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Changing Discipline as Children Grow

Updated on October 13, 2017
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Susan is the last of 8 children, has raised 2 children, and has spent 26 years teaching high school kids. She grew up with a strong mother.

Awww... Sweet Babies

When my son was born, it was absolute heaven. I loved holding him, feeding him, changing him, talking to him, and just loving him to pieces. Same with my daughter. She was like a little doll that I could dress up any way I wanted with frilly dresses and big bows. Beautiful.

Not a Good Little Kid Mom

I was a great baby mommy then it changed. They started to grow into toddlers and questioning everything. I loved watching them grow and seeing their curiosity pouring out of them, but I found it so hard to come down to their level. What I did not realize is that they just wanted a short, sweet answer that was simple. I would try to explain. They would look at me like I was an alien. “Okay, let me put it like this…” Finally, it was like my toddlers were comforting and patronizing me, “It’s okay, Mommy.” Then they would run off and play. I would feel frustrated. I had these wonderful little children who seemed to be helping me more than I was helping them. Not what I wanted on my “Mommy resume.”

Yay, They Have Grown

Finally, they hit 10 – 11 years old, and they are pre-teens. Their senses of humor were being developed, they were learning things about the world, and they loved to discuss what they learned. I had always loved my kids beyond anything in this world and would have died for them, but now I could communicate with them. I felt so much better about my parenting.

From pre-teen to teen years, my kids and I were able to joke around with each other, and they would “get it.” I no longer had to be so careful about what I said to them, fearing I would hurt their feelings. As teenagers, they could be as sarcastic as I was, or they could act silly in a way that was meant to be humorous, not annoying.

Of course, I have never been the parent who wanted to be friends first while putting my responsibility as a parent on the backburner. No, I was still the disciplinarian mom who had to be the “bad guy” sometimes. As a child grows and matures, you have to evolve with the type of discipline you use according to your child’s age because discipline should change from toddler to young child, to pre-teen, and to teen years. For example, I believed in spanking or swatting the bottom. One day my 11-year-old pre-teen son came in and was not in the best mood because he couldn’t get his bicycle chain to go back on its track. He was passing through the kitchen when I told him he needed to clean his room. He shouted, “I’ll get to it when I get to it. I’m busy right now.” Whoa, Buddy, hold on there with the disrespectful tone...

Making Adjustments

I saw red and went over to him, took him by the arm and swatted his bottom. I told him he would not talk to me that way and would drop the attitude. You have to get this picture in your head. My 11-year-old son was an inch taller than I am and I swatted him. He was trying so hard to be respectful. He put his head down, and I told him to look at me. When he did, I could see he was about to burst out laughing. I had to laugh, too, because the swatting situation was so ridiculous. He was not laughing at the reason why I was disciplining him nor at me for telling him to show respect. He was just laughing because when I swatted him, it felt like a fly had landed on him. After our fits of laughter, we did have a talk about respect and attitude. We talked about how when we have a bad day or situation that we cannot take it out on others. He got it! I wasn’t explaining anything he did not already understand. Actually, it was a discussion, not an explanation. And I saw that my type of discipline had to change with this adolescent/young adult.


Talking to my kids on their level is so much better for me than trying to explain something to a toddler. I love the relationship I have with my teenage kids and how we can talk about “almost” anything. There are times I have to tell them, “TMI!” (Too Much Information).

My son and I still joke about that swat. He is 25 now, and it is a great childhood memory for both of us. He learned the lesson I was trying to teach with the discipline, and I learned that I had to adjust my ways with my children as they grew. It is one learning experience after another, but I must confess I loved being a teenager's mom because we could connect.

Remember When…

Many people do not like the teenage years. All the rebellion, the “spreading of wings,” the quick wit, the sarcasm – these are things I can relate to with my kids. I remember having the same feelings. Mixing my memories of experience with dealing with my own teenagers helps put things into perspective. It also bonds me to my children more and more. When you feel at wit's end, try to think back to your own teen years and how you felt. We may never get completely into our kids’ heads, but we can meet them part of the way and make our place in their hearts. Teenagers are great!

© 2011 Susan Holland


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