Disciplining Better When Your Child is Older

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How to Better Discipline an Older Child @ AVirtuousWoman.org ----- Click to learn 5 Ways to Discipline your older child when you need to make a change!

Hello! How was your week? Ours was busy as usual. We spent Wednesday at the ice rink and Hannah, Laura, and I spent the night so she could get some practice in on Thursday morning before we went home. She has a competition coming up at the beginning of April and needs extra practice time. She has four programs she competing in and I think they are really coming along nicely.

This is the first time I’ve tried to choreograph her programs by myself and her coaches were pleased with what we came up with so I’m really excited about it. Next week will be crazy as we spend several days at the rink for practice and then the competition of course!

Anyway, I received this comment on my recent post, How to Discipline Without Spanking and wanted to answer it in a post because I know a lot of moms are probably thinking the same thing.

Q: I have a daughter who is AD/HD. I have found myself confused about discipline. I see myself now not always doing what I say. But, I have tried to understand that she forgets as well. It has been a difficult situation for me with her. Now she is ten and I am tired. I tried it all take away things, talk to her , spank her ect. What can I do now this late in the game?

A: The good news is – it’s never too late to make a change for the better!. I was definitely not as patient a mom when my oldest kids were little, it’s something I learned along the way. There are a lot of things I wish I could go back and do over again. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. We can’t go back and re-do past mistakes.

And just because maybe you’ve made some mistakes – okay, let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as a perfect mom – but that doesn’t mean you’ve ruined your child or that you can’t make changes that will improve things now.  Kids are resilient! So, regardless of when you decide you need to make some changes in how you discipline, it is possible.

How to Better Discipline an Older Child

There are a few things you can do up front.

1. Pray. Ask God to help you make better parenting decisions. Ask Him to help you be more consistent in your discipline as well as any other areas you feel need some work. I was not born with a natural penchant toward patience. Years ago I began praying and asking God to give me a meek and quiet spirit and to help me be more patient with my kids.

God answers prayer!

It’s not like I prayed the prayer once. I had to pray for a patient spirit for a weeks, maybe months, before I felt a real change begin in my heart. I wanted to like my kids.

You know, there’s a difference between loving and liking. Most moms love their kids and would die for them. But do you like hanging out with them? My daughter Laura asks me often, “Mom, is it hard being our mom? Do you get tired of always having to do stuff for us?”

And my answer is always the same, “No it’s not hard being your mom! I love being your mom!”

That’s not to say I’m never tired, but I’ve learned to relax and breathe when I’m feeling tense instead of taking out my personal struggles on my kids. I can’t count the days when I’m exhausted and my kids, all teens now, will say, “Come play a game with us.” or, “Let’s go for a walk.” or “Come watch this movie with us.”

And sometimes I’m tempted to say no. {But I try really hard not to.}

Then I think about how precious it is for them to still want to hang out with me. How could I say no?

2. Have a family meeting. Either with your husband and/or just with your child/dren, sit down and talk about the changes you plan to implement. It’s okay to admit to your child that you feel you’ve made some mistakes and want to do better. I have done this sort of thing for different reasons over the years. You could say something like:

“In the past I haven’t been as consistent as I should have been. So now, some things are going to change. I want to be the best mom I can be, and part of being a mom is making sure that you grow up to be kind, responsible, respectful, and trustworthy. So in order for that to happen these are the changes we’re going to make.”

And then you could list rules and consequences for your child. You could make a chart if want or even use this great “If – Then Chart” from Doorposts.

It’s not fair to your child if you spring new rules on your child. So, make sure your child understands what is expected of her behavior. Once your child understands the expectation and she disobeys a rule, there is no need to yell. All you really need to do is look your child in the eye – make sure your child does not avoid your eyes when you are correcting her as that is disrespectful – and calmly say something like:

“Jennie, remember when we talked about how I expect you to not talk back to me when I ask you to do something? You were rude to me just now. How do you think that makes me feel? How would you feel if I spoke to you like that? The consequence for that kind of behavior is writing 200 sentences. You can sit at the table until the sentences are done.”

There is no reason to raise your voice. If your child gets angry or lashes back at you, you still do not need to raise your voice. Instead, say something like:

“You will not speak to me in a disrespectful tone. You will not get another warning. If you fail to do what I say, you will lose your iPod for one week {or whatever form of punishment you choose}.”

3. Be consistent and think before you speak. I always stress how important it is to be consistent because, well, it’s really really important for parents to be consistent. It’s the #1 thing you can do to make your job easier as a mom and to instill an attitude of respect in your kids. Follow through. Always follow through.

