When we discipline our children, we may choose many different ways to drive home a lesson. Maybe they lose a privilege, a toy, a turn to play the game, a fun night out with friends. The possibilities are endless, but there is one absolute:
Our love can never be at stake.
“Of course not,” you think. “My love is never at stake…in fact, I discipline my children BECAUSE I love them.” Duh.
But you might be surprised at how punishment is perceived. When we give them a consequence for their wrongdoing, what does our body language say? Are we facing them, smiling, loving and affectionate afterwards? When we have finished meeting out the punishment, are we loving and including them in conversation, affection and our plans for the evening if we had to “cancel” theirs? (Think about it, you took away their night out with friends, but you be the fun unexpected date instead…order pizza and a movie at home…use it as an opportunity to show them love and favor in spite of their actions!)
Most times when I have witnessed a parent issuing a punishment, it really doesn’t matter at all to me what they choose or even if they choose to deal with the challenge at all. What boils my buttons is if I see them emotionally cut off their child afterwards. No love and smiles. No affectionate “you are forgiven and wonderful” look in the parent’s eyes. No hand-holding. It’s as if the action the child did was wrong, dealt with by the parents, and now the child must indefinitely pay until the parent moves on emotionally. THIS MUST NOT BE SO. If you do this, your child is getting the message that when they do not behave, your love is at risk. You are emotionally manipulating them, which is tantamount to abuse.
That’s not to say that after a serious act of defiance or disrespect, it may not take a bit for you to get over it. Your child commits some MAJOR offense that takes your breath away (I’m talking steals the car, not smacks a sister) and you may need to tell them that this one may take a bit for you to get over…you love them to pieces but this is a biggie…(hyperbole folks…look it up!). I am not asking you to FAKE happiness after a discipline session, I am telling you to EMIT love. Smile looking into their eyes and tell that child you love them to the depths of their being and there is nothing that will ever change that. Do it to your two year old, do it to your 20 year old. They need to know that your love is never on the line, never conditional, never at stake when they screw up– NEVER CHANGES. Love on them no matter what when they are tiny, no matter how embarrassing that tantrum was. Love on them openly and without reserve especially after a humiliating fit in the middle of the mall, and when they are 17 and do something incredibly stupid, you’ll be the first phone call they make. They will know you will love them regardless, and they will trust you because of it.
“Love NEVER fails.” 1 Corinthians 13