When does discipline actually start? And what exactly is discipline anyway? It sure gets a bad rap. Parents who do too much of it are called names as are those who do too little. Where is a happy medium? What is it parents should be shooting for?
Webster’s dictionary defines discipline as training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. So disciplining children is not merely punishment for stepping over the line, it is training and molding them for life ahead.
Interestingly enough, we are all born with an innate desire to test the limits. We all want to know how far we can go, and it starts at birth. Have you ever had to show a child how to misbehave? Of course not. They already know. They were born that way. Your job as their parent is to help guide them and shape them and teach them how to live within the established boundaries.
So what are the major areas to focus on? Consider these:
All parents want their children to be safe. But more than that, parents want their children to be wise and have common sense about situations. Instead of keeping them locked up in their rooms, parents want children to have freedom to make decisions while taking care of themselves. This is no small task. That’s why teaching your children healthy boundaries and a healthy lifestyle are important. We want them to have strong bodies and strong minds. And that includes teaching them how to properly nourish their souls, their stomachs and their minds.
This is who your children were made to be combined with their life choices and their upbringing. Our job as parents sometimes is not so much herding our children, although it may feel like it, as it is shepherding them. We are not simply here to rear or raise children as one might raise a chicken or goat. But rather we are to guide them and teach them about life in the real world. Model for them responsibility. Help them understand themselves and who they were made to be.
Part of your children’s ‘becoming’ will undoubtedly come with wrong or bad choices. Those will call for consequences, the more natural, the better. If breaking a toy means he no longer has that toy, then so be it. If hitting a sibling means the sibling hits back, that may be the natural consequence. Sometimes parents work too hard at finding punishments for their children when often they are the natural course of events and right in front of them.
While these years when your children are small may seem to stretch into eternity, they really won’t. There’s a saying about parenting that goes like this: The weeks are long but the years are short. This is a good thing to remind yourself of often. It will seem like no time at all when your kids are gone and your house stays clean. Meanwhile, remind yourself that you are training the next generation of adults. Your contribution to this world will impact not just your children but the generations to follow. It’s worth taking the time and doing it right.