That phrase is heard frequently in our house. While we believe in disciplining our kids and offering up consequences for actions that don't meet expectations, we've found that those seven words are often more effective than discipline.
It took us a long time to find an effective way of correcting my younger daughter's behavior. She seemed oblivious to consequences. Being sent to her room didn't bother her. Losing privileges wasn't a big deal. There just wasn't anything she cared about enough to make an impact. Plus, discipline wasn't changing her behavior. For whatever reason, she often didn't connect the discipline with the needed change in behavior.
So, we started using the seven words at the beginning of this post. When she used her words incorrectly or made choices that were less than stellar, we would simply ask, "Would you like to try that again?" We rewound the moment and gave her another chance. In some situations it might take three or four tries before she got it right. Sometimes we would have to point out what was wrong before she would get it right.
However, we found that asking that one question often helped her change her behavior in ways that sending her to her room or removing privileges could not. It's not that we don't discipline our daughters anymore. It's just that we've found that giving our daughters a chance to immediately fix their behavior is effective in changing that behavior the next time.
It's easy to forget that sometimes our kids don't always know what the right action is. It's easy to forget that they don't have the wealth of experience that we do. And it's easy to punish poor behavior instead of teaching the correct actions. It's hard to offer another chance when we're angry or frustrated with our kids. It's much easier to mete out consequences.
But the truth is that God doesn't hand down consequences for our sin if we choose to follow Him. He doesn't punish us for what we do wrong. He forgives us. He may allow the natural consequences of our behavior to take place, but He chose to send His Son to deal with the eternal consequences of our sin in our place. Romans 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord." Yet God chose to allow Jesus to die in our place so that we would no longer be separated from Him.
When we do something wrong, something that doesn't please God, God doesn't immediately write us off. He doesn't turn His back on us. He forgives us our mistake and asks us to try it again. If that's how God deals with us, then we can be confident that using that tactic with our kids will also yield results.
So, if you're struggling with a child who doesn't seem to respond to any form of discipline, try giving them a do-over. Stop and ask them to give it another try. Help them figure out what the correct behavior in the situation should be. It won't fix things overnight, but it will give your kids new tools to use the next time.