyday life! They are NOT a punishment.  That one was a HARD one to get over with 2 of our girls because they had been punished with chores.  Today, they each happily do their chores.


You may ask.... "What if you MUST get shopping done, or have to go to meet somebody?"
I would ask, "What is more important? The job the Lord has given you to do, in teaching your children? Or making an appt?  Your friend will understand.  You can eat Peanut Butter sandwiches.
But discipling your children cannot be put on the back burner.

One of the most important things we do is to guide our girls to the ONE who can ultimately change us from the inside out.  We do not force. We pray with them often.  Alli thought prayer was silly when she first came home.  Today, she LOVES to pray.
And we also pray ourselves; sometimes out loud when we do not have the answers.  I have asked for the Lord's help when I was frustrated, asking him to give me tenderness, because I feel angry.
There have been times when I have prayed this, and somebody has repented upon the spot, realizing they have been hurtful or unkind.
Our children need to know that their behavior effects others, not just themselves.  Hurtful words hurt others.  And we parents need to remember the exact same lesson!

I want my girls to grow up and remember a loving, tender mother who gently taught them right from wrong and drew respect out of them.

I do not want my children to have behaviors based upon being shamed or afraid.  I want them to obey based upon Love.  Perfect Love casts out fear.

In regards to the child who has a complicated trauma background, and may also have issues with FAS or PTSD, it is really important to take that extra baggage they have brought with them VERY carefully.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, works very well for a child who has alcohol/drug exposure. They DO NOT remember easily and do not understand cause/effect, ESPECIALLY if it is not related directly to what they are doing.  That is why a time out, or a loss of priveledge does nothing to effect them. They don't  get it.
For a child who has PTSD, understanding and breathing techniques go a long way. Just sitting in the rocking chair to reboot and try again works well.

And sometimes, when a child gets "STUCK" and you can see in their face they don't want to continue what they are doing, but they are unable to get out of it.... a REBOOT of the brain may be the best thing.  STOP what you are doing.... Say something like, "Let's end this now.  And go outside for a walk or something different.. Do it TOGETHER." You will be surprised how quickly they can gain control and then you can talk about it later.

Ultimately, It is our desire to lead our girls to drink from the waters of life. We can lead them there, but we cannot force them to drink. That is between them and the giver of that life giving water. :)

All we can do as parents is to lay our lives down for our children. We can lead them and guide them. But the end result is between them and the Lord.  As a parent, you cannot guarantee that if you do xyz- your kid will turn out perfect.  But you can give them every opportunity to succeed.
At the same time... if things are not going well at all, doing the same thing you have always done will not bring about new fruit.  It may be time for a change. The change has to start with US, as parents.
Remember the ole' "Don't try to remove the speck from your brother's eye when you have a BEAM in your own."


The other day, I had a conversation with somebody who presented an issue with their child and asked what I would do.  When I got home, I asked Miss Alli what she thought; being discreet.  She said, "Do they pray mama? It will be really hard if they don't pray."
Out of the mouths of babes. :)





19 comments:

Holly said...

Makes sense. :)

I have to say though, I don't think I have ever heard anybody say "yes ma'am" or "yes sir" to their parent/child. Only in like, high end shops and in business situations. Outside of those places, it would definitely strike me as unusual, and strangely formal. Is this common in the US?

Mike and Christie said...

LOL Holly.... It is common in the South. :)

JJ said...

We always do things in a way that will help them succeed. --Christie Minich

I LOVE THIS QUOTE! :D

Mike and Christie said...

JJ, that should be worded We strive to do things in a way that will help them succeed. Always needs to leave my vocabulary! I'm going to edit that. :)

JJ said...

Either way...I like the spirit of this quote. :) It verbalizes the heart attitude parents should have toward their children at all times, IMO.

sarah212 said...

