Q&A: reprimands hurting your child's feelings

The other day Tertia and I discovered that we've got the same problem going on in both our houses. Her Adam and Kate (who are 5) and my younger son T (who is also 5 but a couple of months younger than A&K) have started crying if we reprimand or punish them and telling us that we've hurt their feelings.

Now, on one level, it's awesome that we have kids that are so self-aware and self-actualized that they can stand up for themselves when their feelings are hurt.

But. It sometimes seems like a way for them to try to weasel out of the situation they were in.

So the question is: How do we honor our children and their feelings, while at the same time not let these claims manipulate us into dropping discipline?

In the long run, kids need limits and they need to learn acceptable boundaries for action as much as they need to identify and stand up for their feelings.

Another compounding factor is that my son T is prone to crocodile tears. I think he just likes to cry (even as an infant he was a Tension Releaser and needed to cry himself to sleep) and can almost make himself believe it sometimes. So I wonder if his feelings actually *are* hurt, or if he just *wants* his feelings to be hurt.

What I've been trying to do is:

  • discipline in a way that is about the behavior and not him so it's less likely that his feelings will be hurt to begin with
  • acknowledge his hurt feelings and express sympathy for them, without apologizing for disciplining him
  • bring the topic back to the episode and discipline ASAP so the focus goes back onto teaching him limits and appropriate behavior

I try to do a little "safe, respectful, and kind" check to make sure that what I said and the punishment I doled out was all three of those. If I was too mean or harsh, I'll apologize sincerely. But he still has to be accountable for what he did.

Does anyone else have kids who say their feelings are hurt when you call them on bad behavior? How do you handle it?