Life Lessons from One Christian Mother: The Importance of Disciplining with Love
Raising children in this day and age can certainly be challenging. My Mom, for one, was raised in a time when children were meant to be seen and not to be heard. Well-intentioned parents disciplined with a strong tongue and a leather strap. During that time, most parents were quick to point out any less-than-perfect behavior, but highly unlikely to note things done well. The result was a generation of wounded souls who questioned their abilities and their decisions. Their self-confidence has been compromised as a result.
In an effort to avoid the sins of prior generations, many parents became overly generous with compliments. Eager to boost their children’s morale, parents chose to pour on the praise, regardless of the situation, in an effort to foster confidence in their children and boost their self-esteem. Many children reared with this approach find themselves unable to handle criticism of any kind. They think highly of themselves, often at the expense of others. While we are all God’s gifts, none of us are perfect. Parents that bathe their children in undeserved praise and put a positive spin on every action, even when they know their children are wrong, actually do more harm than good.
So what’s right? As with most things in life, balance is the key. While building confidence is certainly important, it should be deserved and not at the expense of others. We are all His miracles, none more important than the other. We are one body in Christ, after all. Children (and adults for that matter) should be recognized for their positive behavior. Parents should make every effort to “catch” their children doing something good and comment on it. By doing so, they reinforce positive behavior. Children quickly learn they get praised and are encouraged to repeat the behavior. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? If your son, for example, offers his sister a bite of his favorite dessert without being prompted, you should acknowledge him for it. This encourages him to do it again and again. He realizes when he shares with this sister, he earns praise. And who doesn’t enjoy accolades for things they’ve done well?
However, parents should also comment when behavior is unacceptable. Children should be advised when their behavior is inappropriate so they can self regulate in the future. (I smile when recall how my then-6-year-old daughter told her Pop Pop that the TV show he had on (Sponge Bob, no less!) was “inappropriate”. He was a little taken aback by that! Yet, I digress…)
It is the parents’ responsibility to be the disciplinarian and to address situations in an age-appropriate response, not ignore or worse yet, endorse the behavior. There is nothing improper with telling a child he is wrong when he is, indeed, wrong. You can do so gently, while acknowledging the answer (or the behavior) is not correct. None of us are perfect. It’s okay to get things wrong sometimes. It actually helps us learn and grow. (And I’ve done quite a bit of learning and growing in my day, for sure!)
By gracing us with children, God has given us a great compliment. He thinks very highly of us to entrust us with these little souls. Our role as Christian parents is to guide His children, so they grow to be solid, admirable, self-sustaining adults, who love and worship Him, doing their best to walk in His ways…at least until they make their way to heaven (when they are old and gray, God willing!) We should parent the way God guides us. He’s made it clear what his expectations are. We know what’s right and wrong. And even when we sin, he loves us…and forgives us. So by disciplining with love, versus constantly criticizing or constantly complimenting, we help transform our children into wonderful adults.
In addition to her most treasured roles as wife and mother of two, Amy Pedersen is an author, a speaker, a freelance consultant, an inventor, an entrepreneur and a volunteer. And sometimes she even sleeps. Amy’s book, The Miracle of Me from conception to birth, is about a baby’s growth and development in the womb written from the unborn baby’s perspective. www.themiracleofme.com
Amy’s often looked to for advice on Christian parenting. She earned her Bachelor’s degree (Journalism/Advertising) from the University of Georgia and her Masters’ degree (Marketing) from Georgia State University. Amy also co-founded Slimpressions shapewear with her sister-in-law, Jennifer Daniels, www.slimpressions.com.
Amy is also a member of the Moms in Business Network, the National Association of Female Executives and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She can be reached at email@example.com