How to Balance Love and Discipline

And we want to talk to you guys about how do you balance love and discipline. This is a really critical thing to figure out as a dad. And oftentimes, we all kind of come at this fatherhood thing, we tend to be a little bit favoring one or the other. Sometimes you have dads that just are a little bit tilted towards discipline and then they really embrace sort of being strict and creating order in the home. And then you have other dads that are fun and loving and affectionate. And one of the things that … and that that can kind of sort of flow out of this idea that you need to express your individuality primarily in all aspects of your life. And one of the things that you have to embrace, though, as a father is that you have to sort of increase the spectrum on both sides often. You have to become really good at being directive with your kids and you have to become really good at training and disciplining your kids. You have to become very affectionate with your kids, very full of love, be more and more fun.

And what really causes children to really feel at home and fall in love with their dad often is when you, instead of doubling down on one side of the other and being the fun dad or the strict dad, is to just increase both of those poles. To the extent that you do that, you are growing in your fatherhood. Don’t sort of just give into the easy area of, “I’ll just be one or the other,” because we live in a culture so individualistic, we just want to grab people in the workplace and say, “Just do one thing awesome.” We live in a specialization culture and when you bring that into the home, or an individual expression culture, it can be really hard on kids. You’ve got to really push out both poles of, are you able to really be a dad who can train and discipline kids well and a dad who can really show affection and be full of love and connect with the hearts of your kids?

Yeah, and one thing I’ll add, too, that we’re learning with our toddlers, two and four … and two is a little harder; I think it’s more the once they’re three, four, five … but is to empathize. Now, this doesn’t change anything of the rule, but to actually put yourself in their shoes or to understand … I think we’re really big on emotions don’t rule. Emotions aren’t king. Emotions aren’t God. In our culture, sometimes they actually are, so they need to be regulated and dampered. But they are real, and so to let them feel it in a sense, not to let them feel it, go crazy, just let it out, but like, “Hey, I understand why you feel that way,” but still coming through.

And I think of this example of when I was in middle school, I got suspended and expelled and kicked out and blah. That was only one of a chain of events and then got arrested, all those fun years. But so yeah, probably because the dad wasn’t around, so there you go. That’s why you need to listen to the podcast. So yeah, I was just rebellious and all those things. But I remember throughout, the principal, who was more like a father figure and actually was a baseball coach of mine, when he suspended me, he was so tender and gentle and empathetic in it and just gave me this long speech on just he believes in me and all these different things, but he didn’t say, “You’re not suspended.” He said, “So bye. You’re still suspended.”

That stuck with me more than any other punishment I’ve ever had because there was such a level of, “I’m in your corner, I believe in you, but this is the rule. You crossed it.” We got to do as dads and we got to do that … If you can do that for 20 years, you will leave an impression. You will leave such a father-like, God the father-like heart and impression on your kid if you can do that. And it’s hard, because we want to just … I know for me I just want to be quick. I want to be this, I want to be like boom or like you said, or even on the other side, just like it’s whatever. But if you can still enforce, well, tender and gentle.

And then another thing I would add, too, that’s kind of a caveat of that is for us, we’re learning to understand … People have love languages. I almost feel like we’re almost learning our kids’, not love language, but our kids’ just communication language. For Canon, if you kind of are stern and just say, “Hey, this is the way it is,” he’s very like repentant, like, “Oh, I’m sorry. Okay.” But if you kind of push Kinsley on that, you kind of push the gas on those things pretty harsh, it just ratchets really fast. And so for us, I’ve just experimented the last couple of weeks of just, hey, I’m not going to change. Anything I would discipline, I’m not going to change, but I’m going to be very much more like, give her some space for it, to feel it, to talk to me about it, to empathize with it, when I don’t do that with Canon and he’s fine. He’s more black and white. And when I’ve done that with Kinsley, it doesn’t climb that stepping stair of like, “Oh man,” escalation.

And so just, stuff like that, I’m like, you got to … not that you’re being unfair, but I think you also have to understand each kid might be disciplined in some way differently, and that’s actually how you love them because it’s showing you know them and understand them. And that gets back to the bigger point I started with, which is they’ll leave with that when they’re older of, “He understood me and understood how I’m wired, but still wanted the best for me,” not just, “Here’s the hammer, here’s the law,” and God applies the law in the same way to us, right? The law is spirit now and so it’s fluid, but yet it’s still the law, right? Spirit is the new law. Jesus is the new law. So it’s still a law, but it’s fluid and spirit-filled and sensitive to moments. And so, yeah, I think that’s huge.

I love that. I love that story of your coach, that he wanted to make sure that you understood that he understood. One of the things that can infuriate a child more than anything else is if they think what you’re doing is unjust because you just didn’t understand the details, right? Oftentimes they’re learning the wrong thing in that moment. They’re being disciplined oftentimes because they’ve translated in their own head, “Oh, you’re only doing this because you really don’t know the details,” [crosstalk 00:05:38].

Yeah, “If you knew the rest, then I would be off the hook.”

Yeah, yeah. And so I love that technique of just sort of, “Let me tell you … Let’s get the facts completely straight up. I’m about to give you a pretty harsh consequence, but let’s walk through the facts when we both” … and they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s the truth.” You’re like, “Okay, and here’s the consequences for that.”

Yeah, you almost lead them to the water. And sometimes I’ve seen the kids almost, they almost say, “Okay, give me … It’s time.”

That’s right, because they love, just like you and me, and we all do that. We know anytime that we get busted for something as adults, we try to figure out, “Is it really my fault?” We start spinning stories in our heads and our kids do the same thing. And so yeah, seeking first to understand then be understood, really a helpful sort of parenting order, especially if you’re going to level sort of a difficult consequence for your child to absorb. It’s like, make sure that we’re both talking about the same thing, but yeah, continue to think about being that kind of person who doesn’t sort of default to the disciplinarian or the fun and affection, but really push both poles out further so that you can really give your children all the different parts of you to grasp onto.

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