I’ve been learning two little parenting lessons these last few weeks.
The first one is this: no matter how I discipline my children, the most important thing is how that discipline ends.
I haven’t been finishing well, lately. Oftentimes, my frustration or anger has gotten the best of me, and I was simply satisfied with the consequences for the bad behavior–a lost privilege, being sent to a bedroom. I wasn’t finishing the job. I’m learning that the most effective part of the discipline is how I end it–a calm talk, a restatement of why everything happened in the first place and most importantly an embrace. I’ve noticed how often that last embrace involves a release for my children, a letting go, a starting over. And it usually involves tears–tears asking for forgiveness. And sometimes, I need a little of that forgiveness too when I’ve handled the situation with a little too much anger or impatience or close-mindedness. So I’m doing my best lately to finish discipline and finish well.
The second thing I’m learning is the power of encouragement.
I’m learning this from my grandmother. I’ve never met another person with such an ability to make you feel good about yourself. The simplest act gets overflowing, but sincere praise and appreciation. It makes you want to do special things for her or give your best effort for her because of her heartfelt, grateful reactions. My kids pick up on it, too. They rarely walk through her door with out some piece of artwork to give, or a found feather to share, or an update about kittens and mud puddles. And they get all of her attention, excitement and lots of encouragement.
I’m trying to put more encouragement into my parenting as well. I know my children love to hear kind words and appreciation out of my mouth. And the more I give it, the more opportunities arise to give it. They surprise me with goodness–setting the dinner table without my asking, picking up a few books that are spread across the floor and returning them to the basket, getting undressed and taking dirty clothes to the hamper instead of dropping them where they were removed.
I’m writing this post today because I needed the reminder. These truths have been in the back of my head for the last few weeks, but today I just haven’t dredged up the energy to follow through. I sent Emma to a nap with some unfinished business between us and the encouragement really hasn’t been flowing past these lips today.
That’s why I love naps. It’s the chance to regroup and start fresh. We’ll finish our business, me and Emma and find a little time for good things in there, too. And I think we’ll both feel better in the end.