How to be on our Kids’ Team when Disciplining, and not Against them

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Kindness illuminates from my daughter, but lately I’ve noticed her telling subtle lies about minute things. For example, I asked if she washed her hands before snack and she said yes, when she hadn’t. Of all things to lie about, it seemed so silly, but it was still a lie.

I know how quickly a tiny molehill can transform into an enormous mountain, so I gave my daughter a few consequences. After being sent to her room and missing a video, she wasn’t affected. She came downstairs eagerly anticipating the ice cream sundae she had planned on having for days. The way to this child’s heart is through food so when I broke the news that she wouldn’t have it, she was crushed and stomped upstairs. I knew I had finally picked the right consequence! I told my daughter to come down when she was ready.

Later when she crept downstairs with tear-swollen eyes, I empathized. I remember author and counselor John Townsend saying that it’s important we empathize with our children so their choice at the time becomes the bad guy and not us, so I did just that.

I told my daughter I was sad for her that she couldn’t enjoy her ice cream because of the choice she made. I didn’t rub it in, but I let her know I had been really excited for her to get that. But that I knew she would be telling the truth in the small and big things for now on, and would probably earn her ice cream another day.

At first my daughter was angry when I shared the consequence, but when I expressed empathy, her defenses softened. When I rubbed her back and said, “This stinks, but I know you’ll make a better choice next time,” she softened up, and curled into my arms with sadness instead of anger. Even though this was a tiny moment, I got to walk through it with her, on her side. I felt even closer to my daughter after that entire escapade, and two weeks later, she has been focused on telling the truth in the big and small things.

As we make the choice the issue, not us, and genuinely empathize, their anger will diffuse and our connection will deepen. Our children will realize that they are responsible for their own choices and can’t blame them on anyone else.

I know we will all continue to have battles, low points, and triumphs, but if we stay on our children’s team, mourning alongside them during their disappointments and celebrating their successes, our relationships will strengthen and reach new heights.


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