Hi,

I'm a college student, and I really enjoy reading your blog. I don't know exactly what God has in mind for me, but I feel very called to work with children who have experienced trauma. Even if I never parent kids who've had those experiences, I would want to be able to use this kind of parenting with any children I have. I had a question for you about how you discipline children. I think what you say makes a lot of sense, but sometimes I need examples to figure out how something would work. I babysit pretty frequently, and although I definitely strive to use kindness and listen to what the kids are saying, I am sometimes unsure what to do when they are acting out of control that isn't just taking away privileges or something similar. For example, I babysit for 3 boys, who are 5, 3, and six months. They are little boys, so they get crazy sometimes and run around, which I'm fine with, but if it's happening in a way that they are in danger of hurting the baby or themselves, or it's when they are supposed to be in bed, I don't know what to do without using a harsh tone or taking something away. They're young, so how does that change the techniques you use? Sometimes I really need them to stop, like if they are not being safe. I'm also not the parent, so I don't get to repeat this over and over. Is there anything you can do when you are only occasionally with a child or when a child is very young?

I really love reading your blog...I think the way you raise your kids is very impressive, and I'm glad that your kids found you and have you.

Sarah

Autumn said...

I love reading about this! Its so funny - I plan on using this same approach and disciplining out of love. You are such a good example to me. But when I sit back and think about it, its so contrary to what is thought of when discipline is usually discussed! Such a different frame of mind (one that I want!). I think most people have questions/don't understand this because we've all seen that child (who grew up loved and cherished) having absolute nightmare behavior in public, and then the parents just take them aside "to talk" (without the naturally related lesson to go along), and then the child goes right back to being a nightmare, with no change in behavior. The parents have done their "duty" by talking to the child, but the child still ends up walking all over the situation. And that's where people ask "where's the discipline?" They can't understand that you can actually talk/teach/guide a child and actually say what you mean and mean what you say, all in a loving way. And have it be effective. Because what you say does work!! I'm so glad you post about this and explain it so more people can understand. I hope to learn as much as I can from you :)

Mike and Christie said...

Sarah, that is a really great question. I raised 4 boys also. We had 4 boys in 4 years, and boys can be hyper!! LOL
I have also watched a little guy last week who has an extreme trauma background.
He was starting to get out of control and would not come inside for the girls. (they carried him in) and then I could tell, things were going to go south really quickly. I reached to touch him and he recoiled, so I immediately shifted him to something different. "Can you help me take the clothes out of the washer and put them into the dryer? Then you can watch the clothes dry!" He gladly accepted and I distracted him long enough while he was loading the dryer to say, "You are safe, your mommy will be back really soon!" He smiled and then let me give him a hug. There were no more issues the rest of the day.
When boys start getting out of control it is easy to calm them by getting them involved in a song and then directing them in that way. I used to have our guys clean the play room that way.
I'd sing, "Now its time to pick up the toys, pick up the toys, pick up the toys" and "when we all work together how Happy we'll be!" We'd get it done and then it was snack time.
Sometimes getting little ones to calm down can be an effort. (after we sing, were going to have a snack, is a way to transition from silly and out of control to in control.
I hope that helps.

Mike and Christie said...

Autumn, to NOT discipline is a cruel thing to do to a kid. :/ We have all seen the undisciplined child. And yes, people ask when are they going to get ahold of that kid?
That is why it is so important to say what you mean and mean what you say.
Preparing a child ahead of time before going into a store is an easy way to share what we do. The natural consequence for misbehavior in a store is leaving.
I have tried to make grocery trips times for fun, when I am in teaching mode. I equip the children BEFORE we get out of the car and let them know what they can count on. And let them also know, if you do not obey in the store, we will leave. And then DO IT. This has worked for our bio kids as well as our kids who have had RAD.
We even had to leave a store with Miss Alli. It happened one time and has not happened again.
I let her know ahead of time what was expected. She started to whine about not getting new pants. I simply took the basket to the worker and asked him to hold it for me in the refrigerator section. Before she knew what was going on, we were headed out the door. Me cheerful saying, "I'm so sorry you weren't ready today." She started saying, "Oh No! I'll be good, I won't complain!" I simply said, "I know sweetie. You'll get a chance to show me next time. " And that was it. No yelling, screaming, spanking, time out, taking away of anything. We went back to the store about 3 hours later and she willingly apologized to the worker for her behavior. Then, we went on with our shopping. Later I mentioned how much more wonderful it is to obey than to disobey. And she readily agreed! :) It took a few times with Miss Anna. :)

Mike and Christie said...

