Want to weaken the relationship with your child? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Use a behavior modification approach to your kids. This psychology dominates in most schools and parenting books. If you find yourself saying “If you do this, I’ll give you what you want” or “If you don’t obey, here’s the punishment you can expect” you are using behavior modification. This approach came out of animal behavior studies and does not take into account the mind and heart of humans. “B Mod” is not totally wrong, it’s just very incomplete as a parenting philosophy.
  1. React to misbehavior like it’s only about the outward behavior and not taking into account what’s happening in the heart. When you mechanically hand down a punishment without a discussion, either before or after, to explore your child’s thinking, you indicate the rule is more important than the relationship. This indicates a “justice” mentality – making sure the punishment fits the crime. But that only deals with the behavior and not the heart.
  1. Discipline differently in public than in private. There’s a lot of pressure on parents to get their kids to behave a certain way. Gail and I allowed what other people thought to make us more strict in public than we should have. This is the wrong reason to discipline.

If we discipline one way in public and another way in private, that sends a message to our kids that we care more about what other people see than about what we are.  We don’t want to look weak or ineffective in front of our peers, and that’s an ego trip.

  1. Discipline because you don’t want to be disturbed. There are legitimate times that we want our kids to respect us and not bother us with questions or foolish behavior, like when we are on the phone. However, we need to remember that ‘job one’ for us as parents is to train our children. This is what we sign up for when we have kids.

If we show irritation or anger because our kids interrupt our agenda, we indicate that our kids are not worthy of our attention. My bad attitude came across to my kids as valuing my agenda more than them.

  1. Spend more time and attention on the rules of behavior than on the intentional building of relationship. Be careful how much you emphasize good behavior over the inner character traits you desire. Make sure you spend time simply enjoying your kids. When you discipline, make sure you explain how rules express your values.
  1. Reduce God to a cosmic policeman. Religious parents sometimes play the God card in their discipline. They say things like, “God’s watching you” or “God doesn’t like it when you…” Theologically, I believe these statements may be possible. But there’s more to religion than rules. Life is, or should be, about a relationship with the God who created us.

No one wants to strain the relationship with his or her children. We want the relationship to grow strong. When your kids are grown, you will want them to honor you, and that’s only possible through relationship. So make sure you parent now with that truth in mind.

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