Strong Hand of Love

26 July 2020

3.8 MINS

This week was an important week for one of my granddaughters. It was her seventh birthday. Her mum took her, and her sisters, horse-riding for a very exciting and fun-filled day.

We got invited to the after-party, and it was of course gallons of fun. This granddaughter has 4 sisters, three older and one younger, so birthday parties are very social occasions and greatly valued.

When we arrived at the after-party, one of my sons was there with his two young boys, but his seven-year-old daughter was nowhere to be seen. His daughter has a close relationship with her cousin, and would not miss the fun of a birthday party for the world. Furthermore, she is already seven, which makes her an even better friend of the birthday girl.

My first words were, “Where is your daughter?”. He informed me, “She has been quite naughty today and her mother told her, that as punishment, she could not attend her cousin’s birthday party”.

To be honest, I was quite shocked, and I could see that even her Dad shared her grief at not being able to attend her cousin’s birthday party.

Chatting to her mother later, I verified that indeed her daughter had crossed the line of good behaviour. This act of rebellion by her daughter was very serious and needed a strong statement from her as a mother that such behaviour was not to be tolerated.

I might add that her daughter has a very strong personality and at times can be quite a handful. I knew this and congratulated my daughter-in-law on her courage to draw a line in the sand for such wilful disobedience. (Thankfully this strong discipline worked, and there is a noticeable improvement in her behaviour).

I would call this the ‘strong hand of love’. Our children need us as parents to provide boundaries, within which they can operate freely, within reason. There are some lines that cannot be crossed, and we as Dads need to find that line. We then need to make a joint decision with our wives on matters of discipline, and then hold that line no matter what.

On the other side of the coin, we can make too many rules for our children and crush them with over-discipline. Discipline is all about balance. You cannot fight on too many fronts. You must be wise, and you also need to pick your battles.

I remember talking to a friend of mine who was a brigadier in the SAS. He told me that his youngest daughter was very untidy. His wife and he had discussions and agreed that their daughter could be as untidy as she liked in her own room, but this situation would not be tolerated in the rest of the home.

This worked well. His daughter had to live with the consequences of her untidiness in her own personal space, but the rest of the family did not have to put up with her mess. The good news is that he did not put his daughter offside with too much disciplining, and she got tidier as she grew up. It’s called a ‘happy compromise’.

I remember when one of my children had just started to walk. He pulled the chair up to the stove, climbed up on it and was about to put his hand on the red-hot hotplate. I looked at him carefully and told him “No”. He looked up at me with an impudent look, as if to say, “What would you know about hot stoves — I will do what I want to do and I don’t need you to tell me”. He reached further, and as he did, I gave him a whack on his nappy with a loud “NO!”. He promptly began to cry, but I was relieved that he had not received third degree burns requiring a skin graft and a stay in hospital.

Hugs and cuddles saved the day, and then all was well.

Let me get to the point. If you love your children, you will discipline them, when they need it, in the most appropriate way possible.

If a gentle whack on the bottom prevents a stay in hospital and painful skin grafts, then I am all for it. As the former premier of Queensland Peter Beattie once said, “A whack on the bottom never hurt anyone.”

Here are Seven Keys for Effective Discipline for your children.

  1. The most important key is to have unconditional love for your children at all times.
  2. Commit to the long-term, best interests of your children when you make disciplinary decisions.
  3. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t discipline your children for bad things that you yourself do.
  4. Commit to agreed rules and consequences for your children, with your spouse and children. Always agree on the disciplinary process with your wife.
  5. Be fair in the application of discipline and have a united front with your spouse. Consistency is key.
  6. Exercise discipline when you must, in a decisive manner. The old rule is true,
    “When the discipline you exercise hurts you more than your children, it is most likely carried out in the right and appropriate manner”.
  7. In the years to come, your children will be thankful that you gave clear boundaries and helped them understand the realities of consequence.

Talk with your wife about the boundaries you need to set for your children, and agree together on your own family disciplinary procedures. Sometimes love is saying no.

One more thing: if you love your children and actively listen to them and respect them, you will reduce the need for discipline massively, and have a much happier home.

Yours for a Happier Home,
Warwick Marsh

PS: Thanks to all who registered for the early bird Men’s Leadership Summit. What a great response! Bookings are still open until midnight Saturday 1 August 2020.

Why not organise a group of five in your home if your state allows it?

Phone Paul Lassig at 0412 418 498 if you would like to organise an even larger group in your community.

[Photo by Alexander Dummer from Pexels]

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