I also forgot to say about little ones: Stay 3 steps ahead and try to discern their next step so they don't get out of control. If you see them playing and things are about to get heated.... distract them by doing something different. Don't wait for them to fail by getting into a squabble. OR intervene early and say, "Wouldn't you like to share that with him and play with this?"

Ben Wolters said...

I learn so much from your parenting pearls. As I look at all the print outs of your blogs I have made, I'm thinking they are the beginnings of a much needed book. You are a wonderful example of what loving attention and nurturing grows when they are consistently given to the seedlings you've been entrusted with.

dulce de leche said...

Beautiful! I love reading about your relationship with your sweet girls and how you truly disciple them. <3 <3 <3 Sharing this. :)

r. said...

Holly, Christie might be being modest. Teaching children to use "ma'am" and "sir" is traditional in the South, especially among more conservative families, but it's typically used in a way that reinforces the traditional power hierarchy. Children are taught to address their elders with "ma'am" and "sir," kind of like how it is in some languages that have formal and informal versions of the word "you." A parent addressing her children with "ma'am," (other than as something playful) might be a more radical twist than she's letting on :). It turns a tradition that's based on respect for hierarchy and turns it into a way of reinforcing mutual respect. Just my two cents :)

Mike and Christie said...

I have never really thought that much about it. LOL

It is just habit. R. is correct that I do use it to teach mutual respect.
But I never thought about it much that way.

I can give some examples. We are really pretty down to earth in our family.... not really formal, except in this I guess. LOL

If somebody says, "Mom, may I have a snack?" Many times I'll say, Yes Maam you may!" :)

They call me mom, mama, mommy and mother. And sometimes.... Mother dear. ( I won't allow "mommy dearest" and they have no idea why.) LOL
I call them sweetie pie, sweet petunia, sweet pea, dear heart, babe, baby, beanie baby, darling, etc... too many to name.

But when we are asking for something, or we are having an important conversation.... the other terms are used.
There are many times if they ask to do something and I say not now or no, the natural answer is "yes maam".
I didn't realize we were so odd. :)

r. said...

Haha well I'm no expert on Southern culture myself. The way you describe it now, it doesn't sound so odd. I once lived in a small town in Colorado where the thing to say was "no Sir!," which was kind of like the way kids say "nah-ah" (I can't spell it out right, but it has that sing-songy element). And the families I knew used it all the time, gender neutral! S

ome things are just expressions. I wasn't trying to read too much into it. I think I put my "cultural ambassador" hat on a little too tight there!

:)De said...

I am a "Northerner" and my children say, "Ma'am" and "Sir". The little kids even say it to each other when answering "yes" and "no" questions just out of habit. I still use "Ma'am" and "Sir" with my parents... just a life long habit.

Alena Belleque said...

One of your commenters mentioned that she doesn't always know how to get positive results without taking things away or using a harsh tone of voice. It immediately brought to mind something that has been bothering me for over a year now...

