One of the most exhausting parts of parenting is when we have to discipline our children. I never enjoyed punishing my kids for their bad behavior, but it was something that had to be done, starting when they were very young.
First of all, when I say punish, I don’t mean severe or rough treatment. The reason for “punishment” is to help children understand that there are negative consequences for bad behavior. We are not to use it to vent our anger in any way, shape, or form.
I think most parents understand that disciplining children is part of their job description. But the problem is, after the punishment has been dealt, they feel their discipline duty is finished, when in fact, they’ve only done half the job.
What’s the other half?
PLAY. Punishment should always be followed up with play.
Play can take many forms. It may mean actually playing a game, or it may just mean joking around with your child. It might even be as simple as holding your child on your lap and hugging him.
Play will vary in each situation, but it should never be left out of the punishing process; punishment should always go hand-in-hand with play.
Why is play after punishment so important?
- It shows your child that you are not angry with him, and that’s he’s been forgiven for what he did.
- It communicates unconditional love, no matter what your child did.
- It helps restore a relationship that was momentarily broken when your child exhibited bad behavior.
- It brings laughter back, and laughter is always good for a relationship. It’s medicine to our souls.
Of course, the older your kids get, the harder it will be to do this. After all, I don’t think your teen will feel like going for ice cream with you after you’ve taken his car keys away.
The “play” after punishing an older child may have to take on a more subtle form, and may have to be delayed.
For instance, when my daughter was a high school sophomore, she and a friend were caught sneaking out one night. After we expressed our disappointment–well maybe ANGER is a more accurate word!–we pronounced her grounded until further notice.. She actually accepted her sentencing pretty well because she knew how mad we were and she knew she really messed up.
How did “playing” fit in with that punishment? Well, first of all, it took a little time for us all to calm down, but once we did, we found ways to laugh and joke with her, even about her ridiculous behavior and ensuing punishment. We didn’t dwell on our anger, but instead showered her with love, even while she was incarcerated in our home.
The important thing was that our daughter knew we loved her and were on her side. She didn’t feel that we were harboring disappointment against her, but rather that we believed she’d learned her lesson. And I believe “playing” was part of the reason why.
Unfortunately, disciplining your kids often wears you out and you think you have nothing left to give. You often don’t feel like playing. But that’s where you sometimes have to kick into parental overdrive and take the time and energy to reinforce the punishment process with play. It is a habit that will help your child grow up secure in your love.