To Discipline Or Not: Are You Limiting Your Child’s Personality?

September 10, 2014  |  

It’s dinnertime and as my family sits down to enjoy our meal we’re not five minutes in before my baby girl sends her first piece of food flying toward the floor. My instinct is to immediately tell her to pay attention and watch what she is doing. Which would only disrupt her flow, cause a pause in the conversation, and ultimately make her self-conscious about her way of eating. After a year of this, I realize perhaps it would be better if I just let her be.

Allowing her to eat in peace and worry about the mess later. I’m sure I don’t speak for myself when I say as a mother we want nothing more than for our children to be perfect examples of the most well-behaved, neatly manicured little people. But the reality is they’re not accessories and we can’t keep them clean for the life of us and really – that’s okay.

I have been told I am hard on my girl, that I expect a lot out of a six year old; and perhaps that is true. Maybe my expectations are too high for someone who just barely makes sitting at the big kid table without a booster seat. I recognize that my expectations aren’t about my daughter but, in full disclosure, they’re about me. About who I want to be perceived as and what kind of child I believe I should have. My daughter is a wonderful child – she’s obedient, she’s well mannered, and this may be biased, but the kid is beautiful.

The problem with my desires is not that they aren’t well intentioned but, in my goals to be perfect I may be over chastising my child and in the long run effecting who she is and will be as person.

Some parents, myself included, tend to lean toward the instant “no” rather than having to explain ourselves. One of my major pet peeves is being questioned, but having inquisitive and curious children means giving them the opportunity to inquire. I had to learn that simply telling my child “no” or “because I said so” was not giving her the freedom to wonder aloud. Instead I was stifling her willingness to share with me or to feel that she could come to me with any question she had. I started to recognize that she was nervous or afraid to ask me questions. For fear that my answer would always be “no” or that I did not want to hear what she had to say. We never want to set the standard where our children feel as if they need to figure things out on their own or not feel comfortable asking for clarity on anything.

Aim to be the kind of parent that isn’t from the school of thought that says, “children should be seen and not heard.”

Along with learning how to freely let my daughter express her wonders I have learned to allow her to participate in choices about her life. Whether it is what she will have for breakfast or what she wears, I want to teach her to be a woman capable of choosing. I’ll be completely honest here, I still have the final say because I cannot have her out in the world looking like she’s a Punk Brewster remake or opting for some cereal equivalent to sugar cubes on a daily basis. But I am willing to yield some of my power to her desires.

Considering myself a style soldier, I take pride in making sure my girl brings her “A game” everywhere she goes. Growing up I was the tomboy. I didn’t do dresses, I was adverse to bobby socks, and my shoes were always run through. So, of course, it would only be fitting that God gave me a dainty, girly, princess of a daughter. That said, I’m up to my head in dresses and I get asked on a regular, “Mommy can I wear a skirt today?” Before my “AH-HA” moment, my automatic response was picking out her outfit and simply saying, “put it on.” Now I know that if I want her to feel comfortable in her clothes, it would be best if I let her make a decision.

It is difficult as parents to know when to let go and pull back. These are our children, the people we’ve been put in charge of. Yet, if we want them to be fully functioning members of society we have to learn that our chastisements must have purpose. Rather than telling her she could never wear skirts to school, I agreed with the rule that there must always be shorts or leggings underneath. I want my baby to know that I trust her to make choices that will behoove her always.

I am a proponent of discipline and believe that children who lack that usually become misguided. But I also realize that sometimes as parents we are so riddled with concern about what our kids may become that we inhibit them from becoming who they are destined to be. We must allow our children to grow and spread their wings before we clip them too short in their formative years. I’m setting a goal to not be so quick to opt for discipline when I can choose love and encouragement instead.


You can find more of Leslie’s thoughts on parenthood, hear her tales of living, and follow her journey at and on Twitter @hautemommie.

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