What You Need to Know Before You Discipline Your Child

My daughter was having a bath. And a snack; strips of purple cabbage in a ceramic measuring cup, sitting at the edge of the bath.

We were chatting when she excitedly told me to “watch this trick” but as she contorted into position in the bath, her foot hit the edge with the measuring cup and sent it toppling to the ground where it shattered.

“I’m so sorry” she gasped.

“I know, it’s okay, are you okay? I’ll get something to clear it so we don’t cut our feet”

“You loved that, I’m sorry”

And it’s true, I did. But I love her more.

Mistakes happen.

Things break. Things stain. Things are lost.

When one chooses to chastise and punish in these moments, they hope to communicate something like “take care of your things”. It is a way of letting the child know that something is important or that the money it will take to resolve the situation is inconvenient; that they need to be more mindful.

But what is it actually communicating when we protect our things and our money at the expense of our child?

Discipline hurts. It is intended to do so, so that one would desire to avoid it in the future. It hurts to be yelled at, it hurts to be isolated, it hurts to be hit, it hurts to lose something important to us. It hurts to be hurt by the people in our life who we are closest too, who we depend on, who are intended to love and care for us unconditionally.

So when we discipline our child we say that the item in question is more important to protect than you are. This item is so important that you deserve to be hurt.

You deserve to be hurt.

And avoiding that message seems far more important than a dish or the carpet or a toy.

Because if discipline even happens to prevent misuse of property (which from my personal experience as somebody who had a standing appointment at detention for misplacing my hat; I do not believe it does), shouldn’t we ask why? The child would not be attempting to be more careful because they see how we value things and wish to respect that. They’d be attempting to avoid hurt. They wouldn’t be thinking of others in any way because they would feel compelled to protect themselves; understanding clearly that the parent has no interest in doing so.

I’ve cracked my phone screen. Multiple times. I’ve also dropped it in water. Multiple times.

Nobody yelled. Nobody restricted my access. Nobody said I would need to earn the money before it could be repaired. Nobody withdrew affection. Nobody isolated me.

I researched phone cases and invested in one that would protect the phone from drops and water.

And the next time my daughter was taking a snack into a situation that could involve movement, she put it in a stainless steel bowl.

Mistakes happen. Discipline would be another one.

How can you ever hope to inspire your child to prioritise people if you don’t?

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  1. I agree with your post. We are trying to move our family toward respectful parenting. Although it can be hard at times to do our conditioning. I have been doing a bit of research on this subject. I find it interesting that discipline came from the word disciple which was someone who was to lead as an example, not be punitive and punish. But we have changed the meaning of the word through the ages. It is interesting how one or two little changes escalate. Thank you for your blog. It and others like it are helping us to see a better way.

  2. this is the best. I so needed to read this today and be reminded of this approach to life. I often hear my little humans saying its okay though mum isn’t it, its no biggy …so I know for the most part they get this message, but I still question myself all the time if I stuffed up big time or not ! Thank you for sharing. I shall be reminded again and want to read this every day!

  3. I wouldn’t think of punishing a child for an accident. My issue is when my child does something deliberate that I’ve asked him not to do. An example would be to kick me. Or to go in my closet and pull down all of my shoes and clothes. How do you help a child to change bad behavior?

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