Wise: How to Discipline when your Kids are Listening
In the last post, we explored how we need to decide whether our kids are wise, or foolish, before we discipline them. If they are wise, we use words; and, if they are foolish, we use life (consequences).
How do you use words to discipline? Like all sorts of parenting topics, it really depends on the temperament of the kid.
There are kids that “get it” when the parent gives them “the look”. These kids are really easy to parent; but, at the same time, can be really difficult, because they tend to over-react to the slightest hint of criticism. Their sensitivity may be so strong that they go into the fright or freeze mode (these aren’t typically the fight kids). For these kids, it really takes being aware of volume and providing them a sense of security before you share your concerns.
There are other kids who treat the most direct communication as a suggestion, or opinion, rather than a threat. They need you to say it loud, clear, and maybe multiple times before they “get it”. A long introduction, and too much detail, loses them.
Other kids really need a lot of detail, and get distracted by too much “fluffy” stuff. They are eager to learn, and listen; but, really want the facts and things that are observable.
The personalities of both the parent and the child really matter; especially when it comes to communicating and making decisions — both key parts of discipline. At Project Patch, we test all of our kids, and parents, in the personality profile taught by Ministry Insights. It is based on four animal types; lion, beaver, golden retriever, and otter. Each of us is made up of a combination of these animals, and the key is whether we are oriented toward people or tasks; and whether we tend to be slow or fast in our decision-making. For example: “lions” tend to be task-oriented and very fast in decisions. “Otters” are people-driven and are also really fast. “Beavers” are task-oriented and slower decision-makers. “Golden Retrievers” are people-oriented and slower in their decisions. God wired each of us with a combination of these things, and it affects how we like people to communicate with us, and how we like to process things.
Your “lion” kids need you to be quick, to the point, and not become all mushy. They tend to push back, but will respect firmness and bluntness. “Golden Retriever” kids need to feel connected, and process in the sphere of relationships and how we impact others. “Otters” tend to like things a bit more playful, and will typically want to get your point, and then move quickly to something more fun and connected. “Beaver” kids will want to know the facts, be able to do some analysis with you, and then come up with their own strategy.
With all of these kids, you adjust to their need; and, because of that, the discussion is going to look and feel very different for different kids. We have many parents come to Patch focused on the “problem kid” that doesn’t respond like the rest of the family. Many times, the personality test will show that this kid is an “outlier personality” from the rest of the family. They are the “otter” in a pack of “beavers”. They are the “lion” in the pack of “golden retrievers”. It isn’t that the kid is rebellious. Many times, they just need to process things differently.
Wise kids are ready to learn and are open to reality spoken in love. The power-phrase for the parent is: “it seems”, which often will unlock defensiveness and open up discussion. For example, a parent can say: “It seems like you have been really enjoying that computer game more than doing stuff with your friends.” What you mean is: “You are playing games too much, and are isolating yourself from your friends.” But, the “it seems” really seems to help. Kids tend to react in a way that focuses on your observation, rather than arguing.
Once you make the observation, give them some time to respond. Use listening skills, like: nods, “oh”s, questions, and paraphrasing, to keep them talking. The good news is that, during this conversation, they will probably come up with a great plan for moving forward. This great plan leads to self-discipline, which is a lot easier than parent-discipline.
Once they have a plan, wrap things up making sure you understand their plan, and some sort of time-frame for it. If needed, set a time to revisit the plan to see if things are working. It doesn’t need to be some crazy contract, or formality, but it is best not to leave things ambiguous.
Finally, once you have shared your concern, helped explore a solution, and agreed to follow-up, move on. Connect on a different topic, activity, or something else that shows you have confidence in what you both just concluded.
So, in summary:
- Know your kid’s personality, and plan accordingly.
- Lead with an observation, and try to use the words: “it seems”.
- Use your best listening skills.
- Summarize their plan.
- Go on with life.
These are amazing moments of impact as a parent. It may be a bit uncomfortable at first; but the more you do it, the easier it will become for each of you.
Leave a comment on the question below or start a new conversation. We’d love to hear from you.
Question: What are the personalities of your family members? Can you share a “wise” observation-conversation moment that worked for your family?