As we wrap up our blog series on The 4 Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids, I’m struck by the authors’ explanation of developing disciplines with children. The word “discipline” seems like one of those terms that everyone understands, but does not have the same definition.
Before we get into how they describe disciplines, a very important point is first made: “There is no point trying to get a child under the age of five to do hard things or learn hard lessons. Their brains and emotional capacity aren’t ready for that yet.” (p. 98) Yikes. I don’t know about you, but this simple concept was not one I’d ever heard before. As my children are all over the age of five now, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like now had I known this. (And there’s that mom guilt creeping in.)
The second point I see here is, they’re not talking about discipline(s) in the context of correction. My definition of discipline was to correct, and I still struggle with redefining it as the authors do. As they describe it, it is to teach independence while attuning to emotions – especially overwhelm. “The idea behind developing disciplines is to combine the best of both of these approaches [independence and attunement].” (p. 45)
After the age of five, “we want to give our children tasks that stretch them just a little bit.” But the key in this is to be nearby and aware of their overwhelm and help them rest for a bit before continuing. By developing disciplines in this way:
- “It helps us build a healthy relationship.”
- “It equips our children with skills they will need in life.”
- “It expands the child’s world.”
- “It grows the child’s confidence.”
- “It reinforces the child’s identity.”
Perhaps the most important (and difficult) part of this piece is to model how that works in ourselves.
I had an opportunity to connect with Jen in-person recently, and I was sharing with her my struggle to attune well to my children, as it’s something I didn’t receive as a child. At times, I feel like a blind person leading the blind and we’re all bumping into each other. However, as I was sharing that with her, I felt Jesus gently reminding me to notice how far I’d come. And it’s true – a few years ago, overwhelm would send me over the cliff and I would retreat to my room for the rest of the day, isolating myself. Now I can see that I am able to sense my overwhelm, close my eyes, take a deep breath and let those around me know that I am in overwhelm. Do I do that every single time? No. But I no longer retreat and shut down for hours.
The more we are aware of our own relational circuits going offline, the more likely we will be able to pause and rest before going further. This is a way we can model developing disciplines for our children.
Also, if I know that I’m going to enter a situation where my child may struggle, I will first do my best to make sure I am not hungry and/or tired before we go into it. If I’m really thinking, I may even spend a few minutes focusing on some appreciation as well. To the best of my ability, I want to avoid the things that I know will take me relationally offline. This way, I can give my best self to my child and it will be easier for me to attune to them as they navigate their struggle.
I know that I mostly talked about my wrestling with attunement in today’s post, because that’s where I am at. But I would love to hear from you with your thoughts and where you are at as well! Do you struggle with either side of the discipline balance beam? Attunement? Independence? Feel free to share in the comments below.0