Parenting through conflict

This past Sunday we started a new high school small group series on conflict called Battlefield. Living with teenagers, there is bound to be conflict, so how do you approach that conflict as a parent? Check out this helpful tip from youth ministry veteran & parent from Saddleback Church, Doug Fields.

Think about this

As obvious as this might sound, I’m always amazed to hear of a parent who grounded his daughter for a month because she forgot to set the table for dinner, once. When kids cross the boundaries for behavior that you have set with them, it’s not unusual for parents to feel any number of emotions from disappointment and sadness to anger. However, parental overreaction can often come hand-in-hand with these emotions. The wise parent will do their best not to let these feelings lead to dishing out unreasonable consequences. The win here is to keep your cool and to correct the behavior and still salvage the spirit of your son or daughter at the same time.

When it comes to effective discipline, the rule, “let the punishment fit the crime” definitely applies! For example, a missed homework assignment might be grounds for a night without television; coming home four hours past curfew should warrant a more serious consequence.

Let me share some practical ideas for keeping your cool and not overreacting when it comes time to enact consequences with your kid.

Check Your Feelings

When you start feeling stressed with your kids’ behavior, a simple acrostic can remind you to pause and gain some perspective. I’ve used it before and I suggest you try it too: H.A.L.T. It stands for...

Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

If you notice that any of these are present in your life, you’re much more likely to overreact when it comes to discipline, so you’ll need to pause and reflect – maybe even postpone your response to the situation – until you’ve had time to sort it all out. As a side note, those same four letters may explain your son or daughter’s behavior as well.

Discipline Calmly

When you’re upset, you’re in no shape to dish out effective discipline. You can attack the behavior, but you should never attack the person. You will need to choose your words carefully, because they can either build up or destroy your son or daughter.

Discipline with Consistency

Effective discipline is all about consistency, but consistency is not a matter of grounding your kid until he or she turns 18. You can’t consistently enforce such an outrageous consequence. Rather it’s a matter of establishing clear boundaries and predictable consequences so our developing sons and daughters know what to expect.

Empathize

Empathy is more valuable than you would ever imagine in keeping yourself under control when you must discipline. Part of building character in our children’s lives has to do with our own demeanor when we discipline. We must recognize that our kids have feelings and we need to demonstrate respect for them—even when enforcing consequences. That may mean we say, “Missing that party you were looking forward to must be disappointing to you. It’s disappointing to me as well. Next time, I’m sure you’ll make a better choice.” 

Try This

As parents, there’s sometimes an unspoken pressure to determine and deliver consequences immediately, but sometimes the best thing we can do is take a step back from the situation and plan for what’s going to happen next.

The next time your son or daughter breaks the rules, try giving yourself a time out. Say something like this,
“Wow. I really didn’t expect for us to be in this situation. Because it isn’t something I was planning for, I don’t know the consequences right now. I’m going to need some time to think about it.”

Then, give yourself an hour or a day to come up with a plan instead of disciplining on the spot. You can use this time to...

  • Calm down. Use this time to check your own condition. Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired?Wait until those things have passed before making a decision about consequences.

  • Gather more facts about the situation and your kid’s motives. You may discover there as more to the situation than you first realized.

  • Ask for outside voices. Talk to some parents with children older than yours and ask how they would’ve handled the same situation.

  • Discipline creatively. Sometimes stepping away gives you the time to come up with a consequence that mends the situation instead of just punishing. If a student is disrespectful, maybe the consequence should be doing something nice for that parent (on his/her own time and money) this weekend instead of just grounding them for the weekend.

    When you shake off the pressure of feeling like you have to respond right now, you create space to discipline more effectively and in a way that protects the relationship with your kid.