The love / discipline sandwich – Lessons from The Five Love Languages of Children

I learnt something important after re-reading The Five Love Languages of Children (affiliate link) over the weekend.

On the subject of discipline, the author emphasises the importance of contextualising discipline in love. That is, when the child is receiving correction and consequences of his behaviour, he needs to know he is first of all loved by his parents, and also that this discipline /correction is part of that love.

That is, “We love you, that’s why we need to correct you.”

One useful method that Chapman advocates is to sandwich the discipline with love, using your child’s main love language.

So for instance for Vera, quality time and physical affection are important to her, so before I mete out a discipline or consequence, I can give her a hug or hold her hand. Then after the discipline, spend a few minutes with her instead of rushing off. Or I could actually sit her on my lap throughout the whole time. This way, she knows that I am not withholding my love from her, even when I need to address the wrong she’s done.

5 love languages of children

Another tip I learnt from the book is to refrain from using a form of discipline that is directly related to your child’s main love language. So if words of affirmation is important to your child, avoid using harsh words on her. As Chapman states, “Critical words can be painful to any child, but to this child, they will be emotionally devastating.” And if quality time is his thing, don’t discipline by removing that quality time you were scheduled to spend with him.

Now does this mean that if your child’s primary love language is touch, you should avoid spanking? I think for the most part, the answer is yes. And if you do need to use such a form of discipline, try your best to be measured in the spanking, for instance, setting a limit to the number of spanks that matches the level of misbehaviour. And when the discipline has been meted out, remember to hold your child close and reassure him or her of your love.

Reading the chapter turned on a light bulb for me. I’ve been rather stretched of late and I haven’t realised how curt and harsh I can be when disciplining the kids. I’ve been task-oriented, moving the kids through a long list of to-dos, and feeling frustrated when they don’t comply promptly. I’ve (conveniently) forgotten the love part of discipline, and am feeling a little bummed for allowing stress to steal our joy away.

But I guess it’s never too late to start on a clean slate. And I’m glad to have re-read the book just at this point in time when I needed a reminder. I hope you find this helpful too.

This is Little Lessons #19. Little Lessons linky runs on the blog every Thursday. Do grab our badge and link up your little parenting lessons / learning activities below!

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Little Lessons: 5 big parenting truths I learnt from Dr Paul Tripp

As parents, we tend to think after parenting for a few years that we are “experts” .

That’s quite a scary place to be. When we think we know it all, we stop being humble, we stop learning. I’ve fallen into that trap too…Particularly as a parent blogger, the pressure to act like I’ve got it all under control is ginormous; it’s very real. So I’m thankful for the existence of real experts who dare to speak the truth.

Most truths hurt. They don’t aim to flatter. They aim to reveal the points of failure or insecurity in our lives, not to put us down, but to help us grow and make changes that are most needed.

I attended Paul Tripp‘s seminar at ARPC last weekend. And here are some of the truths that I picked up.

1. The target is the heart, because the problem is the heart.

Parenting books and websites often dish out expert tips to deal with this and that behaviour. But as we’ll find, using external rewards, guilt, punishment, consequences, and threats work temporarily at best.

I often focus on behavioural control too. I guess it’s easier to try to fix what we can see. But the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. We need to draw the connection between their behaviour and the thoughts in the heart, in order to reveal the ugliness of what’s in there, and point them to the need to ask God for help.

“Behaviour is an overflow of the heart. Lasting change in your child’s behaviour always travels the path of the heart.”

Dr Tripp provided us with questions that can help us to make the heart connection with our children:

  • What was going on? (Just to have a brief understanding of what happened)
  • What were you thinking and feeling as it was happening? (Getting into the thoughts of the heart)
  • What did you do in response?
  • Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish? (Revealing the motives of the heart)
  • What were the results?

I tried this on Vera one day, and she was able to articulate her feelings. Specifically, she used the words “confused” and “sad” when I asked her how she felt when JJ had the chance to turn off the lights at bedtime, and she didn’t (and she started to whine because of that). She then went on to share that because it was something she liked to do too, but she doesn’t get to do it because of her brother.

