Sunday, May 8, 2011

punishment vs correction

There are so many other things I would like to write about on mother's day but this is what is on my mind. I feel like God has been taking us to school in how to train up a child for the last year. If you would've asked me 2 years ago I would've told you I was pretty good at training and correcting my children...not perfect but better than average. I have since learned that I was really good at punishment and control.

My unofficial definition of punishment is anything I do to get an emotional response from my children. Correction is about reaching their heart and helping them master their weak areas. Punishment seems to come easy to me when I feel like I have lost control of my house. I also tend to default to punishment when I am trying to "make" my children feel remorse.

Basically it looks like, you did this to me now I am going to do this to we are even. Punishment could look didn't finish eating so now you can't have dessert (In hopes that they would scream and yell and feel badly for their bad decision. *Man that looks bad in black and white but I'm just being truthful!). Now hang with me because when I correct I sometimes use the same method as when I would punish but with different language and a different heart.

That type of parenting is sometimes effective with healthy, rather compliant kids. It is less effective with strong willed kids and it is recipe for DISASTER with an attachment disorder kid! Enter Gianna...

Let me tell you a secret about all of our kids...we can not control their behavior...we can not control how much or what they eat, we can not control when and where they pee or what they decide to say. Punishment will usually only bring out more of the undesired behavior. BUT there is hope! Correction teaches them that they have the freedom to do the undesired behavior but there is a consequence. Not mean and threatening just matter of fact. I now never ever nag them to eat all of their food, I don't need to they know the consequence. Instead, if they don't eat, I simply take their plate. When dessert time roles around and all their brothers and sisters are getting a treat they will ask..."Where is mine?" (never fails even after 100 times) Then with sincere empathy you say something like "Man, I noticed you weren't hungry anymore because you didn't finish your dinner and that is OK but I wouldn't want to hurt your tummy by giving you dessert when you are full. Maybe tomorrow you will be more hungry." Now walk away. (we will deal with fall out on another post because that is sure to come next!) This method teaches natural consequence and gives them freedom to chose for themselves. You are training their heart to make a good informed decision not training their behavior (an act that won't help them outside your house at all!) I have a million examples of this thanks to Caleb and G! Here is the latest...
It's hard to tell but this WAS the screen in our downstairs bedroom. G in a fit of rage tore apart the screen and then proceeded to chip the wood windowsill. Now... attachment kids don't feel remorse, which makes punishment unsuccessful and painfully frustrating! Punishment would have said she needed to be spanked. Correction (and 2 years of therapy) says "WOW G you were really mad! You must have really wanted to hurt mommy and daddy! Well when you are done cleaning up your mess we will talk about how you can pay for a new window screen. Oh and G? There is nothing in this house that you could destroy that would make us leave you or not love you anymore!"

Does this feel weird? Does it feel like I just let her get away with murder? Absolutely!!! Would any of the other kids get the same response from us if they did this??? Absolutely NOT! You have to know your child's heart. G was exploding because she wanted to prove to us just how bad she was. She wants to see how far she can push before we leave her. She hates the fact that she is not in control because that is a very dangerous place for her. To her adults can't be trusted!

The most important thing is our relationship with her and all of our kids. It is more important than the people at the grocery store thinking I have it all together, more important than the stuff in my house, even more important than my child's happiness in the moment.

I have been thinking of this a lot over the past few years. The way I discipline seems to have a lot to do with my view of God. When I see Him as waiting for me to mess us so He can strike me down, I tend to end up punishing. But as I learn more about the real character of God I realize that He is a good Dad that wants a relationship with me above all else. He wants good for me. Sometimes He uses a real life consequence, sometimes He seems far from me as I rage, sometimes He lets life give me a spank'n, and sometimes He just holds me tight so I can't hurt myself until the anger fades to helpless tears...


The Popes said...

LOVE this post! I'm working on correcting with a loving heart instead of just trying to make Josie feel bad.

I just read Don't Make Me Count To Three and it showed me SO many ways to correct instead of punish. My new goal isn't to scare Josie into doing whatever I say, it's to teach her that JESUS gave us rules to help us in life and THE BIBLE is our guide to life. Not a bunch of stuff Mommy makes up on the fly.

I didn't think she would respond, but when I tell her Scripture behind the rule she totally wants to follow it and even remembers the verses.

Plus I feel better without that, "I totally overreacted" guilt!

Lamb said...

Now, Dec 2014 and I just read your post. Why you might ask over 3 years later.

I am working through the book The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. In today's lesson (Chapter 5) the first question is: How would you describe the differences between punishment and correction?

So I thought about it; wrote out my answer and then decided to look both words up in Google. I also Googled "difference between punishment and correct" and what popped up was about dog training. YIKES! So not what I was looking for; so I added 'in adults' and up popped your blog post.

Very well written and would have been perfect years ago when I was raising my son and step-daughter. Never-the-less it brought clarity and insight into what was in my head; so thank you.

In the palm of His hands,