Lately, I've been feeling like parenting information has been swirling around me like a tornado. But I want to make sure that one fundamental idea is not lost in the debris: Focus on the Relationship.

It's very easy to start doubting our decisions " "I'm using time-out, but some people don't, am I scarring my child for life?"

Beating ourselves up when we feel that we've failed "¦ "I just yelled at my kids, AGAIN! Why can't I just keep it together?"

Or, feeling like more discipline will make our kids better behaved "¦ "That's it! No more TV, ipad, phone or friends for a month."

If you're in that place right now, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Just for a moment allow yourself to just sit and breathe. Yep, there's tons of stuff to do, kids are screaming and running circles around you, but it's probably been a while "¦ maybe years "¦ since you've stopped in the midst of this madness to breathe.

Now, let's set aside the parenting advice for a second. Ignore the "do's and don'ts" of discipline and remind yourself of what really matters:


If you try to run your family based on a rigid set of rules and regulations, you are probably going to have poor relationships with your kids. If you focus more attention on setting up and enforcing a strict discipline agenda, you are probably going to miss out on some very sweet, spontaneous interactions with your kids.

So throw out the rule book?

Not exactly. I'm not advocating a household where kids run the show and parents bend to their child's every whim. Children need the structure and security that consistent, respectful parents can provide. I'm also not advocating that you try to be your child's best friend. Children need to know that you are their protector and provider, someone who will set appropriate boundaries as they grow.

What I am saying is, sometimes we need to focus less on finding the "perfect punishment" and more on strengthening the relationship.

Suggestions for Focusing on the Relationship

  • Give your child a hug. Especially after an argument or disagreement.

  • Talk less, listen more.

  • If you are going to talk, ask open ended questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer

  • Learn your child's love language & "speak it" often

  • Plan one-on-one time with your children

  • Be spontaneous - dance, tickle, serve ice cream before dinner

  • Write your child a note, send a text or draw a picture (for pre-readers)

  • Help your child think through their decisions rather than passing judgment or criticism

  • Give your child space to feel feelings (even anger)

  • Take care of yourself, you will feel more calm and in control

  • Speak respectfully to your children (even when feeling frustrated)

  • Stop what you're doing and pay undivided attention to your child

  • Be willing to suspend discipline until you figure out what is at the root of the problem

If you feel that you have swung too far on the discipline pendulum or are too focused on finding the "perfect punishment," maybe it is time to focus on strengthening the relationship with your children. Chances are, your children will be thrilled with any attempt you make at relationship building. And the long-term benefit may be fewer instances where you need to enforce your strict discipline policy.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Imperfect Families. It has been republished here with permission.

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