When I researched parental discipline, I could find little guidance on being a more disciplined parent. I read what I could find regarding parenting practices and distilled my own list of parenting disciplines: Demonstrating Godly Love, Connectedness, Instruction, Physical Independence, and Dependence on God.
Today, I want to talk about connectedness, that bridge between humans. My mini postpartum depression after Eldest’s birth and my massive depression after Third’s birth taught me the difference between connected and disconnected. As a connected parent, I more fully realized the attachment parenting I so wanted to embody. Depression disconnected me from everyone. It cushioned the space between me and my people so that they couldn’t quite reach me. I couldn’t really hear them. They were distant and distorted to my senses.
Whether it’s depression or career or any other common aspect of life that seeks to disconnect me from my kids, I can mindfully practice connectedness. I defined this discipline as the routine practice of three things:
- Connect with each child three times a day in meaningful, positive ways
- Practice active listening with each child at least one time every day
- Write notes to each child once per week
A meaningful and positive connection might be to read to my child or listen to him read to me. It might mean that I bike with Third, practice dribbling with Middling, or work with Eldest toward one of his goals. Whatever brings me into my child’s sphere and allows us to interact positively accomplishes the goal. This sounds deceptively easy. In our world of tight schedules and multitasking, three connections with each of three kids in one day gets away from me if I am not careful.
In addition to entering their spheres, active listening overlaps our spheres. It’s not mostly my kid or mostly me. It’s my kid’s topic and my ears. It requires reading whether the boy wants solutions or empathy. It necessitates eye contact (stopping whatever else I’m doing), reading body language, and a rejection of busyness.
Writing notes pulls my kid into my sphere. Notes are a low-risk way for my kids know me better without having to know what to say in return. I can let my kids know what I’m up to or what I think about them. They can read it or not. They can reflect on it or not.
The key to this discipline is to focus the action on the parent. What can I do (or, possibly, refrain from doing) to improve the connectedness between my children and me? A focus on what the kids are doing, how they treat me, how they behave is not beneficial for this exercise. A parent disciplining a child focuses on the child’s actions. A parent disciplining themselves focuses on the parent’s actions. If the best teacher is example, living a disciplined life will teach better than most anything else I could do.