After twenty-two years of parenting I look back on the times I’ve disciplined my sons and I realized that sometimes I did alright and sometimes I blew it.
It took me a while to realize that I couldn’t discipline our boys the same way because they were so different. I rarely had to do much to discipline our older son. Just telling him that what he did was wrong usually was enough. He felt so bad and was harder on himself than we ever would have been.
My other son, on the other hand, generally needed more serious consequences to correct his errant behavior. When this happened, he’d usually let the entire neighborhood know what awful parents we were for the time-out he was experiencing.
I learned that it was better to not try to discipline when I was angry. That never worked very well.
There was one discipline strategy that seemed to work well in certain situations for both our boys. I call it “I Want My Time Back Discipline.” Our boys, like most kids, would occasionally forget things that they needed for school. Since my schedule was more flexible, they would call me. “Dad, I forgot my lunch, could you bring it to me?” or “Dad, I left my report on the counter, and if I don’t turn it in, I won’t get any points for it.”
My first reaction was, “Well, I guess that you will have to eat a school lunch or go hungry.” Or, “Looks like you are going to get an ‘F’ on this paper. Next time you’ll remember to bring your report.”
And then I’d remember the times I had turned around halfway to my office because I forgot my lunch or my phone. I also remembered how awful I felt as a student when I didn’t have my homework.
I needed to have a little more grace when it comes to these small transgressions. However, I also needed to let my kids know that for me drop what I was doing to bring them something cut into my plans and my day. So I simply kept track of how long it took me to leave work, pick up their report, bring it to school and then drive back to work. Usually I could do it in about 35 minutes.
When my son would arrive home he was both apologetic and grateful. I’d say, “You are welcome. However, I want to you to know that I want my time back. You now owe me 35 minutes of your time for something that I want.” They always assumed that that meant chores.
Honestly, trying to come up with a 35-minute chore was more punishment for me than for them. When I told him that he owed me 35 minutes, it meant he had to give me back my time to do something I wanted to do. Sometimes that meant reading a book together or tossing a baseball in the backyard. It could mean going for a run with me, or watching an episode of a TV show that we both enjoyed. Whatever it was, we did it on my schedule. Now I was cutting into his time. Lesson learned.
I liked this discipline strategy because, not only was it effective, it didn’t leave either of us angry and upset with each other. Most of the time it brought us closer together.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn, Father of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member, Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries