A Smile Goes a Long Way in Disciplining

With a 2-year old in the house, there is definitely a lot of discipline going on. Thankfully, timeouts do the trick pretty well with Samuel. Before he gets out of timeout, he has to:

  • tell me why he got a timeout
  • apologize for whatever he did
  • give hugs in forgiveness
  • and sometimes, I ask him to say something to reiterate the message, like “No more hitting.” Or, “Next time, I will obey.” Or, “No more yelling.”

At this point, I don’t do a lot of lengthy explanations for why things are wrong. I try to keep it concise. “Hitting hurts mommy.” “Disobeying hurts daddy’s heart.” “Mommy said not to…” Haha – sometimes that’s all the explanation they get!

It’s quite tempting to discipline in anger. When something spills or breaks that I have told Samuel not to play with, the fact that I – with a 2-year old’s help – have to clean up the mess, gets under my skin. Everything in me wants to yell at him: I told you not to play with that because it would spill/break/whatever!

And of course, there have been times where my sin nature took over, and I lost control to this desire. Do you know what Samuel does? My rough and tumble little man takes one look at me and busts out in tears. Not just Wah I’m in trouble!, it’s this completely helpless cry that he only has at those moments. It says Mommy is scaring me!

When I’m in a good place – relying on the Lord to give me patience that I just can’t muster up – I channel those feelings to something else. I actually get quieter and maybe more calm. I say even less than usual. Like “Timeout for hitting.” And in he goes to timeout. While he’s in timeout, I’m in timeout too. I’m evaluating my emotions and calming down from any anger that I had. Sometimes I have to go to my room, sit down, and pray for strength for a minute before I come back.

And then there are other times where I need to give Samuel warnings or directions – hoping that a timeout doesn’t result in the end. These should be neutral times, right? I might be saying, “Don’t throw that ball.” Or, “I want you to turn around and come in the house.”

But for some reason, my angry mommy voice wants to come out. I realized a while ago that I was talking to him expecting him to fail. I was being stern with him before he could make a bad choice.

So I tried to change it up. Instead of saying, “Don’t you dare throw that ball!” Or “Get back here RIGHT NOW,” I use my nice mommy voice. The one that I use when I say, “Do you want a snack?” I change my words to make the instruction clear but not threatening. I ask with “please,” just like I teach him to do. “Please don’t throw that ball.” “Samuel, I need you to please come in the house with me.”

When I started doing this, he would just pause and look at me, maybe waiting for Mean Mommy to come out. So I smiled. And all of a sudden, he was more compliant. It’s as if he saw, Hey, this isn’t a big deal. It will be a good thing if I listen to mommy.

I was floored by how much smiling to my son changed his behavior – pre-emptively!

Now I know that he will go through phases where a smile doesn’t do anything, and I will have to keep relying on the Lord in those times. But a smile!? That’s it!? If that’s all it takes – I can do that!

I’ve been trying it more with everyone. And you know what? It makes me a lot more calm and peaceful, too.

7 thoughts on “A Smile Goes a Long Way in Disciplining

  1. Donna

    So true! Funny how our children will do what we accept, more than what we expect. Keep up the great insight!

  2. Heather

    Discipline is the one thing I hate most about being a parent . My three year old is a breeze compared to my very defiant 22 month old. I haven’t totally figured her out yet and how best to discipline. I am learning that my mom was right when she said that each of us kids was different and so the punishment had to be also. My 3 year old sounds very much like your little guy at times. My God give you strength in the days to come. It doesn’t get easier but God gives us the strength to make it through.

    1. Stephanie Post author

      Discipline is NO FUN for sure! And I know what you mean about them all being different – we totally have to use trial by fire! It’s exhausting! Hang in there, Heather.

  3. Jane Sadek

    This method works pretty well with husbands, too. Which is a good thing, because I just can’t get Bill to participate in time out.

    1. Stephanie Post author

      LOL – I know! I thought about writing another post about smiling with your husband. And I probably will eventually!

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