By Sarah Wood
I had just asked her to stop jumping off the couch.
But she “was a horsey,” she said. And she “was trying to jump off the cliff like Spirit does.”
“Absolutely not,” I said. And I continued to stir the pasta for dinner.
And then....my spunky 4 year old did it.
She leapt down from the couch cushion onto the floor.
Oh. No. She. Didn’t.
But, yep. She did.
I had two choices.
I mean, she didn’t exactly JUMP off the couch. She kind of leapt down. So, should I even address it? But at the same time, I DID say no. And she went ahead and deliberately did it anyway!
As a parent of young ones, discipline and boundary setting is foreign land. We know what our parents did when raising us and while we may grab a few great ideas from them, we are walking on new ground.
Where do we even start?
Yes, it can be a little overwhelming, but definitely don’t allow fear or exhaustion to keep you from creating a plan. Our kids are secure in their surroundings and relationships when we train them. Discipline isn’t the opposite of loving them, it is the fulfillment of loving them well. Our kids were given to us, and we are asked by God to raise them in love and admonition of the Lord. They learn to love and respect God when they first learn to love and respect us and others.
So what do we do?
We pray and ask God for wisdom. I encourage you to seek out books, speak to a spouse if you’re married, and get a plan together that is tailor made for your child.
For a brief jumpstart, I wanted to share a few little mom-hacks to disciplining little ones that have helped me along the way.
We say: “We obey the first time.”
Know it’s a heart issue. I said to do something (or to not do it) and if my kids chose the opposite, than there is no sugar coating it, they have disobeyed. Making a mistake and inconveniencing you as parents ( ex: pulling out every toy in their room looking for a doll), is not disobedience. Throwing a ball in the house when we said no, is.
Then have a set of consequences for disobeying. Books are super helpful with creating these, but some of our personal favorites are, cleaning baseboards, having an older child write sentences, or losing a privilege. We tell our child once. Anything after that gets a consequence. When the consequence is over, so is the offense! We move on and don’t bring it up again.
We say: “God gave Mommy and Daddy to you to keep you safe.”
“That’s that. We have decided and we aren’t changing it.”
Determine what is okay in your home and what isn’t...and stick to it. There are absolutes which should always be implemented. No name calling, lying, disrespecting words, or physically harming others. Breaking these boundaries get a consequence.
There will be some “grey issues” that you will determine are or aren’t okay. Screen time only after chores are done? Basketball/nerf guns in the house? Up to you! But make sure you tell your kids the expectations and it is clear. (Sidenote: We’re more on the wild side and we play nerf wars in the HOUSE! Ha!)
We say: “It’s okay if you don’t know, I’ll show you.”
“Clean your room!” For a young child this is vague and confusing. It can be overwhelming too. A few options. “Susie, your books need to be on the shelves, and your dolls in the basket.” Show them how to do what you ask them.
We say: “I see you are upset. Are you feeling _____?”
This is the one area of discipline that is going to be the most challenging of all. Sometimes young kids will “act up” due to stress, sleepiness, or even hunger (anyone else besides me get hangry?)
We have found that disciplining a child at 10 o’clock at night after a long day isn’t going to help anyone. We give our tired kids some grace on those occasional times when things come up. Sometimes they just need sleep, food, or a hug. And almost all of the time they don’t even know what they need. You can help younger children to identify their feelings to fix their problem.
To wrap it all up, we love.
We hug them tight and affirm their purpose. They are smart, kind, brave, and so loved, and we tell them that. We forgive. And then we don’t bring up their short-comings again.
Make no mistake, friends, I’m not an expert. I’m just another mama with some little tips that have worked for her crew! Motherhood is a stretch in patience and gentleness. And together, while exchanging tips and wisdom, I have faith we can collectively raise our children in a loving, safe, and secure environment. With God with us, we got this, ladies.
Sarah is a Florida girl living minutes from the ocean. She loves Jesus, local, delicious foodie joints, and embarking on little adventures with her crew. She is a wife to Sam, and a mommy to three awesome kiddos. She spends her days pouring into her church, sipping coffee, reading, jogging (she likes to think of it as running), and finding time to escape to the beach. She is honored to be a part of this life-giving community!Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!