Before we talk about disciplining our kids, we need to talk about separating parts. We need to be freed up to function as loving, wise parents. And for me, and maybe for you too, here's what gets messy.
Whenever a conflict or a problem arises involving one or more of my kids, two things simultaneously happen in me:
1. I have a desire and instinct to be that loving, wise parent.
2. I have my own (usually negative) personal reaction and feelings about what is happening.
These two things get tangled really, really quickly. I have a keen awareness that these two things happen and that they are separate things. I realize they need to be separated. I realize also that more often than not, they WORK AGAINST one another. My #2 really messes with my #1 in a bad way. But even though I know these things in my brain, I am not yet able to compartmentalize well enough - that is, to exert self-control enough - to keep them apart, and allow #1 to override #2 every time.
"What were you thinking?"
"Oh my gosh, I can't believe you just did that!"
"Knock it off!"
"You left it at school AGAIN?"
"You guys are making me crazy!"
All these kinds of statements are my personal, emotional reactions, usually stated in exasperation or even, at times, anger. They are statements being influenced by my circumstances, my mood, how filled up I am spiritually, how many other things are on my mind, how I was parented, how I feel about myself, and fifty other things. However, regardless of their roots, they are still careless words which do not benefit or parent my kids in any way. This may sound harsh, but for me, it's lazy parenting. I know better, and I still sometimes vent my feelings in this way.
Clarity in my job description helps. My kids have been entrusted to me so that I parent them. Not for me to burden them with my emotional baggage, neediness, or arbitrary expectations. And all this matters SO VERY much when we talk about discipline because it is done best when we are functioning as intentional parents, not as women simply reacting.
This week, try to go about your parenting business as usual, and observe yourself. That's what I've been doing. How much of your parenting is simply reaction, and how much of it is intentional communication motivated by love? How often are you filled up enough to allow your good parenting instincts to override that desire to react and indulge your negative emotions?
And think about this: how often does your guilt and shame from doing the latter interfere and exhaust and demotivate you? I'm guessing as often as it does me. But this is not Grace on a Thursday. Maybe I'll address that in a few days (or click on the "shame is my game" tag on the right for more on this running theme in my life). For now, just notice it. Watch and listen to yourself.
Let's try to be more mindful of the two parts of our responses to our kids. And maybe that way, we'll be able to see our choices more clearly.