Knowing how and when to dish out consequences can be one of the most challenging parts of being a parent. For me, it tends to become a kind of trial-and-error fiasco. But sometimes there are more errors simply because I don't think through these situations ahead of time and tend to wing it as the issues arise.
Sometimes I end up regretting my decision to be tough. Yet, sometimes I feel I missed an opportunity to help my child grow by letting them get away with the same issue again and again.
So, I hope my own trial-and-errors will help prevent you from having so many of your own!
Consider these 5 indications to help you decide whether to offer some tough love and an important lesson to your child or if you simply need to extend grace with a verbal correction for an honest mistake or childish behavior.
Consider your child's age.
Young children are still learning manners and common sense. They will be childish and loud and curious and absent-minded. These instances do not warrant being tough on your child. You simply need to be consistent and continue to show what is acceptable and what isn't.
But if you have a young child who exhibits physical violence against another child or putting themselves in danger (such as running into the street or taking off their seatbelt on repetitive occasions), these safety issues will require some tough consequences. It's important your child knows how serious you are about requiring obedience in such circumstances. These are non-negotiable issues.
On the other hand, when you have a tween or teen who consistently shirks responsibilities, is late coming home, and has a poor attitude toward your authority, this is a sign some tough love is in order. Especially as children grow into teenagers and young adults, they need to understand their choices have consequences and they need to own up to them. Being consistently late for work will eventually get them fired. Our goal, as parents, is to help them learn that lesson before they leave home.
Is your tween consistently late for school or curfew? Take the car privileges away. As a minor, under your roof, having a car is a privilege. Take away some of the freedom they've been given for a set amount of time to help them learn trust is built. Trust is earned. Teenagers have just a few short years to solidify some very important life lessons before they head out into the world. Time isn't a luxury we have to play with. And sometimes, our children will simply learn best through their own experiences. But I encourage you, while they are still at home under your care, you give it all you got and love them something fierce and tough!
Consider your child's motives.
This here may be your biggest indicator for whether your child needs that tough consequence or a simple, verbal correction. For most first time "offenses", I do not hand out severe consequences.
Often, children are simply exploring and hit upon boundaries they're learning about for the first time. Usually, with a little direction from us, they will correct their course and remember that boundary is there.
This is simply their natural curiosity coming out.The heart of a child is an important indicator to why they may be getting trapped into a crazy cycle of bad choices. Do they need loving attention from you? Or is there a selfish desire inside them which needs to be pried out?
It's important to know your children well in order to know their motives.
Consider the repetitiveness of the action.
How many times has your child made the same bad choice? Once they've continued to make the same bad choice, it's time to correct the issue with some of that tough love. How tough that consequence is still depends upon the "crime" you're dealing with.
A tween who is consistently forgetting chores, despite being reminded, may need to lose a privilege or two in order to help their memory. In making it a tough consequence, it would be a privilege the child particularly loves in order to make the most impact. The consequence should sting.
Consider your own state of mind and motives.
It is vital we check our hearts daily, hourly even, to make sure our own motives are pure. If we are lording our authority over our children as a weapon and calling it "biblical", we are not honoring God or our children.
I have witnessed parents bullying their own children without even realizing it. Our duty is to lovingly guide and correct our children. Sometimes correction is tough, but it is not unloving or disrespectful.
Remember, grace is not a cheap commodity to be thrown around as we allow our children to do what they please. Grace is meant to empower them to turn away from making poor choices which are not honoring to God.
Grace isn't always about letting us "off the hook". Grace can be found, even within the consequences of a bad choice. But we need to recognize which bad choices truly need the consequences required in order to learn and grow.
I've seen many parents who don't like the term "punishment" when it comes to disciplining children, but not all consequences will be natural. Often, verbal correction is simply not enough to create change.
Being tough doesn't mean being disrespectful. Tough love isn't just tough on the child, it's tough on the parent, even though we know it's necessary. Discipline isn't meant to be easy or pleasant. It's meant to help our children grow.