Can you relate to this middle school parent? “I would like to discipline and correct my son without guilt, without lecturing him. Because ultimately I don’t want to fracture my relationship with him.”
I know that kids can be idiots. They can be mean, selfish, and foolish. When you’re a parent or youth worker, you don’t get a pass when it comes to disciplining kids. It’s part of our responsibility as we guide them toward healthy adulthood.
Unfortunately we often don’t approach it in relationally constructive ways. Whether it’s due to our own past hurt, our desire for control, or a lack of positive examples, we struggle to discipline kids in a way that helps form their character AND strengthens our relationship with them.
I recently read a book called Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart by Jim and Lynne Jackson that addresses this gap. If you want to learn how to discipline your child and simultaneously maintain a healthy relationship with him, you need to read this book. Jim and Lynne have committed their lives to this topic and their methods have been battle-tested through their own experience as parents.
Here are five of the most valuable takeaways I got from the book. I’ll keep it short in order to entice you to read the whole thing for yourself:
- The book is centered on four “essential messages” that come up repeatedly throughout the entire book. Each message is a phrase that represents an attitude we want to communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, throughout the process of discipline. The four pillars are “You are SAFE with me,” “You are LOVED no matter what,” “You are CALLED and CAPABLE,” and “You are RESPONSIBLE for your actions.”
- Much of the book is focused on parents and whether they are in control of their own behavior, thoughts, and emotions. I love any approach to leadership, parenting, discipline, etc. that challenges the reader to focus on himself or herself. It’s tough to change others without first changing ourselves.
- One thing that I will start using in my own life: The authors encourage readers to calmly share their own negative feelings with kids when it is appropriate. Duh! This makes total sense! Why haven’t I thought about it before? How can we expect kids to deal with their emotions in a healthy way if they never hear us talk about our own emotions? So, for example, pretend a child is acting in a way that frustrates you. If you’re in control of your emotions and are able to share in a calm tone, let him know how you’re feeling. This can help him understand that his actions affect his parents’ emotions. Plus, your sharing helps protect you against doing or saying something in the heat of the moment that you might regret later.
- When encountering a difficult, defiant, or stubborn child, the authors encourage us to focus on the gift represented by such difficult behavior. For example, a child may be stubborn because he is passionate about his beliefs and wants to stand up for his convictions—those are wonderful qualities that will serve him well throughout his life! Recognizing the gift hidden in difficult behavior doesn’t excuse it, but this approach does help put certain behaviors in a positive light. Taking this perspective can improve your outlook as you confront the stubborn child.
- This one might be a punch in the gut: Our kids are not our report card. We shouldn’t get our value from a kid’s behavior or performance. Sometimes discipline is more about protecting our reputation or dealing with our own feelings of embarrassment than it is about the well-being of a child. That’s not helpful for kids in the long-term.
The Jacksons’ book is highly practical. It’s not stuffy or clinical. The content is borne out of Jim and Lynne’s years of experience, both as parents and as coaches for countless other parents. Each chapter is stock-full of real examples from the authors’ lives and their clients’ lives.
Jim and Lynne will release an updated version of Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart on September 20 but you can pre-order it today for only $12! I don’t get any kickbacks if you order the book. I just wanted to share it with you because I think it could be a valuable resource for your family.
You’re not a perfect parent. I’m not a perfect youth worker. We can all get better at disciplining kids. Read Jim and Lynne’s book and take a step toward disciplining your kids in a way that connects with their heart.