Diving into Correcting with Care and Developing Disciplines Relationally
Welcome back to The Center for Family Transformation’s latest blog series on Joy-Filled Kids. According to Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey, the four habits to raising joy-filled kids are 1) attunement, 2) build bounce, 3) correct with care and 4) developing disciplines relationally (1). Part one of this series was a brief summary of all the habits and why it can be difficult to apply these habits. Part two focused on a deeper look at what it means to attune and build bounce. In this post, we will dive into the topics of correcting with care and developing discipline relationally in each life stage. For the purposes of these blog posts, infants or babies are considered children from birth to age three or four. Children are young people aged four or five to twelve years old, and adults are thirteen and older. Typically these stages may be broken into smaller groups; however, for the purpose of these posts, teenagers thirteen and older will be able to learn and practice these habits with others.
As we dive into correcting with care, an important part for any age group is to distinguish between healthy shame and toxic shame. Toxic shame has two elements: “1) a person feels alone in their shame – like no one is happy to be with them…and 2) a person’s identity is attacked, not just their behavior” (1, p. 67). Shame is an important part of learning; however, it “is only healthy when attachment is maintained” (1, p. 67). Shame and correction can be embarrassing, and it is important to help children learn to recover from shame (1). Instead of attacking the child’s identity, a healthy shame message affirms their positive identity, it shows them there is a problem, makes the relationship bigger than the problem, and provides opportunity for growth (1). Finally, the final important part of healthy shame processing is to help the child know that they are not abandoned in their shame (1). Dr. Brene Brown shares “If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive” (2, p. 98). Empathy can go a long way in helping children feel seen, heard, and understood even in their weaknesses or mistakes.
Children under five cannot understand negative commands (1). I was so surprised to learn that when I said, “don’t climb on that” to my little one, he was actually responding to the tone in my voice instead of the words I was saying. Babies and children under five years old better understand the positive commands, like “keep your feet on the ground; the floor is safer” (1). This is our practical habit challenge for this week: Turn negative commands into positive ones (1).
When correcting with care for children around the ages of five to thirteen, it is most important to stay relational. We want the Joy Switch on in order to keep our relationship with our child bigger than the problem (1). The Joy Switch by Chris Coursey is a great resource to learn more about how to keep your joy switch on and how to turn it back on if it gets turned off. An easy way to remember what keeps our Joy Switch on is the acronym CAKE which stands for “curiosity, appreciation, kindness, and eye contact” (1, p. 90). There are so many important reasons to correct children with care. If we first lead by synchronizing with the child’s emotions, then we will be more focused on forming character than simply correcting behavior. This will show them how to resolve conflict versus just solving a problem (1).
A practical way to build this habit with children is to practice sandwich corrections (1). This exercise uses a problem that happened recently and as the parent, you are learning how you could have handled it differently. First, think of the problem and then try to identify the emotion your child was feeling and how you could have validated them. Then practice being curious about how to draw out solutions and prevent arguments. Finally, practice writing out what the end of the solution would look like in a healthy relationship (1, p. 105). This can take some time to practice and can be done with several problems before implementing in real time in order to feel more confident with your responses. When you get the hang of it, you can practice the correction sandwich with your children.
Developing disciplines with babies looks like “teaching them to use their words, how to go potty, how to drink from a big” (1, p. 70). These are great opportunities to bond with your babies. These are also great years to help babies practice returning to joy from upsetting emotions and develop emotional regulation skills (1, p. 71). It can also be helpful at this age to walk them through better ways to handle their upset emotions. If the child bit his friend, we can talk to them about how biting hurts our friends, and we are a kind family so we don’t want to hurt our friend (1). It is important for everyone involved to be able to recover from the upsetting emotions before moving to the next thing (1).
Developing disciplines relationally with children looks like helping them to learn to do hard things with our supervision (1). An important concept to include in regard to teaching our kids to do hard things is that we as care-givers need to “attun[e] to [our] child’s sense of overwhelm” (1, p. 99). We want to balance the desire for our children to develop disciplines while also carefully monitoring for signs of overwhelm. Some of the goals for developing disciplines relationally are building healthy relationships, equipping children with skills, expanding their world, growing their confidence, and reinforcing their identity (1, p. 100).
It feels a bit weird to think of thirteen and older being considered adults, however, by this point, the teenager has the ability to practice these habits on their own and with others. Correcting with care for teenage and adult children looks like setting agreed upon rules and consequences (1). There will need to be more clearly defined rules and consequences for the relationships where trust has been violated repeatedly (1). Here are just a few do’s and don’ts for correcting your adult children with care: “don’t minimize your adult child’s problems, don’t rescue your adult child from failure, do practice mutual problem-solving, do follow through with consequences, and do build a relational bridge” (1, p. 123-125). For developing disciplines with adult children, it is important to continue to help them develop the skills that they will continue to use throughout their lives. One of the ways Marcus Warner shares that he has done this with his own son is inviting his son to help fix some things around the house (1). Eventually his son began doing the work and Marcus is able to act as more of a mentor and a coach when his son needs him. A practical way to practice this habit with your adult children is to share with them legacy and life lessons that you learned (1). It can look like sharing what you learned from your parents and what you hope they take into adulthood (1). Overall, it is important to make sure they know you are putting your relationship with them before any problems that arise.
Thank you for reading about raising joy-filled kids! Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey’s book, The Four Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids has been so helpful for my family as well as so many others. The habits are 1) attunement, 2) build bounce, 3) correct with care, and 4) develop discipline relationally, and they have the potential to add more joy to your family. The authors believe this “book launches a joy revolution, because we are convinced that transforming ‘low-joy’ families into ‘high-joy’ families can change the world” (1, p. 15). If this sounds like something you would like to see in your own family, it’s definitely worth a read!
- Warner, M., & Coursey, C. (2021). 4 Habits of raising joy-filled kids: A simple model for developing your child’s maturity-at every stage. Northfield Publishing.
- Hinman, S. (2021). Building Bounce with Kids. Cedar Gate Publishing.