8 Lessons in Love: Discipline with Compassion (Not Punishment with Anger)

The echoes of laughter, the warmth of a tiny hand slipping into yours, and the boundless curiosity in a child’s eyes make parenting such a beautiful, heart-expanding journey. But let’s face it—this journey isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. There are inevitable bumps along the way—tantrums, disobedience, and moments when we feel at a loss. The question often arises in these situations: discipline vs. punishment and teaching vs. making them suffer.

Proverbs 22:15 (AMPC) beautifully captures the essence of discipline: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” However, there’s a crucial distinction between discipline and punishment. Discipline is about setting healthy boundaries, teaching children right from wrong, and helping them learn from their mistakes. It’s a process of fostering growth and development. Punishment, on the other hand, often stems from frustration or anger. It focuses on inflicting pain or making the child suffer for their actions without necessarily offering a learning opportunity.

So, how do we administer discipline with compassion and avoid resorting to punishment? Here are 8 powerful lessons to guide you:

1. Focus on Teaching, Not Just Enforcing Rules 📚

When your child makes a mistake, take the opportunity to explain why their behaviour was wrong and how it affects others. For example, if they hit a sibling, explain that hitting hurts and offer alternative ways of expressing anger.

2. Tailor Consequences to the Action 🎯

A consequence should directly relate to the action and be an effective deterrent. If a child throws a toy, taking away the toy for a short time makes sense. However, a harsh, unrelated punishment like grounding them for a week wouldn’t help them learn from their mistake.

3. Let Natural Consequences Take Their Course 🌿

Sometimes, allowing natural consequences to unfold can be a powerful learning tool. For example, if a child forgets their soccer cleats, missing practice can be a natural consequence. This teaches them the importance of responsibility.

4. Embrace Repair, Not Just Regret 🔧

Discipline doesn’t end with consequences. Help your child understand how to repair the situation. If they broke something, encourage them to find a way to fix it or apologise to the person they hurt.

5. Maintain Calm in the Storm 🌪️

Reacting with anger or yelling escalates the situation. Instead, take a deep breath and address the situation calmly and firmly. This allows you to be a better role model for self-regulation.

6. Focus on Restoration, Not Retribution 🛠️

Discipline is about helping your child become a better person. Once they’ve learned their lesson and made amends, let go of the infraction and move forward positively.

7. Celebrate Good Choices, Not Just Punish Bad Ones 🎉

Don’t let discipline overshadow your appreciation for good behaviour. Acknowledge and celebrate when your child makes good choices. This reinforces positive behaviour and encourages them to continue making the right decisions.

8. Seek Help and Support When Needed 🤝

There will be times when you feel overwhelmed or unsure. Don’t hesitate to contact parenting educators, counsellors, or trusted friends for support. There’s no shame in seeking help to ensure you use the most effective parenting techniques.

Remember, discipline is not about wielding power over your child. It’s about nurturing their growth, fostering a sense of responsibility, and equipping them with the tools they need to make good life choices. You can create a loving and encouraging environment where discipline catalyses positive change by focusing on teaching, offering compassion, and prioritising restoration over retribution. Remember these lessons as you embark on this journey of raising responsible, compassionate children. With patience, love, and consistent guidance, you can help your little ones blossom into the kind, responsible individuals they were meant to be.

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Sam Soyombo
Sam Soyombo

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  1. This is quite thrilling and educating, through your piece on ‘Discipline with Compassion’ I particularly learnt on how the importance of empathy and understanding in disciplinary processes. Your argument that discipline is not about punishing, but about teaching resonates deeply. However, I’ll like ask how can we balance the need for discipline with the need for compassion in situations where the individual’s actions have caused harm to others, and the desire for accountability and justice is strong?

  2. This blog was indeed helpful. Growing up as a child, I never had a close relationship with my dad. This actually affected me in so many areas and I feel I really don’t have that closeness with him. I remember time when we argued about a particular thing and I felt I was not loved even though we had time to settle issues up. Yet I still find it hard to get that mutual relationship. How do I go about it sir?

  3. Nigerian parents are often impatient for natural consequences to take their course; it can feel like it takes forever: but that’s on a lighter note anyways. I’ve experienced and seen many parents apply different methods of correcting their children. I once heard a parent say, ‘If I wasn’t hard on my son, he wouldn’t be this responsible and respectful.’ However, looking at the boy, I saw a child whose confidence and personality had been affected by that method of correction and upbringing. I learned from that experience and reading this blog has exposed me to better ways of correcting my kids without hurting them or causing more harm than good.

    In response to Daniel’s question, I’d suggest letting go of the past and making a conscious effort to love your dad again. You might want to read a blog I found about forgiveness, which could be helpful for you in that regard: https://samsoyombo.com/learn-to-forgive-and-fly-free/#comment-2614

    I’ve recently realized that many of the things our parents did were driven by ignorance and tradition. My dad once told me that he wasn’t even as strict as his parents. I realized that he carried forward the principles of the olden days to his own family, thinking it was the best approach. I’m not saying he was wrong, but I discovered that there are better ways to achieve the same goals without losing the child’s trust or creating fear in them. We are fortunate to have access to a blog like this; otherwise, we might have found ourselves in similar situations.

  4. Hi Damilola,

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience and insights! It’s great to hear that you’ve learned from your experiences and are open to new approaches to correcting your children. Your willingness to adapt and grow is commendable!

    Your point about Nigerian parents often being impatient and relying on traditional methods of correction is well taken. It’s essential to recognize that times have changed and that what worked in the past might not be effective today. Embracing new approaches and being mindful of our children’s emotional well-being is crucial.

    Regarding Daniel’s question, your suggestion to let go of the past and make a conscious effort to love his dad again is wise. Forgiveness is a powerful tool, and your recommendation to read the blog post on forgiveness is helpful.

    Your realization that many parents’ actions are driven by ignorance and tradition is insightful. It’s essential to recognize that our parents did the best they could with what they knew, and it’s up to us to learn from their experiences and adapt to new approaches.

    Thank you for your thoughtful contribution to this conversation!

  5. Isaac, you’re right. Although my dad was strict in some ways, I’m grateful for the lessons we learned as a result. As I mentioned before, we need wisdom to know when to apply which approach in different situations.

  6. Thank you Damilola, your response to my question actually made me feel there is a solution to all of this. Regarding the link you posted, i will go through the blog.
    Thank you Damilola.

  7. Damilola, I appreciate your perspective! Recognizing the value of our experiences and using wisdom to apply the right approach in various situations is a valuable life skill. Thanks for sharing.”

  8. Thanks for sharing, I think I understand better now; focusing on restoration and once the kid makes amend, we let go and move forward. This is like a parenting coaching class for me, thank you Sam.

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