When misbehavior isn't the child's fault

Apr 20, 2021

Here's a parenting head-scratcher:

Have you ever felt guilty giving your kid a consequence because it feels like their behavior isn’t their fault? 

For example, should a toddler be disciplined if they hit and punch, but you know they’re hungry and tired? Or how about a kid who is really disrespectful transitioning back to Mom’s house after a week at Dad’s? What about the teenager whose hormones make them have an angry outburst and slam their door? 

 When my clients are stuck in these kinds of dilemmas, I know that we still have work to do in changing their ideas about discipline.  Most of us were raised to see the point of discipline as punishment - making a child feel badly or even see themselves as bad because of a bad decision they’ve made. 

This is punitive discipline, based on the idea that when someone does bad, they ARE bad, and they have bad intentions. It makes perfect sense that disciplining a child who is misbehaving through ‘no fault of their own’ would feel terrible to a parent who sees discipline this way.  That tired and hungry kiddo doesn’t have bad intentions! That teenager isn’t a bad kid! If you think these kids don’t deserve punishment, I agree with you!

But I don’t believe that discipline is the same as punishment. Fun fact, the word discipline comes from the same root as the word disciple - and this is exactly how I see our role as parents - to teach kids about the world and how it works. 

Giving a child a loving, compassionate consequence for hitting is NOT the same as a punishment, and it’s absolutely appropriate.  This is how we can gently teach our kids that even when we’re tired and hungry, it’s still not okay to hit people, and we can learn other ways to handle big emotions. 

If you are feeling murky about when to consequence, which consequences to give, and how to make sure you’re not giving punishments, I can help.

If you’re ready to see your role with your child in a different light, I’m here for you.  Set up a free Discovery Call and let’s get to work!