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Discipline when your child is larger than you

It’s going to happen to most of us at some point: our children will be bigger or taller than we are. This shift in size can seem to shift the balance of power, or at least the balance of how we communicate to and discipline our children. But they are still our children, and discipline will still need to happen at times no matter what the relative sizes.

Mom Confronting Teenage Son

We knew before we were married that our children would likely tower over us. I’m the shortest person in a very tall family and my husband is average in an average sized family. Already I’d watched
tall nephews sprout and figured our kids would follow that trend. I was not wrong. When my oldest son was 2, the pediatrician projected his adult height at 6′ 2″ – a full five inches taller than
his parents. Whether he actually reaches that, we won’t know for a couple of years, but at age 13, we look one another in the eye.

Knowing that, I’ve thought for years about what it would be like to parent a child larger than me. Before too long, it won’t just be one child larger than me, it will be two, and possibly three.
Once again, I may be the shortest person in the family, and I’m not short.

Build the foundation early

The foundation for disciplining a large teenager starts much, much earlier – when you are establishing your discipline style to begin with when they are toddlers. Thoughtful, consistent discipline
from an early age is key to establishing and maintaining respect for later years. When your child knows what is expected of them and you are consistent and even in conveying that and disciplining
accordingly, the discipline will still be about the parent-child relationship, and not who is bigger (though that does help sometimes in those early years).

Equally important is the love and respect your whole family shows one another in day to day life. Respectful words and actions at an early age flow right through to the same roles as adults –
albeit with some glitches and gaps through the adolescent years.

This probable future scenario of a very tall child is one of several reasons we chose not to use physical discipline with our children. The notion of spanking a child that could one day hit back –
and possibly think it was a reasonable thing to do since he had experienced it was well out of our comfort zone. You have to decide for yourself, of course, but it was a factor for us.

Power is a matter of perception

As our son has reached these new heights, I’ve observed that power is a matter of perception – his and ours. Although we try to run the house from a foundation of love and respect, let’s be honest:
the parents have the power, economically and intellectually. This very much comes into play as we discipline our son. At 13 he may think he knows everything and can do anything, but on some other
level, he knows he’s only 13 and that he needs us.

Disciplining the child who is bigger than you doesn’t need to be some big power play. It’s all a continuation of what you’ve been working on all along. And taller or bigger than you or not, that
child is still your child.

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