In the world of international diplomacy, there are two main forms of exerting pressure on another nation. The first is hard power. That’s to say, military force. If you want to bend another nation to your will, you can take direct military action and try to force their hand. The second, and perhaps more effective, is soft power. Soft power is influence. In diplomacy it consists of lobbying, economic aid, and other tools by which you can try to win the hearts and minds of your opponent.
Like any nation, soft power is the most effective tool that any parent has in their kit. Children deeply desire to be pleasing to their parents. It's almost as if when they rebel or question, they’re pained to be going against their nature. Their desire to express autonomy conflicts with their desire to make their parents happy. The emotional explosion from that conflict can be hard to contain.
When children, particularly young children, are disobedient or not listening, the reason behind this poor behavior can be hard to discern. They may be tired, hungry, or conflicted over an unrelated issue. So while my first instinct is to enforce discipline, my first action should actually be a mini-investigation. If I can solve the underlying problem, my little angel will reemerge and happily do as she’s told.
Discipline must be enforced evenly and consistently, a struggle that we all face. There are days when I don’t feel like prolonging a fight. I’d much rather leave the problem alone and change the subject. Children push the boundaries constantly, and what they’re asking for is to be shown where the line is. It can be very hard to see how heavily the consequences weigh on a child’s heart. In those moments when you want to give in and extend too much grace, you have to hold the line.
You’ll constantly hone and refine your discipline strategy, but make sure that you consider the weight of any situation before acting. Temper your own emotional response, address any underlying causes for the disobedience, and make sure that the process includes heavy doses of teaching, love, and affection.