When we discipline our children, the most important question is: What is being taught?
What are we teaching?
Children learn from us (and others), when we model a particular behavior, not from us telling them what to do. Ironically, we do much more telling than modeling.
What sense does it make to punish a child for taking another’s toy if they have not yet learned the concept of sharing? Responses such as slapping their hand, sitting them in the corner in time out, or jerking the toy from their hands and giving it to the other child, aren’t going to teach them to take turns and share if they haven’t yet understood the concept of sharing or taking turns.
An alternative to this approach is to model the appropriate behavior.
After everyone is in a calmer place, you get on the floor with them and the other child. Show them how to take turns by handing them the ball; ask for the ball back; then give the other child the ball. Repeat the process, making the teachable moment calm and fun. Both children are likely to get the message. While you are demonstrating, you can make comments about this is how you share. The repetition wires the experience in the children’s brain / body system.
Any child in a stressed-out place does not ‘have their ears on.’ Until they are calmer, they will not be receptive to hearing you, and until they can hear you, they cannot understand or ‘get’ your message. They will also not ‘get’ your message as long as you are in a stressed-out state about their behavior.
Alternatives to spanking
When parents move from that old fear-based parenting to love-based child-developmental parenting, it is important to remember these tips.
* Take a personal time out: Never discipline when you feel angry with what your child has done.
* Allow the child to ‘take a moment’: Once you are calm, if the child is still emotionally reacting, give them time to calm down. They will not hear your message if they are in a stressed-out place.
* Listen to their side: After you both have calmed down listen to what your child has to say about their behavior.
* Look at this as a teachable moment: Armed with an understanding of your child’s thinking, you may find that the misbehavior is really normal developmental behavior that needs your guidance rather than punishment.
* Tell them what TO DO: When considering how to help the child, reassure them of your love and then let them know that what they did was not okay AND what is the appropriate behavior next time.
Influence: the best tool for raising children today
Parenting is a very difficult undertaking and a sacred undertaking. Children need parents that understand where they are and how to guide them to where they need to be.
In this fast paced 21st century too often we look for quick fixes or when we’re under stress we revert to punitive parenting practices.
Controlling a child’s behavior may work when they are little, but over time, creates distance in the parent-child relationship. Distance in the parent-child relationship means lack of ability to positively influence, guide, and teach them. Distance from our children means they will turn their attention to their peer group for support, influence, and information. Without an influential connect with our children, we have nothing.
Instead of spanking
As a Licensed Professional Counselor, by the time I see parents with difficult children, they have tried multiple techniques for many years. I repeatedly hear, “No matter what I do nothing seems to work. I spank them and spank them and they just keep doing the same things over and over.”
When I share this new paradigm many don’t come back or they come back later. I have been told by parents that at first they thought I was spouting some hippy 60’s peace and love stuff to them.
However, those who stay and are willing to do their inner work and learn new information have, in about six months, turned their homes into more peaceful places. Perfect no, but they have found their new understanding de-escalates situations with their children that before meant hours of meltdowns, tears, yelling, screaming, kicking and exhaustion (for the parent and the child). Of course they will still have issues with their children, but they are the expected developmental issues, not World War III.
This is not an easy way to parent because many adults are resistant to examining themselves and their own style of parenting. They hold onto beliefs that children are here for adults not the other way around.
To that argument, I say, “Life is a process and so is parenting and growing up.”
What I’m talking about is not always easy, but it is simple to understand, once you learn the concepts. It is not only simple, it is powerful. Never underestimate the power of love and your influence between you and your child.
Next month we’ll be discussing parent & child development.