I realized today that when I punish my children, I do a good job stating the “why,” the “what” and “how things can be done differently next time.” But, what I rarely do, is explain how I feel about their behavior.

Therefore, today, I decided to write a love letter to my teenage son. This is an excerpt from the letter:

“…I am very sorry that you will miss wrestling challenge. I know how hard you have worked and the discipline that you have put toward wrestling. I’m so proud of your commitment to the nutrition and the work outs. I do not enjoy punishing my children. I am happiest when you are happy. I am always on your side routing for you.

I know in my heart that right now, at this moment in your life, I am likely the person you love more than anyone in the world. Not every minute of every day, but deep in your heart. I am also the person that you mistreat when you are anxious or unhappy. My knowledge of your love for me never wavers, even when you tell me you “hate me.” Yet, I feel scared and lost when you act the way you did toward me this morning.

The fear is an anxiety for what type of man you will become. I wonder how you will treat your wife. I wonder whether you will turn to alcohol when stress at your job is overwhelming. The feeling would be looking up and seeing a huge tornado on the horizon and knowing that you have to run, but not knowing where to go, or what is coming next, or whether you will survive.

If the feeling were a smell it would be the hint of a gas leak in our home. The color a deep gray-navy blue like the color of the ocean during a storm. There is a sadness in the fear and concern. A helplessness. The taste is distasteful like eating a spoon full of mayonnaise.

The feeling is like when you stumbled as a toddler on the stairs right in front of me; and all I could do was to run behind you yelping. Luckily, daddy rounded a corner and caught you like a football; just in time. Our punishments are us reaching out to catch you before you fall; even though they don’t feel like that to you.”

I was concerned that I would be disappointed by my son’s reaction to my letter. Fortunately, the reaction was a hug, an apology, and acceptance for the consequences he created when he chose to be mean and disrespectful.

I will not always remember to take a deep breath and concentrate on the feelings along with the facts and circumstances of a situation. Yet, I have noticed that when I do, I am more likely to achieve the outcome I desire. I am incredibly thankful that what started as a difficult day, is ending with love, understanding… and my son washing my windows,folding laundry and helping his siblings with their homework.

And, I just awarded myself a high-five from my husband.