A Good Warning When Disciplining Your Children

I just read Jeremy Piere’s post Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting, and absolutely loved it.  I frequently find myself correcting my language in disciplining my four year old son when it sounds like I could be communicating a conditional love.  I know some would say I’m over-reacting and thinking too much, but I’m convinced that how I discipline him now will directly determine how I will discipline him when he’s older… and I’d like to start off right!

I’ve taken to discipline with the moniker, “You know I’ll always love you and nothing could make me love you less, but you need to stop ______ and _______ instead.”  Sure, there have been times when he’s totally taken advantage of that and intentionally disobeyed and then looked at me and said, “But you still love me, right?”

Here’s a gem from the post linked to above, I really want to encourage every parent (regardless of how old your kids are) to read this post:

Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting, by Jeremy Piere

“I love you, but you need to obey.”

Every English-speaking parent has said that phrase at some point or another. It’s our attempt as parents to express commitment to our children even as we require them to obey: “I love you despite anything you do, but you also need to obey what I tell you.” I’d like to take issue, however, with using the conjunction butbetween these phrases. Using but may be communicating something we don’t want to say—namely, that there is some kind of conceptual opposition between “I love you” and “You need to obey.” …

The but has to go. Try so instead. “I love you, so you need to obey.”

This conjunction more effectively communicates the logical relationship between the two concepts. It’s not a relationship of opposition, but of grounding. The reason you are to obey me is because I already love you. This is how parents can be grace-based while insisting on obedience. We should never communicate even a hint of opposition between parental love and children’s obedience.

One thought on “A Good Warning When Disciplining Your Children

  1. Karl February 2, 2012 / 12:53 am

    Doesn’t the “but” indicate the fact that kids should not think that just because their parents love is unconditional, they don’t need to obey? In essence, “but” and what follows it tells kids not to abuse Christian liberty (not under law) and not to presume upon grace (I.e. God can be disregarded because he’ll has to forgive because that’s God’s job). I’ll have to think about “but” vs. “so” but I’m not yet convinced.

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