Have you ever gone to bed at the end of a long day filled with dealing with your kids and felt as though overall you had done a terrible job of being a parent? Honestly, this was how I felt most days for a long time as I tried to parent my four children. There were evenings I would collapse into bed convinced I had completely failed as a mom, only to be confronted with the dreaded thought: I have to do this all over again tomorrow.
One of my biggest problems was that from dawn to dusk it seemed all I did was correct my kids. Do this, do that. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Say you’re sorry. Now say it again, and this time like you really mean it. Usually it was only for minor stuff. Sometimes it was for major things. But it was beginning to completely define each day, and increasingly my relationship with each of my kids.
I realized that something had to change, but what? After all, part of my responsibility as a mom who wants the best for her children is to provide them with the discipline they need. But how could I do that without ending up feeling more and more disconnected from them and more and more discontented in our relationship, not to mention realizing that the behavior I was correcting was often only deferred, not changed?
This result – disconnection, discontentment and deferred behavior – is what Dr. Karyn Purvis calls the “3 D’s,” and she suggests that this is the result that often follows from an approach to discipline that puts distance between us and our children, rather than builds connection. I began to realize, with the help of some insightful resources and Godly counsel, that I was looking at and approaching discipline all wrong. Too often I could not see past the misbehavior of my kids. But once I finally took a step back and then a closer look, I realized that discipline is so much more than correction and punishment…and my children are so much more than the sum of their behaviors.
Rightly understood, discipline is training. That’s what Scripture teaches (for example, in Hebrews 12). And, what’s more, this kind of discipline cannot be separated from relationship. After days, weeks and months of constantly correcting the misbehavior of my four young children I had somehow lost sight of this truth.
Knowing that I had to make a change, I began to learn more and more about what it meant to connect with my kids even when I needed to correct them. And as this began to take root, it totally changed my behavior and my kid’s behavior, as well as my outlook on each new day.
This change that I am talking about is a daily process. Some days it is two leaps forward; other days it is one step back. It is certainly a journey, and it is one that we, together as a family, are still traveling each day. But as we do, we have come to measure success very differently than we used to. Now when I deal with misbehavior, I approach it, and my child, very differently. I use strategies that I have learned and practiced over the years. Instead of the “3 D’s” which used to typically characterize times of discipline and correction with my kids, I now find that the “3 C’s” most often characterize my relationship with my kids following times of correction.
The “3 Cs”, also developed by Dr. Purvis, describe a very different outcome at the conclusion of a correcting interaction: the misbehavior is changed (and often times my behavior needs to be changed as well), my child and I are both more content and we are more connected to each other. Using the “3 C’s” as my measure of success means that I know I’m not finished correcting until we (my child and I) have achieved these results.
This wasn’t easy at first and sometimes it still isn’t, but the payoff is huge. There’s simply nothing like correcting your kids and ending it more connected (not less) than you were before the whole incident began.
Even today I’m not always as consistent as I should be, and my kids still have their struggles too. But I’m ok with that. When I lay down at the end of a long day filled with parenting struggles I think to myself that we’re still in training, I know that we are moving in the direction of success. Moment by moment, God graciously allows me to see the change that is needed, in my kids and in myself, and He shows me that, regardless of behavior, contentment and connection are truly possible.
Watch this video to learn more about some specific strategies that can help you “connect while correcting”: