I was on Facebook this past week and saw a meme I really liked. It said, “My child is not GIVING me a hard time. My child is HAVING a hard time.”

That’s an important distinction because in one scenario we feel like parenting is a hassle and we just want our child to shut up and do what we want them to do. In the other, we realize they are their own person and they are struggling right now. That doesn’t mean giving in or spoiling them, but it means we approach the situation with compassion and not taking it personally.

It helps to start with understanding where our kids are coming from. When you do that, there comes that great moment where you see the new skills working, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment, people are working together and ta-da! Harmonic family.

When we think our child is GIVING us a hard time, we want to punish them. When we realize they’re HAVING a hard time we want to help them past it.

So coming from the assumption your child is having a hard time, what would discipline look like?

Because often when kids are having a hard time, they’re acting out. They’re pulling the tablecloth slowly off the table tipping over candles and breaking dishes 10 minutes before guests will arrive. They’re swearing at you or breaking curfew or otherwise defying the rules. So there needs to be a consequence.

I’ve studied a number of different philosophies and my favorite in this circumstance is Parenting with Love and Logic which advocates allowing the consequences to do the teaching while you provide the love. Because if your child is having a rough time and on top of that, life isn’t going so well for them, you want to let them know they feel loved.

Parenting with Love and Logic also suggests we consider what would happen in the real world. Let’s say you’re at Neiman Marcus and you pull the tablecloth off and break a bunch of stuff. What would happen? Obviously, you’d have to pay for everything. And there may be another consequence – a fine or maybe you couldn’t go back to the store. What else?

What would the consequence be if they created a serious problem for a friend, roommate or partner just before a big dinner?

How can you translate that into a consequence for a 6 year old?

Maybe s/he needs to do chores around the house to compensate you for the broken plates. Maybe s/he has to give you the money s/he was saving up for that new video game. It’d be a good idea to have them help clean up, to go online with you to see how much it will cost to replace everything that was broken.

Shaming, screaming & punishing don’t work. Real life consequences do a far better job.

If you’d like to learn about “The Four Steps to Responsibility” we’ll be discussing that and more in my telephone parenting class. E-mail Aricia at shaffermentor(AT)gmail.com with questions, comments or to learn more about our weekly drop in parenting class.