I haven’t tried this with JJ, and I think he’s not yet at the stage where he’s able to verbalise or describe his feelings. But I hope to try this soon nonetheless, even if I have to provide him with some words to help him along.

2. The battle is about authority. This battle is best fought when young.  

Daily battles about food, sleep, or whether to buy the toy or not, are not actually about food, sleep, and toys. It is about authority. Whenever our kids push the boundaries that have been set, they are challenging our authority.

Sure, there are some things that can be negotiated and some that have room for compromise, and we don’t want to exasperate our toddlers with excessive rules or “No’s” with no reason as well. But when it come to the crunch, they need to know that parents have been appointed as authority figures in their lives. They need to learn appropriate submission to authority.

3. Parents have an ambassadorial authority.

I think Dr Tripp said it most eloquently:

We are the visible representation of the invisible authority of God. So each time we exercise authority, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God.

Questions to ponder: What picture of authority are we giving our child? What do they see in our face, tone of our voice, feel from our hand, when we exercise our authority?

4. Discipline is the other hand of love. Discipline is love.

That is why we shouldn’t discipline out of anger, as it’s inconsistent and scary for a child. Discipline is about bringing our children from a place of danger back to the circle of safety. Its purpose is rescue and restoration, not to express irritation or anger.

Children need firm, loving discipline. Discipline that is not careful and restrained hurts the child.

Here are some tips from Paul on how we can exercise restrained, loving discipline.

When to discipline?

  • only in instances of clear rebellion to authority


  • take a minute to get our heart right before meting out discipline, to ensure we are not reactive
  • invite your child to a private place (try not to do it when others are around, not even in the presence of family)
  • set your child on your lap and discuss the offence (make sure he understands what he did wrong)
  • secure an acknowledgement, give your child an opportunity to confess what is wrong
  • pray aloud for your child, ask for grace and tender obedient heart
  • announce number of spanks or another appropriate consequence (to set ourselves limits)
  • administer the discipline
  • comfort and speak love to your child so he understands that discipline is love

5. It takes character to go after character.

Parents need to examine ourselves too. Perhaps one of the biggest lies that we’ve bought into is the belief in self-sufficiency – That somehow by trawling and accumulating all the modern parenting wisdom floating around on the internet, we are able to do it on our own.

The truth is we all need grace to bring up children of character. And we need to be humble and open to correction ourselves.



I’m really glad that I managed to attend this seminar; I’ve never picked up so many gems in one sitting! If you’re keen, you can check out his parenting books and DVDs here.

Now it’s your turn. What have you learnt this week? What has life or your kids taught you? Hope to hear about your lessons every Thursday. 🙂

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Shepherding a Child’s Heart: 5 lessons from the book

I’ve been reading Ted Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart (affiliate link) since the day we took the zoo trip away.

Here are 5 things that I’ve learnt from the book so far.

1) We have authority from God to discipline our children 

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” ~Ephesians 6:4  

We have been given this important task of training our children up in God’s ways, and the authority is actually from above.

However, more often than we like to admit, our own agenda creeps in, and along with that, unholy anger. This is how Ted describes it: “Unholy anger – anger over the fact that you are not getting what you want from your child – will muddy the waters of discipline. Anger that your child is not doing what you want frames discipline as a problem between parent and child, not as a problem between the child and God.”

He goes on to say that correction is not about showing anger at your child’s offenses, but about pointing out to them that their bad behaviour offends God.

Reading this really helped me to see things from a different perspective. I found that so much of the battles we’ve fought with Vera before was on this basis of us versus her. Although I remember we did sometimes try to help her see that she was actually disobeying God when she acted rebelliously towards us, on hindsight I think we did not emphasise this enough.

2) Focus correction upon attitudes of heart rather than merely on behaviour

It’s often easier to work at changing outward behaviour, but since everything a person does is really a function of his heart, it makes more sense to focus our energies at addressing and engaging the hearts of our children.

