As time ticks, people change. Kids especially. As the saying goes "they grow up so fast"! This however, cannot be fully grasped until you have children of your own. It is truly remarkable how fast children grow and change in front of your eyes. From the way they learn to how they play, what they enjoy to how they feel or show love. This list goes on.
One item in particular is how they react and respond to discipline.
Before diving in, lets discuss the importance of discipline. It is the role of the father to train and morph your children to be a civilized member of society. Respecting authority, listening and obeying, being aware of others, not focusing only on yourself. The effects of poor discipline can alter a child's life, even from a young age. "If a child has not been taught to behave properly by the age of four, it will forever be difficult for him or her to make friends. . .This matters, because peers are the primary source of socialization after the age of four. Rejected children cease to develop, because they are alienated from their peers. They fall further and further behind, as the other children continue to progress." (Jordan Peterson - 12 Rules for Life p.135). Peterson also goes on to talk about how if you don't take the time now and put in the effort to properly discipline your children, then the world one day will. And you can bet the consequences will be much worse than a time-out or a smack on the rear. After depicting the harsh future reality of an entitled, undisciplined kid, he ends his parenting chapter with this, in regards to proper discipline: "There are no greater gifts that a committed and courageous parent can bestow" (p.144). Fatherhood without loving and proper discipline is not fatherhood.
While reading the book The Resolutions for Men (highly, highly recommended for Christian men, husbands, and fathers) one paragraph stood out to me regarding this topic, "It takes no skill or courage to be a passive father - not when he knows that by failing to correct sin in his children, he is actually encouraging it. . . What takes courage is to faithfully and fairly dispense parental discipline - despite its momentary discomfort. . ." (p.124). The easy path, the path of least resistance, is the path of inaction and passivity. Knowingly allowing your children to do as they please, in direct conflict with what you instructed. Or worse, didn't instruct at all.
You love your children. Have the courage. It isn't easy to intentionally cause them (or you) temporary discomfort, but our job as a fathers is to focus on the long term objective and not the short term pain.
As an intentional father and the one implementing the discipline tactics, you need to continually be aware of how your child is reacting and responding to the discipline set forth. It is easy to get complacent and continually discipline in the same manner. It was probably successful at first, hence the reason for its repeat, but do you now notice it turning into arguments instead of obeying? Do simple situations escalate which lead you to think your children are being stubborn and difficult? Yes, your children are changing, they may be more stubborn and difficult now than before, but this could also imply that your tactics are no longer effective and it's time to reevaluate.
As your child progresses through different stages of life, trial different methods of discipline. What worked for a two-year-old most likely will not work for a five-year-old. Heck, what worked for your first kid at two-years-old probably won't work for your second kid at the same age. Some methods will be more effective than others. Some you will use only once and realize it wasn't right. Others you will cling onto because they were so effective, then leave you completely frustrated when they no longer work.
Like most aspects of parenting, it's a learning process. There's no right or wrong answer. It's about continual intentionally and not digging your heels in deep, being unwilling to change. That's not effective and will only bring frustration to you and build animosity in your child. If you do get to this point, as we all have at one time or another, pause and take a step back. Even if it is in the middle of the discussion, remove yourself to reign in your frustration and adjust your methods (See our post Take a Pause for more on the importance of controlling yourself, then the situation). In times like these, be honest with your children. Apologize that you lost your cool, scrap that method and move on. In Peterson's words, "You take responsibility for their discipline. You take responsibility for the mistakes you will inevitably make while disciplining. You can apologize, when you're wrong, and learn to do better" (p.144).
Your Children Are Not You
Generally, our discipline tactics stem from those our parents used on us. It’s the natural flow of parental information. For some, you may look to your parents and feel they adequately and fairly disciplined. Others, especially former children of abuse, will remember how they were treated and make an about-face. Either way, your parents are a large influence over how you approach discipline.
The challenge, however, is that your children are not you. They are their own unique specimen of energy and curiosity. What worked for you as a child may not for them. In addition to unique DNA, the world in which they are being raised is vastly different. I remember the days of having one desktop computer in my childhood home and talking to friends on AOL Instant Messenger. Today, we hand our children devices that connect them to all of the world and the endless information available at a touch. Needless to say, the challenges are different. All the more reason to evaluate your discipline tactics and adjust as you go. (For more on technology, check out the post Don't Let Technology Raise Your Child).
So how do we approach intentional, loving, and proper discipline?
Watch, listen, and learn your child. What drives them? What motivates them? How do they feel loved? How to they react to sternly spoken words, time-out, or a spanking?
You will not know what will work until you try. Receive and process the feedback your child provides. Evaluate it from the position of love, not in moments of frustration. Then, shape your tactics accordingly.
In all, be intentional in your approach to discipline. Don't dig in your heels but continually evaluate your methods. Just as they are growing and changing, so too should you.
Be Present. Be Intentional.