Tired of Ineffective Discipline? One Tip That Will Recalibrate Your Parenting.
“When discipline is done poorly, the child’s self-value suffers.”
By Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC
By Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC
I was born in the era when Dr. Spock was on every new parents’ bookshelf. The trend then was to instill self-sufficiency and independence practically from birth. He advocated letting your child cry for as long as it took for the child to regulate himself.
This was also the same time that the medical profession decided that children in hospitals needed to have a quiet and germ-free environment when recuperating from surgeries and limited time that parents could spend with their recovering child.
Wow. As a therapist now 60 years later, I am shocked that this view permeated my early childhood and was seen as a solid approach to raising children to be healthy and happy.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
ISOLATION IN ANY FORM IS DAMAGING TO THE HEALTH OF THE CHILD.
Now I did not say alone time – which is valuable on many levels for a child’s development, but isolation is completely different from alone time.
Erik Erikson, a famous developmental psychologist, is known for his eight stages of personality development from birth to adulthood. Each stage has a “task” to accomplish before the child is ready for the next stage. Erikson’s theory implied that if a stage is disrupted, a person could remain “stuck” somewhere in their development cycle and never reach the maturity of a healthy adult. “So this explains why my 60 year-old husband still handles responsibilities like an eight year-old!” you say.”
But on a serious note, I believe in the significance of each stage of development and validate that when these important tasks aren’t completed it can undermine a person’s self-confidence, competency and ability to maintain healthy relationships.
Start at the Beginning
The first stage of development is Attachment or Trust v. Mistrust. This stage is the most important building block as here the infant, who is utterly dependent, is developing trust based on the dependability and quality of the child's caregivers. Some of the infant’s unspoken questions are; “Do they see me?”, “Will they meet my needs physically and emotionally? “Are they attuned to me?” “Can I count on them at all times?”
A parent’s day-in and day-out responses answer these questions for the infant and based on the outcome, the child will unconsciously determine the level of safety and their own personal value.
Being cared for implies a child must have value. So truly “seeing” your child and meeting their needs responsively imputes value into their very soul.
But the opposite is true as well. Not being “seen” or cared for physically or emotionally implies to the child “I am not valuable.”
And with the first stage of development being the most important – that of developing trust and self-value, it is also important to not weaken the trust that was built with a poor disciplinary style.
WHEN DISCIPLINE IS DONE POORLY, THE CHILD’S SELF-VALUE SUFFERS.
So how do we discipline and not rob our children of self-value?
Easy breezy… Stay CONNECTED.
Typically, most parents lose sight of this when they discipline. Mainly because the reason for the discipline in the first place is that the child’s behavior or attitude was upsetting, angering or at the very least frustrating to the parent, leaving them feeling very disconnected from the child at the time of disciplining.
Here are 3 STEPS to maintain connection when you discipline your child – at any age!
FIRST, breathe deeply and get in control of your feelings. If a parent is agitated while disciplining, it will almost always end with eroding their child’s self-value. Simply don’t discipline until you are calmed down and back in touch with how important it is to stay connected during correction.
SECOND, invite your child to sit beside you or in front of you within an arm’s distance and where you can look them directly in the eye. THEN …. Gently and kindly reach out and touch their arm or knee and keep your hand there the entire time you talk and listen!!
KIND AND GENTLE TOUCH EXTINGUISHES SHAME AND DEFENSIVENESS.
Don’t you remember how hurtful it was when you had disobeyed and disappointed your parents only to have them look at you with disgust or raise their voice and bark out painful accusations about you as a person? “You are so lazy…selfish…stupid!” as they physically moved away from you? No doubt you lost a chunk of your self-value.
That kind of punishment is punitive and pointless.
It does not help correct behaviors but instead, it invites hardness, hatred, and self-loathing into the child’s psyche.
THIRD, you can still soberly speak the truth as long as you invite them to solve the problem with you (ages 9 years – teens).
*Note: Under nine years old, give positive steps of repair they can easily achieve in a short amount of time. i.e. no month long grounding.
An example might sound like this, “I am upset with the fact you hid your wet towels under your bed when I asked you to clean your room before you could go to the game last week. This has happened more than once, and it is unacceptable. Help me understand what is not working here. Let’s solve this problem and find a solution we both can live with!”
Things to Notice:
1. Communicated frustration without accusing or raising voice.
2. Didn’t lecture, berate, or press for the “whys”.
3. Invited dialogue about what’s not working (hint* this allows for them to say your timeline wasn’t realistic with all the homework they had, which allows you to possibly be a part of the problem –because sometimes we are part of the problem!)
4. Invites them to “join” with you as a team to solve the problem, which is helping them move toward responsible “adulting”.
5. Reinforced their dignity, value and acceptance even when they fail.
AND THE GREATEST GAIN? …. You both feel closer and more connected at the end!!!!!!!!
Because the “kindness of God” leads to repentance –which equals intimacy and connectedness with God our Father. (Romans 2:4)
HIS MODEL OF PARENTING WORKS FOR US AS WELL!
Let me also reiterate… this model works for all ages! Especially Teens!
I invite you to Try it and Transform your parenting!