Discipline is the hard part of parenting. The rewards are not easy to come by, and parents often feel they are investing a lot of energy for what often seems like limited gains.
In the process, you often risk your good standing with your child. He or she resents you for your efforts, and you'll likely hear phrases like:
“Oh, why do I have to do this!”
“Oh, why can't I do that?”
“You never let me do anything!”
“You always make me do what I don't like!”
“I don't want to talk about that now!”
“Why can't you just leave me alone?”
Children of any age are unlikely to say to parents, “Thanks for the discipline.”
Not a Popularity Contest
Because providing discipline is often an unpopular part of parenting, parents who crave popularity with their children may find it hard to do. Parents may feel insecure when they displease their child, feel guilty when they cause unhappiness in their child's life, or try to avoid conflict at all costs.
This causes them to shy away from setting a requirement or making a refusal. Or, under the pressure of the child's displeasure, they will relent on what they declared the child could not do. What looks like a problem of a willful child is often a problem of parents with insufficient courage and resolve to say no.
A child who learns not to accept his parents' refusal as an answer soon dominates parents who can't stick to saying no. Without being able to rely on firm parental authority, the child is at risk of getting in trouble as a result of getting his or her impulsive way.
Acts of Love
When you discipline with the child's present and future welfare in mind, discipline is definitely an act of love. To that end, if you are so inclined, you can explain this part of your parental responsibility to your child by saying something like this:
“Please know that I care enough to instruct and correct you for your own good, even when it causes you to feel I am a mean parent, to feel angry at me, and it causes friction between us. It's hard to face your disapproval when I raise issues you don't want to discuss. It's hard to make demands and set limits you resent when I take a stand for your best interests against what you want or like. But I love you enough to do so when I believe it is required. I know it's hard for you to believe, but I am on your side. I am not against you. Discipline is not something I do
At least in the moment, discipline can feel like thankless work. That's why taking a long view is important. In your child's adulthood, you will see some fruits of your steadfast labors to teach healthy habits.
The child with whom you battled endless years to pick up a messy room emerges as a young person who likes to live in a clean and orderly space. The child who selfishly resented your demands to give help emerges as a young person who is extremely considerate of others. The child who required your continued insistence to accomplish homework becomes a young person with a strong and reliable work ethic. And you will think to yourself, “Maybe my efforts were worthwhile after all!”