By the time I asked my five year old daughter for the fourth time to head to the bathroom for her shower, I was beyond exasperated. As it is in most homes at bedtime, there were many things to accomplish all within a few short minutes. That evening, I was trying to clean up dinner, get my young ones on their way to bed and head out the door for a school meeting. In the midst of this another child was asking for homework help, trying to get me to focus on his particular request. All of this created the perfect setting for my daughter to avoid obedience and for me to be reminded of the need for discipline, not just punishment.
Distractions are often the biggest deterrent in creating discipline in your home. Discipline is a lifestyle, not just a response to poor behavior. The distractions that stand in the way of discipline are most often those that draw the attention of the parent, not the child. As I slowly responded to my daughter’s disobedience, I quickly thought through what steps I could have taken to aid her in obedience, rather than set her up for failure.
- Set priorities: What is most important in this situation? Obedience from my daughter, or a clean kitchen?
- Give assistance: What helps my five year old obey? Calling directions from the kitchen or walking with her toward her next task?
- Set an example: How can I avoid prolonged periods of disobedience? Be willing to set aside another task in order to encourage immediate obedience. Be quick to redirect with calm language, rather than waiting for exasperation to set in.
- Have appropriate expectations: Being distracted often means that I forget the difference between an appropriate task for a five year old and a ten year old. Part of being engaged means that I need to be aware of the various stages and not expect my five year old to be able to do tasks that are beyond her ability.
It’s good to remember that not all disobedience happens as a result of a parent’s lack of engagement and discipline, but as parents we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the need for our own responsibility as we look to teach our children what a disciplined life looks like.
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