When a child is born, so is a parent. Of course, for parents, no one is there to clean up your messes. And if you’re like me, you’ve made plenty of them. Thankfully, we can learn from our messes and hope our children forgive us for any issues we may have caused along the way.
As parents, our chief task isn’t just about taking care of our children, it’s about coaching future adults. This is why we must understand the distinction between parenting from the outside-in vs. the inside-out. Especially in matters of discipline and correction.
Outside-in parenting is about modifying behavior
If a child misbehaves, the focus is on what they’re doing wrong. This is what most of us do.
Our parenting playbook is filled with words such as, “Stop!”, “Don’t”, or “Don’t make me count to three.” If a child responds, it’s out of fear of what might be done to them. This tactic might work in the short-term, but for long-term results (coaching future adults), we will need to reach much deeper.
This is not to say we shouldn’t stop bad behavior, we should. If your child is throwing a tantrum at the store, by all means, please make them stop. But this kind of parenting is like playing defense. It’s needed, but if that’s the only strategy in your playbook, you’re not going to win too many games.
You also need to learn to play offense. This is where parenting from the inside out comes in.
Inside-out parenting is about healthy motives
Motives come from the heart. And as a parent, this is what we aim for. When your child misbehaves, you should correct them, but don’t stop there. Every wrongdoing is a prime opportunity for you to coach them and get to the heart of the matter.
Children who respond from the inside-out, are motivated because of your love, not to earn your love. Therein lies the key difference.
If a child misbehaves, figure out why they’re acting badly. When we do this, we’re reaching for the root of their misbehavior. That tantrum in the store may have been driven by lack of attention, your inconsistency, or because they’re spoiled and always get what they want. In fact, you might actually be contributing to the issue beneath the issue.
When your child misbehaves, your goal isn’t to shame them, it’s to restore them. Every child is different, and there’s no magic formula, but the following steps have helped guide me in correcting my children. Perhaps they will help you.
In a calm, but firm, manner…
1. Clarify your expectations.
2. Point out what they did wrong.
3. Let them know what the consequences are.
4. Ask them why they misbehaved. Get to the root cause of the behavior.
5. Talk with them about it. Speak directly to the real issue beneath the issue.
6. Let them know that obeying you is one way they can express their love to you and remind them you will love them no matter what.
7. Close on a positive note while remaining consistent in your discipline and your love.
Change from within doesn’t happen overnight, but if you’re consistent over time, you should notice a difference. And if you discover you are contributing to the issue, you can make a change too.
Reach for the heart and in time you’ll get the behavior you seek…and the life they deserve.
At least this is what I’m learning.