There is an example in the book about two siblings fighting over a toy. (Sounds familiar?) In our family, I find that we often ask the elder one to give in to the younger child. But Ted points out that when we look at it in terms of the heart, actually both are in the wrong. Both children are being selfish, and both need to be corrected.

3) Discipline is an expression of love!

It’s not the opposite as we sometimes tend to think. And the guilt that we feel (after we discipline) is probably a by-product of that thinking. I found this quote very meaningful.

“Discipline has a corrective objective. It is therapeutic, not penal. It is designed to produce growth, not pain.”

Although it may be necessary to involve some pain during the process, seen in this light, we can take heart that the focus of discipline is really to help our children grow in maturity and understanding. It is focused on restoring the child back to rightness with God and with you.

4) Choose your parenting goals carefully

My goal as a Christian parent is not to produce children who are well-mannered or excel academically. At the end of the day, when all’s said and done, it is really about teaching our children to love God and to live for His glory.

5) Communicate to understand the heart

Ted advocates the use of the rod as well as healthy communication between parent and child, but I like that he emphasises the need for us to understand our children’s hearts and needs.

“Your objective in communication must be to understand your child, not simply to have your child understand you.”

Wise words…I will definitely be putting some of these insights into good use. Will keep you guys updated on how that goes. 🙂

How can we help grandparents become better care-givers?

I was crossing the road the other day with Vera, when I saw a scene between a grandmother and her grandson.

They were trying to cross the zebra crossing but they couldn’t get anywhere near it, much less cross it. Simply because the elderly lady could not get the boy to hold her hand.

She was extremely crossed.

Grandma: You must hold my hand!
Boy: No! …No!
Grandma: You are so naughty. I’m going to tell your dad when he gets home!
Boy refused to budge.
Grandma: Come! Hold hands!
Boy: No, no, no!

It went on for a while. By the time we got across and walked quite a distance, I could still hear the tug o’ war going on.

My heart went out to the elderly lady. She was probably not quite equipped for a job like this. Taking care of a toddler going through a rebellious stage can be hair-raising on most days. And I somehow don’t get the feeling that this was an isolated event.

In Singapore, a lot of the parenting responsibility is shared between parents and well-meaning grandparents. They are natural helpers because most parents work outside of the home. However, most ‘grandies’, as I like to call them for short, are hardwired to love, not to discipline.

And even if they are able to discipline, they don’t have the same authority as parents. Their words don’t carry the same weight and it doesn’t help that they often use empty threats to scare the kids into submission.

The little ones often catch on to the inconsistencies between parents and grandies faster than you can say “rascal”. Needless to say, life as a childminding grandparent can be tough. I know because I’ve seen the way my three year old twist her grandies around her little finger (when she thought I wasn’t looking.)

So how can we give these wrinkled helping hands a needed boost? Here are some ideas that I’ve tested out in my home.

1. Set clear groundrules. Write them down and stick them on the wall so everyone knows it’s there. Do this for only the top 5-10 most important rules in your book so that you focus your energies on the most important things.

2. Seek their agreement. Rules do not just limit the behaviour of your kids, they also limit the behaviour of the grandies who help to enforce them. Some rules can cause too much discomfort on the part of the grandies, so as far as possible, discuss with them and check whether the rule is first of all achievable. If it causes too much difficulty or unhappiness, then be prepared to change it or pencil in some wriggle room. 

3. Help them see the benefits of the rules that you’re trying to establish. For instance, you’ve set a bedtime routine for the kids. Explain to them why having a routine can help the kids to wind down and prepare them for bed.

4. Treat them as allies, not enemies. It’s tempting to put the blame on grandies when things go wrong, but they have feelings too. Instead of chiding them when things go wrong (I’ll be the first to confess that I sometimes do this), perhaps you can talk it out, put yourself in their shoes, and understand their difficulties. Ask questions like, “what is lacking?” or “what can be done better?”  

5. Give them ideas on how to occupy the kids. This is where routines also help. For instance, after nap-time, it’s outdoor play-time. Or after dinner, it’s drawing / craft time, followed by a bath. Once you help them to structure the day into manageable blocks, chances of the kids acting up due to boredom is lower.

