Is It Possible to Give Calm, Firm Correction?

Is It Possible to Give Calm, Firm Correction? // jessconnell.com

When our kids disobey us, and especially if they cop an attitude, it’s easy for us to feel out of control… as if we CAN’T harness our own anger amidst such outright defiance.

Good desires, like

  • for our children to learn to obey,
  • for them to make wise decisions,
  • for them to respect us as their God-given authority

can lead us into sin (fits of anger) if we aren’t thinking rightly, and acting in long-term focused self-control, in those high-adrenaline situations.

This video of a police traffic stop mirrors what calm, firm correction looks like as a mother… especially in the 3-5 (or maybe 6) year old ages, when our children are old enough to “fight back” but aren’t yet old enough to be reasonable and contrite. Watch it and see how, despite GREAT disrespect, verbal craziness, and ridiculous behavior, the officer controls himself, and exercises his authority with firmness and a calm demeanor.

WARNING: THE MAN WHO IS PULLED OVER USES A SLEW OF BAD LANGUAGE.  Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such a stream of cussing in such a condensed amount of time. But that is precisely why I find this video helpful as an example (explanation of why, below). PLEASE don’t watch this video if it will offend your conscience to hear bad language.

(Alternatively, you could watch the video but turn the volume down so that you can’t hear the exact words but still get the gist of the attitude of the man who is pulled over.)

Despite the terribly offensive, over-the-top language in the video, I think it’s a marvelous example of calm, long-suffering persevering discipline handed out by a rightful authority, given with good will (and even grace, as he issues a warning rather than giving an infraction for the expired insurance), intended for the long-term good of the recipient.

That’s why I chose, even with the language, to share it here. This police officer is a great example for us as moms.

Our children may, when we discipline them say ridiculous things:

  • I don’t love you.
  • You can’t do this!
  • “No ma’am of course I won’t.”  (actual quote spoken in our home, LOL! — I called this respectful defiance.)
  • But I don’t like spankings!!!
  • No no no no no NOOOOOOO!
  • I don’t LIKE you.
  • Make ridiculous promises,
  • Give all number of excuses,
  • etc.

They may DO ridiculous things:

  • fall on the floor
  • flail around
  • try to hit, kick, bite, punch, hurt us
  • scream, fuss, cry, rage
  • try to run away
  • physically act out– trying to break things, rip paper, knock things over, etc.

Like the pulled-over man in the video, children really can be ridiculous, emphatic, and illogical.

But, like this cop, you really can be CALM and SENSIBLE as you mete out discipline. I believe he’s calm because he recognizes the truth about the situation and doesn’t let the emotions/stress of the moment overwhelm the truth of his position, and the truth about the man who has committed the offense.

It encourages me: You really can persevere and stay calm in the face of nonsense and immaturity. 

As moms, we can remain calm when we:
  • know we’re acting justly
  • recognize that we’re the rightful authority
  • remember that no discipline is pleasant at the time (thus, our child may naturally get angry/out of control– this is not personal, or against YOU, mama; it’s natural)
  • remind ourselves that God is OUR authority and judge and sees everything we’re doing (so we need to be above reproach)
  • are acting in love (long-term benevolent good will– when we have our child’s long-term good as our aim).
What do you think? Is this policeman a helpful example for you as you strive for calm, firm discipline and correction in your home?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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13 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Any advice on consequences for the older kids? I’m having trouble coming up with ones that actually work. For example, when a task is asked of them and they stall/dawdle? Or schoolwork isn’t completed thoroughly? Taking away privileges doesn’t seem to work, adding more work doesn’t either.

    • Valerie says:

      Just this week, I implemented a drastic, instant consequence for my 11 and 9 yr old sons for any minor and major issues; dawdling during school, sloppy/incomplete chores, talking back, rudeness to sibling, etc…
      I asked each of them to get a $10 or $20 bill from their birthday money in their wallet, drove them to a gas station to ask for change in $1 bills, and had them carry them in their pocket everywhere all day. Anytime I would usually use a reminder, warning or threat, I calmly asked for a dollar. They had to earn each one back with 5/10 minutes of helping or extra chores.

      It only took a few days and they are suddenly remembering that Mommy means what she says and are remembering their habits, manners and doing their work much better.

      For long-standing heart issues, this won’t work obviously. We talk, pray, memorize verses, etc. for things like that.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I like Valerie’s idea very much, in that it drives home the “cost” of their choices.

      With older children– say 9/10, and up– I do like the “Love & Logic” approach, as I understand it, which is to take the action/choice they’re making, and find the closest, most natural consequence that can be there… OR to create a natural-ish consequence that is similar to what similar choices in adulthood would yield.

      For us, for example, one of our older sons has lost out on earning extra income from side-jobs (for neighbors/outdoor work/etc) because he was neglecting chores inside the home. This consequence has been painful for him, and is yielding greater diligence in his work, and may — after these many months have passed– lead to him earning back the right of agreeing to take other jobs, once he’s doing them all with diligence.

      For me, the wisdom of Hebrews 12:11 has been a critical piece of discerning how to find appropriate methods of discipline:

      “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

      So for me, appropriate, effective discipline needs those pieces:
      * painful
      * NOT pleasant
      * good training grounds
      * leads to peace & righteousness

      So, often, with older kids here, that looks like getting extra work assigned to you, and losing out on things you want to do.

      Obviously there is also teaching/instruction/training, but (especially with boys), work itself becomes a fertile training ground for lessons. It also — it seems — helps use up some of that testosterone that’s making its way through their bodies, and helps them to use up their energy and strength on tasks that are productive and beneficial for themselves and others.

