Years ago, discipline used to be so harsh that it at times would have been considered child abuse. Now, in our culture, we are so afraid of damaging our children that we wonder if we can even use discipline. Today we talk to two therapists to learn what evidence shows about discipline. If you’ve been worried at all about discipline, you’ll want to listen to this episode.
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Here’s six things to think about when it comes to discipline:
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Stephanie Carbajal, LMFT
1. How do you define discipline?
What do you think when you hear the word discipline? What are your current thoughts on discipline? We feel that disciplined adults are admirable. Adults that have good routines that help them be healthy and stick to those routines even when it’s tough. Adults that are disciplined at work accomplish a lot and are often rewarded for that discipline. Disciplined college students perform well and having discipline over our actions is a critical life skill.
If we feel so good about discipline in adults, why do we cringe when we think about discipline with kids? Stephanie encourages parents to change how we think about discipline. Discipline isn’t about punishment. Rather, it’s about helping our kids become happy, healthy adults.
Kids need help becoming developing self-discipline in so many areas and the best guide is their parent. It is a parent’s job to help a child eliminate unhealthy behaviors and repeat healthy behaviors. Appropriate discipline will help our child have the self-discipline they need to succeed in life.
2. Discipline doesn’t damage when done with love and warmth
It is possible to discipline our child with warmth and love. Positive Discipline author Jane Nelson, Ed. D. states in her writings that a parent needs to be KIND and FIRM. Meaning that parents can and should have rules in their home and high expectations for how their children behave. However, the rules should be enforced without in a loving way.
That being said…THERE ARE TIMES IN PARENTING WHEN YOU WILL LOOSE IT! What do you do when you do loose your temper or you are really frustrated by your child’s behavior?
First, if you’ve already lost it on your child, you need to repair the situation. Research is showing that relationships last when the people in the relationship take the time to repair when they’ve made a mistake. You may need to apologize in order to repair your relationship with your child. Apologizing actually teaches your child how to make things right when they make a mistake. This is really healthy modeling for your child.
Second, if you’re angry or irritated it’s OK to share that with your child. Just share it in a way that will help your child. Say that you’re angry or frustrated, then say how you’re going to handle it. We want them to manage their emotions and get to model managing ours.
3. Ask Yourself “What Does Discipline Provide for Our Children?”
Think about what your child needs to have a happy childhood and to become a healthy adult. Can they really be all that you hope they will be if they do not learn which behaviors are OK and which aren’t? We wish our babies came home from the hospital ready to behave really well, but that’s not the reality. Our kids need parents who will guide them through appropriate discipline and lots of love. Then be intentional about guiding them through helping them be disciplined. Is their a behavior that they are using that really isn’t helping them and won’t help them?
Jeff Tesch, LMFT
4. Appropriate discipline helps kids be happier
Kids do not enjoy being out of control. In fact, many of the kids in Jeff’s office say that they are happier when their parents get a little more firm about negative behavior! Our kids genuinely feel better when they are growing and developing self-discipline. This doesn’t happen without a parent having appropriate boundaries around behavior and appropriate consequences when the rules are broken. You may be afraid that you’re kids are going to be upset, but child after child and family after family say that things are so much happier when there are clear boundaries around behavior and a child is expected to behave in a healthy way.
To learn more about appropriate and effective discipline for a strong-willed child, read here.
5. Healthy discipline growing up prepares a child for real life
When child grows up, they will enter the real world. In the work place, relationships, or college there are choices that have good consequences and choices that have sad consequences. Our home is an opportunity to prepare our kids for real life.
6. NOT using discipline can damage
Letting a child just behave however they want without any consequence can lead to a child struggling at home, in school, with friends, and at work. Kids need parents to teach them how to behave so they can do well at home and in other settings. Love and Logic authors Jim Fay and Foster Cline M.D. teach that the best time for kids to learn tough lessons is while they live in the home. Why? Because the cost to the child is so little. If a child misbehaves at home and receives a short time out, that is WAY less damaging to a child than if they misbehave at work and loose a job.
Using appropriate discipline is a sign of love. Your child NEEDS your guidance. Your child NEEDS you to teach them how to behave appropriately.
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