One crucial key to parenting is knowing how to discipline with love. I learned that from experience, when one of our kids had a noticeably stronger will (from infanthood!) than the others. While growing up, this child got into trouble time and time again due to stubbornness and an unwillingness to conform.
I remember quite well one situation that involved outright defiance and blatant rebellion. We laid out the options clearly: Either the child would conform or be disciplined until that happened. After many go-rounds, I was worn out. Neither my discipline nor the child’s stubborn will had budged. No way was I going to lose this battle with my 6-year-old!
So I took a break and asked my wife, “How in the world do I break the will without breaking the spirit?” I was concerned that continued discipline could be unwise, but raising the white flag of surrender wasn’t an option either.
Have you ever been there as a parent? Have you wondered how to discipline with love?
- You want so badly for this to be a “growth moment” for both you and your child, but they will have none of it.
- You’re frustrated almost to the point of anger and don’t seem to have any answers.
- You’re adamant about breaking their will but equally concerned about crushing their spirit.
A few weeks later, I asked an elderly friend that same question: “How do I break the will without breaking the spirit?” And to my pleasure, the answer has had an ongoing positive impact on my parenting: “Discipline balanced with love always equals respect, but discipline without love always equals rebellion.”
Suddenly it finally clicked: As long as I know how to discipline with love, the child’s will eventually will be broken, but their spirit will stay intact.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
If we discipline correctly, our kids may not always obey us, but they’ll always know we love them. When we balance discipline with love, children may not always agree with us, but they’ll still maintain respect for us. When we know how to discipline with love, our motives will be pure and won’t come into question.
Here are three super simple but important steps for how to discipline with love:
1. Talk with the child.
No child should ever be pulled by the ears to the bedroom or smacked upside the head and told to change. Discipline in the home should happen with the same love and tenderness our heavenly Father uses when he disciplines us as his children. He is patient and kind, yet he doesn’t budge an inch.
When children have done wrong and need discipline, the first step is to talk to them. Help them understand why they’re in trouble and what the discipline is specifically for.
2. Pray with them.
Once the discipline has been administered, prayer is essential. Not only does it communicate your love, but it also communicates God’s love and forgiveness toward them.
Prayer also helps children understand that their offense is against not just a person but ultimately against God himself.
3. Love on them.
After talking with the child and praying with them following discipline, it’s time to love them as they’ve never been loved before. Squeezing your child tight for an extended period of time communicates something that words can never express: unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness.
I’ve seen parents send kids to their room without doing any of the above. Other parents, after disciplining their children, storm out of the room angry. “Sit here and think about what you’ve done before you come back out,” they shout.
Doing that enough times is a surefire way to break a child’s spirit. But when you love them unconditionally, you hit parenting gold.
Your kids will naturally respect you if your love is unquestionable. When they understand what they’ve done, who they’ve truly done it against, and that your love for them hasn’t changed, you succeed at turning a negative into a positive. Score!
The last time you had to discipline your kids, did they “feel the love”? What can you do differently, starting today, that reveals how to discipline with love?
This article originally appeared here.