A Language of Love is A Guide to Discipline

I often get questions about if our routine as a big and busy household is any easier now that the V5 are older. I always must pause and reflect to think about what it was like when our life revolved around 90-minute feeding regimens, or the 3 critical naptimes. It is in these moments that I realize life is speeding by us and while moments can be difficult making the days long, the weeks, months and years feel quite short.

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Our difficulties in previous years revolved around time management, physical safety and growth. While these are still priorities, our focus today is on social and emotional health. I have been reading Dr. Gary Chapman’s book entitled, “The Five Love Languages of Children.” I am a big fan of individualizing the way we love others to best fill their “tanks.” This has been important in our marriage and is becoming more important in our family. I have recognized from the beginning that even though the V5 are a unit; this unit is made of very different parts. Parenting is not one-size-fits-all. A post from Positive Parenting Connection states,

“When parents take into consideration that each child comes into the world with a mind and heart all their own, they can then explore the most effective ways to connect with and guide their child.”

This quite holds so much truth for me. It helps me to realize that not only do I need to individualize the way I love but also the way I teach, guide and discipline each of my children.

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The Love Languages can also shine light upon the best way to discipline, or “the practice of training,” our children in the way we should go. We are not simply trying to modify behaviors, establish good habits and make little “yes” men and women, but we are in the business- as parents- in making good humans with strong and compassionate hearts. I don’t want to stifle my children’s questions and creativity with over-scheduling or take away their voice because I believe my way or ideas are better. I don’t want to raise robots; I want to raise 5 resilient, empathetic, creative adults who are not afraid to work, play, or even combine the two.

I am still investigating my children’s dominant love languages and in doing so I am also experimenting with the most effective way to discipline them. For those less familiar the Five Love Languages include:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Physical Touch
  3. Quality Time
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Gifts

I’m certain all my children enjoy getting gifts, but this doesn’t light their eyes up like a note in their bed-time journals, special time with them on the weekends, or getting to sit on our laps during story time. The more effort I put into loving them in their own way, I find that their trust and respect for my changes. These are two things that I hope to never lose. These languages also help me to prevent hurting their spirit when I need to discipline them.

We have tried several different strategies for discipline and sometimes we believe the lie that they will always be this sassy and disrespectful. In the moment, my frustrations, anger and lack of patience are at a climax but at night when the house is quiet I reflect on what was really going on. Often, I was modeling sass and disrespect seeking to “steam roll” versus redirect. I would love to be a perfect parent but I’m not. I’m an emotional parent who is easily over-whelmed. I also find that when I take away their voice, give them a time-out, or send them to their room that this doesn’t work for everyone. Some of them need this time and space to process; others feel abandoned in their inner turmoil. Finding the time and space to process these encounters is difficult but it is necessary. We know anger is a secondary emotion and underneath hides fear and sadness. We need to take the time to dig deep to help our children resolve these insecurities, fears and emotions.

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Dr. Chapman, in the aforementioned book, states that the most profitable strategies for discipline are to love them through the correction. Start with an expression of their love language, avoid a discipline that is contrary to their love language and end with another expression of love. For example, if a child’s love language is words of affirmation, it would be best to start by identifying that you could see they were really trying to XYZ because you know that they do their best to XYZ. Then, move on to what you observed allowing their voice to clarify. End with more specific comments on their strengths and value. If we use harsh words with a harsh tone this can tear our little ones’ hearts apart who find vitality in others’ words. Another example, is if a child’s love language is physical touch we want to initiate and conclude discipline with endearing touch such as holding their hands, rubbing their back or embracing them.

This also makes so much sense when I read it and write it but is ever-so-hard to put into practice. But like most things practice makes more practice but eventually becomes routine. Thank you for joining me on this 6-year catharsis, I hope it inspires you to hold yours a little closer and love them a little harder.