      So the questions I ask myself, especially in regard to a particular child, is:
      * What would serve as a “painful” discipline in their life?
      * What would work hand-in-hand with my aims for them in training them in the areas where they are deficient (i.e., laziness… extra work and opportunities to learn diligence)?

      Each child is a little different… so for introverts and extroverts, the consequences may radically differ. For a child who wants to be social and make plans/go places, that can be a training ground (i.e., “because you spoke that way to me earlier, you’ve lost the opportunity to visit with your friends after church tonight. You need to stay at my side.”)… but that same thing would be ineffective for the wallflower. For the child who *lives* for the solitude of building legos, being rude to others may mean losing out on that and I might require that they be up, helping out with kitchen duties all afternoon rather than getting that respite of time alone. (i.e., “because you chose to be rude to others, you lost the opportunity to dash off and revel in time alone. I’d like for you to help out in the kitchen and look for opportunities to bless your siblings as we get ready for dinner tonight.”)

      Etc.

      I also am very explicit about instructing them in how to go about changing their thinking as they do the physical task. “While you’re setting the table, I’d like for you to consider how you could have talked differently to him. Come back once you’ve done that and list out 3 ways you could have handled that situation differently.” (Or that sort of thing.) In the same way that I directed their physical choices when they were little (“no slumping and stomping. Chin up and look mommy in the eye.”), NOW I direct/guide their emotional inside things that are happening… helping them to think through their actions differently… choices, attitudes, words. So I try to do that as a mental/emotional focus point, WHILE giving them something physical/specific as a consequence.

      Does that help at all? It’s going to differ so wildly with various children, but for me, I look for — what is painful? and — what provides fertile training ground for the character issue/struggle that particular child is facing (given their action/reason for needing correction).

      Does that help at all to get your mental juices going about the things you’re dealing with?

      • Rachel says:

        Yes, thanks! That’s the direction I’ve been headed in, but somehow both of my Love and Logic tactics backfired, so I’ve been skeptical (a friend told me about, although I am waiting for the book from the library). The guilty party loved the punishment, so I don’t know that it worked! (Dad waking him up at 5 to take the garbage up to the road because he neglected to, and he thought it was so cool to be getting up with Dad!)

        • Jess Connell says:

          I actually haven’t read the book, so if it says namby-pamby around and give lousy consequences then I don’t think that. :)

          But if it basically says, “find the closest-to-logical natural consequence you can find, amp it up a bit if need be to make it more painful, and lay it on the youth in hopes of giving training and correction in an area of weakness,” which is what I (roughly) think it says– then I agree. :)

  2. Emily says:

    Maybe on a similar note… In addition to the calm responses, is there ever a place for a “stern” tone / expression? My husband is pretty big on teaching our little ones to respect his authority … like instill a healthy fear of mom & dad (and consequences). I don’t feel that he is OVERLY harsh but when he corrects one of our sons (1.5 & 4 yrs), he will sometimes get down on their level and give a stern, louder-than-usual “NO”. I don’t think I would categorize it as angry. (Even though I know we have both responded in true anger before!) During the day with them I also find myself sometimes giving a “disapproving look” or a furrowed brow when I’m giving correction or trying to get them to stop doing something. Does that seem out of line? Is there a place for a … I don’t know what to call it… motherly scowl? (ha) Dare I say I’ve even done the finger-point along with it!

    • Jess Connell says:

      I do think sternness can be a gift in the lives of our children.

      Honestly, yesterday I was thinking back to the people in my life who have helped me actually *CHANGE.* To a person, none of them were pushovers… the teachers and mentors I’ve had in my life that actually helped me make REAL changes were firm, and yes, stern…

      A teacher who didn’t give in to me in 3rd grade was the first one who helped me control my out-of-control mouth.
      A percussion instructor in junior high was the one who taught me to have self-control and actually PRACTICE rather than expecting to get better by osmosis.
      A professor in college was so severe with me in one particular conversation where he said, “you threw this together before class. If you were an ‘average’ student, it’d be a fine speech. But you want to go work for Gov. Huckabee? You want to go change the world? You’ll have to do better than this, Jessica.”

      OUCH. Hurt so bad. But was exactly the stern, straight talk I needed.

      Anyway, yes I think especially for those of us with our kids with us all day, they will probably need to experience the breadth of corrective approaches from us over the course of time. It can’t all be hearts and flowers and smiling “affirmation”… some situations call for scowls, points, firm rebukes, stern words, and yes, louder-than-normal emphasis.

      I think developing this sense is one of the ways God refines us and helps US figure out what is and isn’t self-controlled, and what is and isn’t “good for building up,” as we engage with our kids.

      • Emily says:

        Thanks :) I’ve been trying to find the line between giving a disapproving “look” & stern tone because (a) I am personally offended/inconvenienced or (b) to add emphasis to the correction.,.. drawing attention to the seriousness of the issue (if it was particularly serious or dangerous).

  3. Jess Connell says:

    Yeah. Part of this, too, is that when our “mommy radar” is going off (article here: http://jessconnell.com/are-you-ignoring-your-mommy-radar/ ), we are naturally more irritated. We RECOGNIZE that they’re doing something offensive/irritating, etc.

    I think that feeling of irritation/inconvenience is meant to spur us into action so we don’t sit back and let them act in ways that are ultimately not only irritating to us, but negative/unbeneficial for THEM. So I don’t always think it’s wrong for it to start from that place, but that shouldn’t be the place our attitudes REST (if that makes sense). It shouldn’t be all about us, but rather, about doing what is for their long-term good.

    Which sometimes (I think) means we emphasize our teaching with a stern voice or pointed look, to drive a point home.

  1. October 21, 2015

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  3. February 1, 2017

    […] this cop, you really can be CALM and SENSIBLE as you mete out discipline. I believe this police officer remains calm because he recognizes the […]

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