One of the greatest things to happen to my parenting style didn’t come from a book or even an article. It came from a simple quote on my Facebook feed.
“The most important reason we discipline our children is to teach them self-control.” Dr. Meg Meeker
This quote really made me stop and think. As someone who struggles with self-control, I had never really thought of disciplining my kids in this way before. Previously, I thought disciplining my kids was a way for them to learn the rules so we could all live harmoniously in our house together. I definitely thought discipline was important but I wasn’t always great about following through.
Just the other day, I had finally sat down to my twice-heated cup of coffee and my full-of-life toddler comes into the living room with a some plastic fruit, proudly shows me and then promptly gets distracted by something else leaving the plastic apple on the couch. “Please take this back to the playroom,” I ask sweetly because in that moment, she so joyful and I love being a part of her childhood. She doesn’t even acknowledge me. So quickly does my joy give way to annoyance. I ask again in a more serious voice. “No, you need to come back and take this to the playroom.” Nothing, she doesn’t even look at me.
Now I’m feeling all sorts of angry inside. We’ve worked on this! She’s been so good lately! It’s so easy to just grab that silly, plastic, apple and take it back. Then… she leaves the room and goes back into the playroom. In this moment, I KNOW that I should give her a timeout. I shouldn’t have even asked her more than once, so I’ve already broken my own discipline rules. And now I should escalate and give her a punishment for completely ignoring me.
But, but, but… the coffee. I just sat down. I have a 5-week-old and I’m exhausted. And I’ll be honest, I feel relieved that she’s left the room and it’s quiet again. So I make a bad choice and I let it go.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” you may be tempted to say. “You just had a baby.” “It’s not that important.” “You get it right most of the time, this time doesn’t really matter that much.” I have plenty of excuses to make myself feel better about my lackadaisical parenting moments. But then I read this quote.
The most important reason we discipline our children is to teach them self-control.
I instantly think of the areas of my life where I struggle. Almost all of them revolve around a lack of self-control. I’m a stress eater, I don’t like cleaning the house when I don’t feel like it, I carve out time to write about Jesus and then sometimes I just watch Netflix instead. And these things, these failures, make me feel yucky. No one enjoys feeling out of control. As adults, we’re mostly aware of these self-control issues we have and that they make our lives worse. Why would I wish that on my children?
I realize that I don’t want my sweet little girls to struggle with this as much as I struggle with this. And of course I can never know exactly who they will be as adults or how precisely my actions during their childhood will change them but what if? Just what if having more consistent discipline really did teach them to have more control over their emotional impulses to make bad choices? What if my giving a timeout the very first time helps one of my girls not to compulsively buy things at Target? I want to give them that future. I want to help them to be more.
The Bible backs this up in many places. Here are just a few:
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Now, we don’t use rods on our children. Instead they get a two-minute timeout by the door, a five-minute timeout in their room or the loss of a privilege depending on the offense. But these are modern day rods and I realize that I’m doing my kids a huge disservice by letting things go; by letting them walk all over me; by letting them get away with making bad choices and not feeling the weight of a consequence.
Discipline is not only an uncomfortable topic to talk about, it’s also just an uncomfortable thing to do. I never really feel like disciplining my kids. I don’t like doing it. It never feels fun or happy. But after reading this quote, I see now that it is my job. It is helpful to them.
It has also been helpful to me. Not only am I much more consistent about disciplining them, but I have surprisingly made progress in my own lack of self-control. I realize that I too need a little more discipline. I need to just suck it up, disregard my feelings and get the job done, whatever that may be.
So ladies, I know you’re tired. I know you don’t want to get up. I know that headache makes you want to let it slide. But the next time you’re thinking about letting your kids run the show, think of their future. Think of them sitting in a living room watching their own children. Give them the gift of self-control. It’s a gift of peace and it will stay with them.
Copyright 2015 Sterling Jaquith
Image Credit: You Can’t Always Get What You Want by Jabiz Raisdana (2014) Flickr, CC
About the Author
Sterling Jay is a Catholic life coach. She is a wife and unschooling mom of 6 young children and lives in Boise, Idaho. She is a co-host of the Made For Greatness podcast. As an adult convert, she loves sharing her passion for the faith. She believes Catholic moms can change the world! Learn more at MadeForGreatness.co. See her books on Amazon!