Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Wrong Question

I think I mentioned this before, but I've been reading The Five Love Languages of Children.  I am currently reading the chapter called "Discipline and the Love Languages" and after I finished reading it, I looked at God (well, I looked up) and said, "Do you think You could have brought this to my attention a wee bit sooner?  Life sure might have been a tad bit easier."

I honestly feel a bit daft for not recognizing that I should be doing things differently than I currently am, especially with my background in childhood development and education.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly all that training goes out the window when it comes to my own kids.  With my own kids, I just want them to BEHAVE, you know?  (I'm quite realistic, yes?)  Anyway, here is the question I have been asking when my children misbehave:  "What can I do to correct her behavior?"  Apparently, this is the WRONG question.  What I should have been asking is this: "What does this child need?"

The whole premise behind this is that children misbehave a majority of the time because his/her love tank is not full.  Even though we as parents know that we love the child and even though we may express that love, there is a chance that how we express it and how they receive it don't fully match up.  The authors state that if the parents ask "What can I do to correct her behavior?" we usually resort to the answer of "punishment."  However, "when we resort to punishment first, later we cannot easily consider the real needs of the child" (124).  Basically, what I think the authors are saying is that if we can discern how our children receive love (physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, or quality time) and then actively seek to love them in those ways, we will see a decline in their misbehavior simply because they feel loved and are not acting out of desperation, trying to get our attention.  They go onto say that a child who feels genuinely loved will also respond better to discipline because they are already secure that the parent acts out of love.

I, myself, am really still in the place of trying to process all this.  And I recognize that it is going to take me a bit to unlearn some of my old behaviors.  What I am actively trying to do is to consider what is prompting my children's misbehavior and what I may be lacking in giving to them.  I have seen fruit borne out of this whole love language thing, mostly with my oldest daughter (she's 6).  She is a big time physical touch girl.  When she starts getting angry or impatient, I have started to gently put my hands on her shoulders and pull her closer to me before I start speaking to her.  Many times she will just crumple into me and her heart becomes much softer.  The defenses go down and I honestly feel that she is in a better place to receive my words.  While she may not like the words that are coming out of my mouth (words of discipline and training), she is able to receive them better because she feels my love in the physical touch before I even begin talking.

I would love to know y'alls thoughts about all this.  I'm always wanting to learn how to better love and teach my children!

Linking up with Erin today at Mama's Heart!


  1. Jen, the Lord spoke to me so clearly about my son at one point. I was doing the dishes, looking out at the window watching my 6 year old playing ball and I felt this, 'in my gut' feeling to stop doing the dishes and go PLAY with him. "But, but, I have so much to do!" When I got out there and spent quality time with him? He became a different kid. I realized he wasn't the one needing disapline I was the one that needed the spanking.

    This, is one thing where all kids are different. I think 3 out of the 4 of them have a different love language. So good!

  2. I have not read that book yet, but I have read the grown-up version so I'm aware. My daughter's love language is gifts, so clearly. But my son I have not yet discovered yet (he is 3) and it totally makes sense what you are saying, so I'm looking, looking, looking, to see if I can get a glimpse of what his is. Right there with you.

  3. I have this book on my shelf...and so desperately need to take the time to read it! Thanks for sharing about your journey as a mama! As always, I enjoyed reading your post, Jen, and I appreciate your sweet comments on my blog!

  4. Maybe I need to buy this book too. Is it too late if they are 9 & 10?

  5. Parenting is a learning experience! I have made many mistakes. I am thankful for a forgiving God and forgiving children. Children want to be treated equally, but yet, it is not always right. I think punishments are the same way. Not every child can be punished the same, they act out for different reasons and respond to different disciplines. I read that book a long time ago, I need to pick it up again!

  6. Hi Jen, I saw that you posted in "Christian Mom Bloggers" at BloggyMom and wanted to come say "Hi!"
    I'm so glad to see you write about this! I have the book, but have not read it. Now I am eager to go pick it up and get to reading!
    Love your blog. Glad I found it!

  7. I have this book. It's on my shelf collecting dust. I should get it out and actually read it. :)

    I agree...when kids act out it's usually a result of their needing something. I tend to pout when my husband goes to spend time "shooting things" on one of his computer games when I want to spend time with him. :)

    There's another book and game I have from Family Matters. Once I finish it I'll tell you all about it. You and your kid sit down and do a quiz to determine "their type" and this is framework for parenting and building them up as well as helping chart their life out. I did the game/quiz with both kids but haven't read the book yet.

    Thanks so much for linking up..didn't mean to get long-winded on you :)


  8. I haven't read this book either, but it makes a great point. Every child is different - what is this child saying to me with his misbehavior? It takes a lot more personal patience and discipline for me to pause and think that way, instead of just reacting with, "Behave!" - which is my default. Thanks for this eye opening post.


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