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I attempted to hold back tears as I walked into a fellow teacher’s classroom after school one day. I had been through a terrible week with my class. How could I still be struggling to discipline with love even after I had put in so much effort? I felt like there must be something wrong with me. She reminded me that these are not “hacks” that will immediately change the dynamic of the classroom. I needed to completely change the way I viewed misbehavior and discipline.
This was overwhelming! I was hard on myself when I messed up or didn’t know what to do. I worked to surround myself with things that would help me grow. I listened to parenting and teaching audiobooks during my commute. I read books on discipline in my free time. I noticed other teachers who disciplined with respect, and asked them for guidance when I wasn’t sure what to do. Very slowly, things started to change. I grew more confident as I practiced. I was doing everything I possibly could. I was about to learn that it’s a process for the kids too.
A friend shared an extremely helpful metaphor with me recently. What is your reaction when you pay for a soda at the vending machine, and nothing comes out? Or even worse, when it starts to come and gets stuck. Likely, you will push the button again, kick the machine, or try to shake it. You will probably be confused and angry. Eventually, you will realize that you aren’t getting a soda from that machine and give up. This is just like what happens with kids when we change our discipline strategy. They will be confused at first. They will be expecting you to react the same way you have in the past. They will try every trick they know to get you to budge. Finally, when they realize that you aren’t going to give in, they’ll give up on it.
When we try something new, kids’ behaviors often get worse before they get better. It’s all a matter of sticking to your guns during the “kick the machine” stage. If we hold out long enough, kids will adapt. They will get used to the new way things work, and your home will be much more peaceful.
I believe this is a long process. We will have moments when we feel proud that we disciplined successfully. We’ll also have moments when we completely lose it. We’re human. In these moments, we can apologize to our kids, think through what we can do next time, and move forward. On the bright side, by doing this we set an example of how to fix mistakes.
Stephen R. Covey said, “Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Our hard work will pay off. If you are just starting to change things in your family and it’s not going well yet, hold on! It will pay off. Get a support system. This journey is not easy, but it is absolutely worth it.