6 More Steps to Disciplining Without Anger
Have you ever studied shepherds? You might have heard Jesus called the Good Shepherd, but what does that mean?
For her book Scouting the Divine, Margaret Feinberg spent time with a shepherdess. The shepherdess didn’t lead her sheep by chasing them with a stick and beating their legs. She led with her voice. When she called, they followed.
Did the sheep obey at all times? No. In those cases, the disobedient flock members required discipline. If neglected and undisciplined, the shepherdess told Margaret the sheep would become worthless to the flock, even a danger to everyone. The shepherdess’ goal with discipline was to make the sheep productive members of the flock. (Read Scouting the Divine for more, especially the story of Alano the rebellious ram.)
Sometimes we must discipline–shepherd–our children. A person without discipline is like a wild dog—feral, isolated, and out of balance. So, it is necessary to administer discipline, but the key is to do it without anger.
In part one, I gave seven steps to disciplining without anger. Here are six more steps:
- Take a moment to pray. Before running after your children or reacting in the moment, take a few seconds and ask God for wisdom. It will slow you down and help you react to the situation, not the emotion.
- Be quick to ask for forgiveness when you lose your temper. When you lose it with your children or in front of your children, be quick to admit your errors and apologize. There is something powerful about a parent willing to admit their shortcomings to their children. It models and teaches humility and grace. You will not lose face with them. Rather, it will strengthen your relationship. It shows your hold yourself accountable every bit as much as you do them.
- Remember your desired result. The desired outcome of discipline should be changed behavior, not humiliating the child. Reacting with anger rather than disciplining with love can lead to rebellion and further conflict.
- The child didn’t make you angry. I’ve caught myself saying, “He made me angry” or, “She drives me nuts.” Yes, people and children can be trying, myself included, but blaming another for my own emotional outburst is inexcusable and untrue. Someone told me years ago, “You cannot control how others act, but neither can you blame them for your feelings. You are the only one who has control over your own feelings.”
- Get rid of name calling or other demeaning tactics. This doesn’t belong in parenting.
- Watch your level of stress and busyness. When I am busy, my fuse shortens. I’m not an infinite reservoir of energy. I know that, in some cases, busyness cannot be helped. But my temper and tolerance levels shorten as I increase the amount I take on. One of our therapists with Rachel (our child with autism) made us write out detailed schedules of our time. Then she instructed us to cut out everything extra. Then cut some more. It meant very little volunteering, few, if any, extra projects, no double sports for Eldest, no big commitments, but it also meant we regained peace.
Finally, a note about strong-willed children: As I discussed in part one, a good form of discipline to use with these personality types is natural consequences. They have a high sense of self, a strong sense of justice, and often want to prove to others they can make good decisions on their own. When backed into a corner by nagging and yelling tactics, the SWC is likely to react by digging in their heels. In the SWC mind, if an adult nags and grouches and lectures too much about the issue, they see the situation as a challenge to prove that adult wrong. Yes, the child should be obedient, but they often like choosing to be obedient, not being forced into obedience. Keep this in mind: “You can’t push an ox around a corner, but you can lead him around the world.” For a great resource on raising a strong will child, see You Can’t Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded, by Cynthia Tobias.
I am the Good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
Parenting isn’t easy. Even God, the perfect parent, has trouble with His children. Look to Him in your times of need.
Lord, teach us to parent with grace rather than with anger.