When our kids hurt their siblings, our sense of justice compels us to punish them. But sometimes punishment is not the best way to teach responsibility and wisdom. Check out this story from Jess:
Our 3-year-old son, Chaz was frequently biting and hitting his siblings. I used to respond by raising my voice to him: “Get out of here! Go to your room!” This resulted in a big fight: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I don’t wanna go to my room! AUGHHHHHHHH!!!!”
Now that I’ve learned to respond calmly, it’s like Chaz is a whole new kid. When he bites his siblings, I take a deep breath, get down on his level, and calmly say, “Chaz, it’s important that we make sure other people are safe around us. And when you bite people, that means it’s not safe to be around you. You lose the privilege of being with your sisters for a while until you can make a plan about how to be a safe person again.” And Chaz takes himself to his room! It’s amazing to see the difference that responding calmly and enlisting Chaz in the plan to be safe has made in our family!
Finding a New Way
Often, our desire for “justice” through immediate punishment is actually a selfish desire to feel in control of a difficult situation, and it’s not truly for our child’s benefit. Consider Hebrews 12:10: “They (our parents) disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness.”
With a view for growing our children in God’s holiness, we can settle down and put words to the teaching like Jess did when she calmly said, “It’s important that we make sure other people are safe.” This is how we teach children to be responsible for themselves for the benefit of others, even at a young age!
Apply It Now
After getting to a peaceful, purposeful mindset, try speaking calmly with your child like Jess did:
- “It’s important that ______________.” (What’s your family value that is being disregarded, and why is it important?)
- “When you ____________, it _________.” (Discuss the natural impact of the child’s misbehaviour on themselves and others.)
- “You lose the privilege of ___________ until you can make a plan about __________.” (Calmly state the privilege lost and what the child can do to responsibly reconcile.)