I remember how exhausting yet rewarding the first few months of Micah’s life were. Even though my husband and I were completely and utterly sleep-deprived, there was so much joy that sprang from our hearts every time we looked over at our precious bundle of joy. All he did was eat, sleep, soil his diaper, and do it all over again, but the coos, smiles, and that wonderful baby smell made it all worth it. I suppose it was a much simpler time.
Lately, however, in addition to the eat-sleep-diaper change routine, there has now been a lot of “Micah, no screaming!”, “Micah, no spitting!”, “Micah, no biting!” and the list goes on and on. Of course, there’s still that feeling of overwhelming joy whenever I look at my child, but sometimes, if I’m honest, there’s also at times an overwhelming feeling of “Little boy, I need you to get it together!” In addition to “Lord, thank you for this wonderful gift,” I also find myself praying “Lord, give me patience and wisdom!”
As Micah has grown and has begun to, ahem, express himself more, DJ and I have had to have the discussion about what discipline will look like. Multiple times, in fact. Through the course of our conversations, we have come to realize that a lot of what we envision raising a child to be like has been heavily shaped and influenced by how we were raised. For example, because the primary way in which I was disciplined was by emotional, in-the-heat-of-the-moment spanking, I have a tendency to stray away from the idea of corporal punishment. On the other hand, my husband was disciplined primarily through creative means and verbal correction, with physical discipline used in situations where his father deemed necessary (although, to be fair, his mother did tend to spank out of anger); and when it was used, it was applied only after much discussion, prayer, and after anger from both parties had passed. Thus, he tends to see corporal punishment in a better light than I do.
That being said, after much reading, research, and prayer, we came to the agreement that corporal punishment would be something we try as a last resort. We’ve decided to try other creative and thoughtful ways to provide correction. Our decision was based on the principle of discipleship as the true purpose and meaning of discipline, and that the ultimate goal is to provide correction and guidance, not necessarily punishment. To help in establishing what would require correction, we based our example on Our Example. God only gave us 10 commandments, thus we’re of the mindset that rules should be few, simple, yet consistently enforced.
Now, all of this sounds nice and dandy, but for an 11-month old, it’s pretty much hogwash. So how do we discipline Micah? At this age, developmentally, he requires a lot of distraction, redirection, and physical guidance when he’s doing something he shouldn’t be. For example, when he starts spitting, we’ll say “Micah, no spitting,” and then blow (almost like a silent whistle), which he will repeat in turn. This provides him with an appropriate behavior he can do in place of the inappropriate one. When he screams, we tap his lips to cue him into the part of his body that we want to draw attention to. After saying “No screaming,” we ignore the behavior as not to provide him with the attention he wants, whether that be positive or negative. Most importantly, consistent repetition is key.
Of course, we by no means have it all figured it out, and I question myself daily as to whether or not we’re doing the right thing, but I suppose it’s a start; and I’m 100% sure as Micah grows, we’ll have to readjust.
In the interim, I’d be interested to know how you were disciplined as a child, what did you take from it, and how have you decided to discipline your own children?