Parenting Principles that Transformed my Life…Discipline is an Act of Love

A few weeks ago, I started a new series on parenting principles based on several parenting books I read over the summer (plus my own parenting experience so far). The first principle in the series was speaking positively about our children, affirming them while avoiding harmful and destructive criticism. Today, we move on to the second principle.

Parenting Principle Number Two: Discipline is an Expression of love

  • Do we really need to discipline our kids? This is a tough one! Some days, it’s so much easier to just let the kids behave however they want. But I have to remind myself that this is not true love. While it may be easier in the moment to not discipline my child, this is not in their best interests in the long term.
  • What are some strategies for disciplining kids? Each parent will have their own strategy and values regarding discipline but what I have found works well for our family is outlined in Brittany Ann’s book “Teach Your Children How to Behave”. The basic concept is teaching your children how to make the right choice rather than simply ordering them to “do” or “not do” something.  We as the parents then follow through with consistent consequences if they make the wrong choice. I am seeing the value of teaching my kids this from an early age.

Disciplining children is tough! It can make us feel like mean parents (yes, I have been called “mean mummy!”) and it can be tempting to take the easy route. As difficult and emotionally wrenching as it can be to discipline our kids, it is worth it for the long term character building of our children and demonstrates how deeply we love them!

 

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Living a Life of Purpose and Vision

I read an inspiring blog post last week on the importance of the vision we have for our lives. What really motivated me about this post was the challenge to focus on and apply your vision on a daily basis.

Most of us have goals in mind. Some of them may require months if not years of effort to achieve. But what do we do in the mean time? How do we tackle life on a day-to-day basis? Our vision is not just limited to that goal we want to achieve at some point in the future. It is a daily experience that can help us to keep our focus and to live more fulfilled, purposeful lives.

This post asks us to consider three words that describe your vision. I had a hard time narrowing it down to just three words so I decided to come up with 3 concepts that encompass my vision for how I want to live my daily life. Try this exercise for yourself and see what words you come up with, particularly if you are grappling with a lack of direction or purpose at this present moment:

  1. Positive Attitude and Gratitude: On a daily basis, I am aiming to focus on the positive side of my circumstances and to reflect on a few things that I am grateful for. Today, it was simply the beautiful, crisp, fresh snow that I woke up to in the morning. It was breathtaking.  As I folded my children’s laundry, I looked at my son’s bright red Cars T-shirt and my daughter’s favorite rabbit shirt and contemplated the gift of having two beautiful children in my life.
  2. Excellence, Discipline and Perseverance: In my current stage of life, my main focus is child-rearing and family life. Having had a professional career prior to this, there are days when dishes and laundry can seem mundane. Does it really matter if I try to keep the kitchen tidy? Who’s going to notice anyway? I’m realizing though that it’s not so much about the tidiness level as to the heart behind it and the effort put in. If I keep in the habit of giving every task I undertake my very best (no matter how menial it may seem), I am training myself to give my best in all areas of my life, including my future goals. This requires discipline and perseverance. There are days it is difficult and I fall short. But I have to get back up and try my best, no matter what the task is.
  3. God and Faith: I grew up in a Christian environment and culture in Africa so faith is an important part of who I am. I find that daily devotions and quiet time to sing, pray, read and reflect are nourishing to my soul and remind me that I am not facing life on my own strength but with One who is greater than I am.

I found this exercise in defining ‘daily vision’ quite enlightening because it helped me to identify a general approach to life which can be applied to any future goal, be it living a more healthy lifestyle, starting a new project or simply dealing with the daily stresses and hassles of life.

Once you have identified your vision, the next exercise is to think about how people feel when they spend time with you. What impact do you want to have on their lives? I will share what I personally came up with in a subsequent post. Thank you for reading and I hope you are that much closer to thinking about how you want to experience your daily life!

(Thank you to Dax Murphy for his motivational post that inspired me to write this!)

Forgiveness Includes Forgiving Yourself

It can be so hard to forgive yourself when you make a mistake that hurts others, particularly those you love. This week was a lesson for me in the art of forgiving myself for not being the perfect mother I envisioned. Of course, I know deep down I cannot be the perfect ‘anything’. But given the weight of responsibility of being a mother, I figured I had better get this right. Two other little humans are depending on me for direction and to be the best example I can be.

Motherhood has been one of the most challenging, heart-wrenching, and tear-inducing experiences I have been through…and yet one of the most wonderful, joyful and rewarding. My children simultaneously bring out the best and the worst in me. Through seeing my own weaknesses daily, I am finding it easier to be more gracious towards others, because I know I sorely need grace myself.

Back to this week’s motherhood challenge. My son went through a difficult ‘terrible twos’ phase two years ago. This was to be expected at this age and with consistent discipline in the form of time-outs, his behavior improved significantly by age 3. I was then very surprised when at the age of 4, he seemed to embark on a ‘terrible fours’ phase (does such a thing exist?)

None of the usual discipline was working. Time-outs were ineffective and seemed to make my son very angry and upset. He seemed like a completely different child and I felt ineffective and helpless. This week we reached the zenith of the difficult behavior. Coupled with the stress of unexpected repairs to our house, I was hardly the in-control mother I hoped to be. I lost my temper, became very angry and said things I shouldn’t have. I felt like a different person.

I talked things over with my husband and we decided we needed to adapt our discipline methods. What had worked before was not very effective now. We decided to implement an approach of positive reinforcement. Specifically the behaviors we focused on were:

  • Obedience
  • No whining
  • No rudeness
  • No melt-downs

For each of these 4 behaviors that my son managed to achieve throughout the course of the day (one warning was allowed), he would get a star on his reward chart and a sticker of his choice at the end of the day. We would review how the day went and ask him how he felt it went. The idea is not to suppress his feelings but to teach him how to control them better.

Today was Day 1 of the new approach and it went fantastically! He would still get angry or upset sometimes (which is normal) but he handled it much better. My son likes stickers and reward charts (it worked really well for potty training) so I think this new approach will go well. I don’t expect every day to be perfect but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Parenting can be so difficult sometimes, but I’m reminding myself that I am helping to shape a human being who can then go out and have a positive impact on this world. All the disciplining, the tears, the heartache… will be worth it for the person who will emerge with character.

Today, I forgive myself for making many mistakes as a mother. Tomorrow is a new day with my beautiful family, with my wonderful children who I adore, a new opportunity to treat them with love and respect…no perfection necessary.

Caleb and mummy 2012
My son (when he was  around 9 months old) and I going for a stroll along the boardwalk in Saint Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. Beautiful memories.