My mother-in-law (and occasional others) is always telling me I need to develop my "mom voice" so that my daughter will listen to me (she's 15 months old). Thing is, she does listen to me, as much or more than any child her age does any adult. She is more distracted when it's not just us alone at home, so I sometimes have to repeat myself and/or touch or turn her to get her attention, but I do not see this as disobedience, but as simply she's taking everything in at once and doesn't hear or doesn't register me right away. Goodness knows I do that, sometimes! Anyway, this "mom voice" is a harsh, strident, angry sounding tone. I don't personally think it has a place in parenting, and I not only don't use it, but it makes me feel sick to my stomach when I hear others use it on their kids. My MIL used it on my daughter a couple of weeks ago, when we were out late at a fabric store (we don't usually do that, but there was a really good sale). I had given my girl a $1 tiara, and when we checked out I had to take it away from her briefly so they could scan the tag. I told her I was going to show it to the "nice lady" and then she could have it back, and she put it in my hand and nodded, but didn't let go, and when I got it away from her, telling her firmly but gently that I knew she didnt want to let it go but that she needed to listen and obey, and reassured her she could have it back, she started crying, and let out a loud squawk, threw her head back (but not in a fit kind of way, in a despair kind of way) and sobbed. Well, my MIL grabbed her hands and got right in her face (something I never ever do, nor does her father - the face thing - unless everyone is happy and we're playing), put on her "mom voice", and said, "NO! That is ENOUGH, Serenity! You do NOT yell at your mother! You are a naughty naughty girl!" My girl immediately stopped crying and got mad, and tried to slap her grandma, and I had to step in instantly to defuse the situation.

(Continued...)

Alena Belleque said...

My in-laws are very good about not telling us how to parent, but I know that they disapprove of us not spanking or slapping hands (we do bonk (meaning firmly grasp) hands if she intentionally hits or pinches or scratches, to get her attention very firmly without any violence), and as I said, she's said many times that I need to get a "mom voice" to make my girl snap to when I speak to her.

Thing is, I don't want her to snap to. I don't want instant obedience (though wouldn't that be nice, lol). My goal in teaching her obedience is to THINK and to SERVE and to LOVE. I can't teach her that if she's having a fear response to a tone of voice.

Anyway, the older my toddler gets, the more I worry about how to handle this difference in discipline. I picked her up the other day and my father-in-law told me very apologetically that he'd swatted her on the bottom once each on three separate occasions because she kept getting into the dvds (they're at ankle level, wide open shelf, and most are kid dvds so very interesting looking - none of the grandkids can resist, though the ones who are spanked for infractions are more sneaky about it). He said he knew we don't spank, but he didn't know what else to do, and he made sure he did it only hard enough to get her attention (and she sobbed like she'd been skinned = not surprising, since she is never ever spanked at home). I was momentarily upset, but he obviously felt awful about it and really HAD had no idea what to do, that I let it go, and just asked him to use time outs or redirection next time, and to call us to come home if those didn't work or he felt like spanking was the only option - we'd rather deal with it ourselves at that point, and if she is being that naughty, it's almost always because she's tired or needs one on one mommy/daddy time.

(Continued again...)

Alena Belleque said...

My relationship with my in-laws is great, and they try hard to follow our directives with regards to our child, but it's so out of the norm for them, it's just...hard. Do you have relationships like that? How do you handle it? I don't want to keep her away from them, but I also do not want her being spanked, hand smacked, or spoken to harshly. A good example of how this has been rough: earlier this summer, we had an emergency, and my girl had to stay at her aunt's for 3 nights (I was only there for an hour two at a time, and wasn't involved in her normal routine at all) - she had to sleep in a bed alone, go to sleep without nursing, and not nurse in the middle of the night at all, all for the first time, and all without either of her parents. It was very traumatic for her, and it took weeks for her to get back to normal, but we were the only ones who could tell - the rest of the family thought she handled it super well. To them, crying and sobbing at bedtime is normal (she had never done so in 13 months of life), as is being super clingy upon waking and before sleeping (never ever was she EVER like that before). I asked my sis-in-law to try a couple of specific things to make it easier on her, and she was sweet about it, but basically said that after 3 kids, she knew what she was doing, and Ren would be fine, and I just needed to relax because as a first time parent I was going to overreact. #headdesk I get what she was thinking, I really do. But I think she was wrong. And as wonderful of a friend and an aunt as she is, it has been hard for me to get past it. She was wonderful to take on another baby for a couple of days, with no notice and no help (all 3 of hers are under 4), and I am so grateful for that, and I KNOW she adores my daughter...but it all goes back to this difference in discipline and child training. I fear for the future.

(Sorry for writing a book, lol!)

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