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Moms Talk: Discipline Doesn't Mean I Don't Love You

Last week, readers gave great advice about dealing with bullying. This week, Mom's Council member, Marsha Hays, deals with how to discipline her son while still showing she loves him.

I leave for work before my youngest son catches the bus for school. His only responsibilities are to ensure he doesn't miss the bus, that the dogs are inside, and he locks the door as he leaves.

Until recently, he was the last to leave and the first to get home every day. But now that the school musical is over, my older two are home before my youngest. A few weeks agoI received a frantic phone call from my 17-year-old daughter. She got home around 2:30 p.m. and find our two dogs running around the unfenced yard, and the front door was unlocked.

Turns out my youngest had lost his key about a month or so ago and just didn't lock the house because he wouldn't be able to get back inside. I was livid! I made him spend his own money to make another key to the house, and he had extra chores to do as a punishment for his irresponsibility.

I have always placed an emphasis on my kids doing their absolute best, no matter the circumstances. This includes everything from doing their chores to their schoolwork. So, before Christmas, when this same child's grades started slipping, we sat down and had a talk about what was going on to cause his grades in two classes to drop from A's to one D and one F.

What I got from him was a lot of "I'm sorry," and "I'll fix it," and a few old-fashioned alligator tears. I told him he was grounded from the Internet until his grades came back up. When I checked his school's grades website I discovered that the drop in grades was due entirely to missing assignments. This prompted yet another discussion about responsibility. Although he seemed to listen and promised to change, I was skeptical.

Fast forward to midterm progress reports last month. The grades in these two classes were still much lower than grades he has received in the past. Again, there was a discussion. This time, it much more one-sided. His grounding was extended to include computers in general and all gaming systems.

That same week, my daughter came home to find the dogs outside again. I took the cable television out of his room, and told my son that if he was going to act like a little kid, I would have treat him like one, and he would have to be at his grandparents' house before and after school so someone could babysit him.

I get so mad at him over this lack of respect and responsibility that I am afraid he doesn't understand that I still love him more than life itself.

My question is this:  How can I continue to discipline my children to teach them responsibility while still expressing how much I love them?

Candace Jarrett March 15, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Marsha, I think this is a very good topic. I believe it's extremely important to discipline a child. Many children whose parents don't misbehave because they are looking for someone to show that they care what they do. We've all seen what happens when parents don't. It's all over the news each night. I, like you, believe that at that age taking things can be an effective form. But I also think added chores can be effective. I worry at a younger age about the love component, but I think at your son's age he gets it.
Helena Hewlett March 15, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Marsha, it is defnitely a challenge. I really think that by disciplining our children, we are in fact showing them that we love them. Disciplining them shows them that we care about their well-being, and want what is best for them (even if they might not see that). I feel that it's important to express that love to them during every step of the discipline process. For instance, with my son, if I have to discipline him I always explain that what he is doing is unsafe or could hurt him. After his time out, etc., I always tell him that I love him and give him a hug. But your son is older. I think Candace is right, that he probably understands at his age. He may be rebelling in some way, and this is not your fault. I would say consistency is the key in this instance. Have you spoken with his teachers to try to get to the bottom of the problem with his grades? I wonder if they have any observations. That might be helpful. Good luck, and keep on loving him just like you are! You're being a great mama :)
Marsha Hays March 15, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Candace and Helena, I think that deep down he does understand, but on the surface, where he only reacts, not thinks things through, he doesn't always see why I do the things I do. Since he is my third one through this school, I have a really good relationship with his teachers, and that has helped. I know he is angry at his father (he has told me) for things that are beyond our control. He can't deal with these issues at the source, so he may be projecting those emotions at the only authority figure at home. I have heard from all of my kids at one time or another the phrase "you're not my friend". My answer is always, "no I'm not your friend, I love you too much for that. I am your Mom, and that goes much deeper. I will tell you what you need to hear, not what you WANT to hear. I will correct you when you are wrong, and I will hold you accountable for your words and actions. You won't always love me as you grow up, but you WILL show me respect." I appreciate your feedback!
Marsha Hays March 18, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Two weeks ago, I set up a group conference with Shane’s teachers and counselor. They spend an hour a day with him in a controlled setting and I needed feedback from them. They see a side of Shane that I rarely do. One mentioned physically separating him from a specific distraction in class. Another said she had never noticed, but now that it we mentioned it, this was definitely an issue in her class! We are helping him focus on due dates, and ways to remember them. We discussed how to reinforce good behavior. I love the book The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Shane’s primary love language is “words of affirmation.” This means that more than anything, what he needs to know that we care is to HEAR the words - especially when he is doing something right, while remembering that harsh tones and words have a greater impact on him than they can have on other kids. I am happy to report that Shane’s behavior has dramatically improved! I emailed his teachers today and got back “his focus/desire to do better seems to be improving. Shane also seems to be happier” from one, and “definite improvement” and he is “more open in writing club” from another. We are still working on remembering to do chores and clean his room, but his attitude has changed. He no longer lashes out verbally when he gets angry. He seems more content also. I know this is far from over, but I think we are headed in the right direction again! Thanks again for your input!

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