Positive Parenting is all about connecting to your child and keeping that the first goal in all communications with your child. Discipline actually means “to teach”. Someone recently asked me how I discipline my children, what they meant was, “how do you punish them when they don’t do the right thing?” Discipline is helping a child solve a problem, not punishing them because they have a problem. We can do this as parents even when the child has not done the “right thing.”
Let’s assume your child has done something wrong, it probably won’t be too hard to go back in your recent memory to think of an example. The traditional way to “discipline” that child and teach that that is not ok is to get loud, lecture and dole out punishment. Think back to when you were a child, did that work? If you decided not to do that activity again, it was probably because the consequence was not worth it, not because you were convinced it was wrong. And if the consequences were not a deterrent to your activity, you probably just got better at hiding it from your parent. Walls are up, tempers are up, and connection is down.
Also, think of the last time you were reprimanded as an adult, how did that feel? You probably felt belittled and angry even if you deserved the reprimand. Your child has similar feelings and wants the same thing you want in those situations, empathy and connection.
So. when you need to correct your child, think of these three things:
Stay calm is the biggest one. Once you can control your own impulses to react and slow down and take a deep breath before engaging with your child, the rest should come easier.
Stay connected by validating the child’s feelings if you know what they are. If you don’t know what they are, be curious and ask questions.
“I know you don’t want to share your toy with your sister, that can be frustrating.”
“You seem angry, can you tell me about it?”
Take the time to connect especially when your child is caught in the act of doing something they know you wouldn’t approve of. This helps the child keep his own thinking brain online instead of being reactive, and is able to listen and engage by mirroring your calm and connection.
Depending on how emotionally charged the situation is, you may decide to teach now or later. If you are upset, please talk to your child later about his behavior. When you feel like it is a good time, talk with your child about the incident.
“Hey about that thing that happened this morning, that didn’t go so well, what do you think we can do next time?
This type of discipline affords the child with respect and empathy and allows him to make his own path to right a wrong to maintain connection rather than out of feelings of shame and anger. It’s connection.