The major discipline tools for all ages are
- Correction (The Boundary)
- Consequences and Restitution
If you have only empathy/compassion without the correction, then you have an empty discipline toolbox indeed. All three parts are needed to have a functioning toolbox to help guide children into becoming healthy adults who can have functioning relationships, families, and jobs of their own.
Children may protest boundaries, but yet it is ours to lovingly hold boundaries until are children can internalize the boundaries and hold them for themselves. Only providing a child with compassion or empathy, and no boundary and no consequence, will not help a child internalize that. Many parents I work with will protest this and wonder why we need boundaries at all, but boundaries are where I end and you begin. Boundaries are what enable healthy relationships; they enable us to be able to take our responsibility for things in life but also to not hold things that are not ours to carry. We can help our children attain this, using all three of these pieces.
If boundaries are difficult for you, then it may be hard to teach it to your children and hard for you to hold boundaries. It may be that nothing short of hurting someone else deserves a boundary. However, there are many tools children need to function in the world that involve more than just not being able to hurt someone, and boundaries are there to help develop these qualities. We want children to know who they are, what they are responsible for, how to intiate and maintain loving relationships. Because in the end, you are not raising this child for yourself. You are raising this child for all of humanity, and for this child’s future family. Sometimes, this means uncomfortable growth for both us and for the child. And that is okay.
Always and ever growing,
This is beautiful. Love the last few lines especially. Wondering, though, if you could add some examples. Always helps me to then put the words into action.
Meg, Please give me an example of a situation and I will tell you the empathy, boundary and restitution! I don’t know how old your children are…
Oh where to begin! Haha! I generally get what your are saying and do practice it, esp empathy and restitution, but sometimes wonder if the boundaries are enough. Like if a 4 yo runs off and hides in store or 6 yo deliberately ignores us when she is called. The ignoring thing is a huge trigger for me.
So I can think of several consequences of running off in a store – now she has to ride in the cart only so you know where she is; she must hold your hand the whole time; she must keep her hand on the cart as you are walking, or she doesn’t get to go to the store at all. The consequence needs to be immediate and relatable to her running off. Any one of those consequences are reasonable and logical. Pick any one or come up with your own that suits your family and the situation.
As far as a six year old ignoring, that one is more difficult. That is when I would actually go to my child and stand in front of them and make them repeat back what I just said. I wouldn’t give a consequence for that one, I would change my own way of speaking to this child and not call them any more. Calling is an ineffective tool for this child where they are.
I hope that helps,
Wow! This is amazing! So concise and spot on. Printing it out now. My husband and I are good about setting boundaries, but we can definitely improve on our expression of compassion/empathy, as well as with consequences. Our daughter is almost seven years old, with sensory issues (including feeding issues), and a digestive disorder. We are so worn out sometimes by caring for her, that I think we forget to actually express our compassion to her. And it can be hard to figure out what consequences are appropriate for a six/seven year old, much less what is specifically appropriate for her as an individual.
Thanks for everything you do!!!
Yes, I think natural consequences are always great – If you aren’t ready on time, we can’t go type of thing. Restitution is always great. This morning my son had to write an apology letter to her sister and scrape hot glue off her door. That is restitution. So I think thinking of what they can do that is right is always more important than what is wrong.
Thanks, Carrie. What would you do when getting ready on time and not going isn’t an option?–such as getting to an appointment on time. Of course, there’s lots of preparing for a day like that, having our rhythm/routine, etc., etc. But when all that fails, and the child is making everything so hard that getting out the door is awful and stressful and you’re late…then what? It’s really hard sometimes to ride the fine line between natural consequences and punishment.
What would you do if your seven year old came inside from playing outside with neighborhood children, and was horribly rude and fussy the rest of the afternoon and evening? (And there’s no logical explanation…child is not overly hungry/tired, the other children are not rude, play nicely, etc.) Is not getting to play with children the next day a natural consequence, or a punishment?
Of course, everything is particular to each family, and this must be so hard to answer for another person. But I’m just curious about your thoughts and ideas.
Yes, I totally think what works for one family and child will not work for another..so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. My pat rule with younger children and neighborhood children was honestly if they were completely rude and fussy, was to say part of playing with friends is being nice at home. So I probably would not allow play the next day and then try again. Part of it may be the length of playtime outside as well – shorter is usually better for a seven year old, which can be hard in a neighborhood setting. To me, this is not a punishment, it is a consequence. Playing with friends doesn’t mean we treat our family horribly. That is just a boundary of living with other people in a family. We are kind to each other whether we play with friends or not.
As far as getting to an appointment, that is a tough one. Some parents I have spoken with let the child get dressed when you arrive (so leave earlier and get dressed there), some parents keep shoes and socks in the car, some remove themselves from the fuss and go sit in the car and wait. I guess if you could tell me what the actual hold-up is, I could give you better options. Many seven year olds really dawdle, so getting yourself ready early so you can be there step by step to get them out the door..if you try to send them off to get dressed or do whatever, chances are they will still be sitting in their PJ’s half an hour later. Some seven year olds will respond to more of a game , ie timing how fast to get dressed and back to the front door, but some will deem that far too babyish.
All good, normal 7 year old problems~
Hope that helps,
Thanks, Carrie! It’s really helpful to have your ideas and perspective.
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