Correction Isn’t Always Punishment

As a parent, a lot of your time is spent fixing, correcting or punishing behavioral issues. Rarely do we understand why kids do the things that they do.

One thing that can be helpful in these times is to remember that correction doesn’t always take the form of punishment.

Following is a life-changing lesson that I learned years ago that still benefits our family today.

I gained custody of my kids in 2011 after being gone from them, except through letters, for most of 2009-2010 and after a nasty split and subsequent custody battle between their mother and I.

In 2012 my oldest, then 8, started showing behavior problems in school. Lots of disruptions, rude to his teacher, not doing his work… You know the story. Surprise surprise right?

I tried everything from time out to taking things away to spanking him to curve the behavior and nothing seemed to make a difference.

One night after another letter came home from school I found myself at my wits end. That night I left my kids with a sitter and went to visit a friend hoping to vent and to seek advice.

After unloading all the emotion and crying “nothings working, nothing’s working” he gave me the most simple and profound advice ever.

At first, it infuriated me. Was this guy even listening to me? Did he hear me say I need a punishment that would work?

What he told me was to spend time with him.

I was a single parent. I spent a lot of time with him!

It wasn’t the right kind of time.

That week I started dating my kids. That’s right, dating them.

For 1 – 2 hours 1 night a week I would take my daughter out and another night my son. We would have no agenda other than being together. My daughter liked to go window shopping at the mall and the boy usually wanted to go to a field and throw a ball.

This simple act had immediate results. There was no punishment handed down. It was 3 years before I got another letter from school about bad behavior.

It didn’t solve everything but it set us on a path to strength and healing and a relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.