If you say, “Michael, go put your laundry away and please do it neatly.” Later when you check to see that he’s done what you asked and you find that he did not listen, you need to call to your child and say, “Michael, do you remember how I asked you to put your laundry away neatly? Your clothes are not in your drawers. Instead you left them on the bed and some fell off on the floor. You need to fold these clothes and put them away before you do anything else. Right now. I’ll wait.”

Now, you could offer a punishment for something like this, but not everything your child does wrong needs to have a dire consequence attached to it. And yelling something like, “Michael! I told you to put those clothes away! You never listen to me! I get so frustrated with you! Why don’t you listen to me! Why can’t you be a good boy?”

Or worse: “Michael! You are so frustrating! You drive me crazy! You’re a slob!”

Yelling at your kids or showing frequent/ constant frustration with their behavior does not improve your relationship with them. In fact, by yelling and/or belittling your child {even when they are disobedient} or labeling them or suggesting that they are a huge burden to you because they are disobedient can really damage their tender hearts.

Have you ever had someone call you down or yell at you? I know I have. It makes you feel humiliated and even angry or frustrated. It might make you feel hurt or embarrassed.

Yelling is disrespectful.

But even more than yelling, your tone of voice, the way you talk to your child may also be disrespectful. If you ever speak to your child in a hurtful, sarcastic way, you are showing them disrespect. If you yell or fuss at your child in public, it is disrespectful.

So think before you speak. Children deserve to be respected. And a mom who shows respect to her children is teaching her children by example how to be respectful to others, including mom and dad. By not yelling, you’re also teaching your children how to have self-control when they are frustrated or angry.

related: Respect Your Children

4. Understand the difference between disobedience and mistakes. Life happens. Kids make mistakes – and lots of them. Not everything your child does wrong was intentional.

Maybe you’ve asked your child to be careful with a cup of juice. But, if she knocks over her cup by mistake, it’s an accident and not something you should yell at her about. I usually laugh when things like that happen and lovingly quip, “Haha, good one. Go grab a towel.” And smile.

My daughter, who shall remain unnamed, kicked over a quart of black enamel oil based paint on my kitchen floor a few years ago. I still have a BIG black spot in the middle of the floor. I did not yell at her, fuss, or make her feel bad about the mistake. We grabbed kitty litter and poured it over the spill to soak it up… which didn’t work the way I imagined. We still get a good laugh out of that one.

On the other hand, if your three year old picks up her cup of juice and dumps it deliberately on the floor, she’s probably being defiant. I would have her clean up the spot and tell her a very firm, “NO.  You will not dump your juice on the floor. The next time you do that, you will stand in time out.”

And then follow through with it. Remember – be consistent! Mean what you say and say what you mean!

So while you want to be consistent with your children, don’t forget that not only do children deserve respect, they deserve grace. How many mistakes do you make on any given day? Do you expect your children to be perfect? Of course you don’t. So offer grace and lots of it. Offer unconditional love. Show respect. Be consistent. Be patient. And discipline with loving care instead of out of anger.

When you do discipline your child, be sure to let go of any internal frustration and start over fresh when their time out or other consequence is over.

5. Be patient. If you’re working to be consistent after a few years of inconsistency, it’s going to take some work and you may feel like it’s not working. Older kids can understand and reason really well. Talk to your kids every day. Not just about big important stuff, but fun silly stuff too. Talk to them about life, politics, doctrine, YouTube videos, school, history, dreams, and goals. Ask their opinion about stuff. Point out injustices and teach them to be compassionate. Work together. Cook together. Let them know they are a valued part of the family team – needed in more ways than just their presence.

[Tweet “Growing kids who love the Lord, walk in His ways, and respect you takes a lot of nurturing.”]

And be patient. Growing kids who love the Lord, walk in His ways, and respect you takes a lot of nurturing. And out of all that nurturing, you find that when your kids are older, and their problems are much bigger, they will trust you and listen to your advice because you’ve spent time investing in their spirit day in and day out. And you’ll find you’ve built a strong relationship with your child that will last forever.

Do you have any tips you would add? Questions? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. Next time I’ll share some ideas for consequences when your child is disobedient.

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  1. Melissa, This is so helpful for me in dealing with the little ones. I especially like how you separated and broke down the steps from 1 - 5. With God and prayer first then family... Great advise that I will definitly follow, Thank you & Blessings, Theresa
  2. Thank you Melissa! For the mom with the ADHD child, I wish you lots and lots of extra patience; please remember God made her this way, it's not her failing. My autistic daughter has become a very sweet and cooperative person, to the extent that she is *able*. She needs a HUGE amount of time and space alone; if we try to make her do more than she is physically able to tolerate she starts to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and then unpleasant. It's a slow - but incredibly rewarding- process to help your child function better in the world.

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