6. Bring them along to parenting workshops. Who says parenting workshops are just for parents? Grandies can definitely benefit from these workshops, and it helps to get an objective third-party view of some of the common struggles that we face.

7. When all else fails, remind yourself that their love for your children is unconditional. Love and discipline go hand-in-hand, so take heart and even if they are lacking in the discipline department, you can at least be sure the other portion is well taken care of.  

8. Fulfill our own roles well. Even if the grandies are able to uphold house rules, it doesn’t take away our responsibility to discipline and teach our own children. We have to set the foundation of love and discipline in the home. Only then can the grandies or alternate care-givers be effective in building upon it day-to-day.

How do you help grandies become better care-givers? What areas do you struggle with, if any?


Anger Management 101: Mums have meltdowns too but…

Have you ever had a meltdown?

After Vera popped into our lives, I found myself being angry more often than I should. Joyful, yes, but angry too. I lost it when there was incessant crying, night wakings, and basically when tiredness and stress overwhelmed me.

Things got better after I got the hang of motherhood, but then the toddler threw it out of whack when she decided to exert her independence and showcase her intolerance for anything other than what ‘I WANT’.

At times, I would lose control and spank her harder than I should, while yelling “why are you acting so naughty?!” or “why can’t you listen to mummy?!” I even spanked with my bare hands — something I’ve told myself not to do because we have decided to use a small wooden spatula for disciplining, and we wanted very much to reserve our hands for loving.

Well, we also told ourselves that we would not try to discipline her when we were angry, as it’s easy to get out of control when wild emotions are ravaging your body. So I guess we failed in the very things we told ourselves not to do.

Looking back, I probably went through some of my darkest moments then — the guilt was over-powering. I became aware of the fact that I came from a family where yelling was a usual occurrence, and I had started to reproduce that same pattern of behaviour in my own household.

Yet, by some grace larger than our own, the hubby and I committed to learning through our mistakes; we worked together and tried to find solutions to each ‘new’ issue. And we set new boundaries for ourselves and our daughter, after learning each time what went right and what went wrong.

We re-strategised our disciplinary plan through each developmental stage that she went through. (Vera kept throwing us new curve balls after we thought we had her ‘figured out’.) I guess through that, we also learnt about our own flaws, and how to work better as a couple. (You simply have to work together. There is no other way. Inconsistent messages will just make things more confusing for your child.)

Today, I found out that yelling (including blame, name-calling, or belittling) can be as emotionally damaging as physically hitting a child. This came through a workshop on anger management held by the NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service. I also re-learnt the reasons why we should try not to let anger get the better of us:

  • Children who are spanked become more aggressive themselves
  • The more corporal punishment is used, the greater the risk of escalation into child abuse
  • If you are constantly angry, you minimize the opportunities to bond with your child
  • Children of angry parents are less empathic, and have poorer overall adjustment later in life
  • Punishment may not be as effective in helping children internalize the value of good behaviour as compared to positive reinforcement and explaining
  • The long-term impact on your child could include low self-esteem, higher chance of depression, eating disorders in females, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating no-spanking, period. But if spanking is a form of letting out your anger on your child, then I believe there can be a better way.

Here’s the good news: While we may be born with the potential to be aggressive, we CAN learn to channel our emotions into more constructive forms.

I came across this anger management article which provided some tips on how to control or manage anger. So the next time something pushes me to anger, I will give some of these a shot:

  • Do not react immediately (if you know that you are angry)
  • Step back, analyse the situation
  • Find out the cause for the action
  • Discuss and find solutions, rather than act on emotion
  • Develop a forgiving mindset (for yourself and for your loved ones)

Personally, I find that walking away from the ‘scene’ and just taking deep breaths as I walk does wonders.

Of course, humour works wonders too…

Anger management

How do you cope with your emotions when they run wild?

Next week, I will be doing a post on the importance of self-care and some strategies to help cope with anger. So stay tuned. And if you haven’t already, do LIKE our Facebook page for more timely updates! 🙂

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