Advice Column, Parenting

Healthy Parent-Child Relations Through Discipline

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Parenting doesn’t come with a manual – and yet it is arguable the most important job on earth.  Why then, do we get it wrong so often?  Is it because we don’t know any better?  At Contemporary Parenting we have devised a 4 module course to explore you as parent, and the challenges and opportunities that are open to you to bring about lasting positive change in your homes.  One of the big parental areas of confusion and contention is that of discipline.  How is it that we facilitate children into their goodness and greatness?

Have you ever considered that connection is key to positively influencing children? Have you ever thought about positive guidance through relationship as opposed to through threats and consequences.  Could you imagine a different and better way to move your children towards behaviour that you require from them?

Punishment rarely teaches accountability and can stir up significant negative emotion and resentment in the child. Consider how you felt as a child when you were grounded, sent to your room or had privileges taken away.  What were you thinking and feeling? Where you considering your wrong doing and pondering improved behaviour next time, or plotting revenge?

When we parent punitively, through punishment, we often get the result we want in the short term as children are too scared not to obey, but do we really want compliance through fear, or do we want compliance and cooperation because children come to understand the reasons behind our requests?

At Contemporary Parenting we have come up with some ideas to deal with those ‘sticky’ situations.

1. Let your child find the solutions:                                                        

I notice that you haven’t managed to complete your school work before bed time – I wonder what the best solution would be? 

Using observation and clever question asking is key to helping children to find their own solutions. It is empowering and it can be fascinating what children can come up with.

2. Partner with your child:

If the child coming up with a solution doesn’t work then work with them shoulder to shoulder to show them that you are committed to win:win problem solving.  It also may require some short-term compromise while you get them into solving their own problems thoroughly.  In other words, hair may need to go unwashed tonight in order that their solution of showering in the morning is honoured. Work to together to MAP: Make A Plan to move forward.  Create a sense of team and truly consider even their most out of the box ideas.

3. The power of the ‘may’: 

Who knew there was such power in 3 letter words?  Consider the difference between the statements, and play with them in your own homes;

“take your shoes off now.”

“Can you please take your shoes off?” 

“You may take your shoes off now?”  The latter is a clear but passive statement with built in respect and guidance

4. Offer a ‘rewind’:

I see you are not keen to bath right now, but being rude isn’t what we do in this family. Would you like to do a rewind?  Giving a child a chance to redo a behaviour teaches so much to them. Make ‘rewinds’ a part of your everyday life.  Less than ideal behaviour can escape being the source of blame & shame and can rather be seen as a learning experience in which all memebers of the family get a do-over to try it again.

5. Pro-active steps alleviate a lot of resistance:

Connect with your child before you direct them.  Honour where they are at before requesting that they transition to something new.  Where possible, give ample warning too and always try and be mindful of the time – transitions under time pressure are a ticking bomb waiting to go off.

6. Be a friendly spy into their inner-worlds:

No behaviour is ever, ever random. There is always a reason and if we become investigators and are curious about a behaviour we can start to find out what is behind it and address that rather than the symptom which is the behaviour.  Children find big feelings scary so they will often suppress them in the moment, for instance the rejection that they felt at school, and it may come out at the dinner table when they are rude to you, or aggressive with a sibling. If you aren’t curious you will just suppress the behaviour and thus compound the negative emotions behind it.

When we make connection and relationship our key endeavours with our children we have a far greater chance of peace, cooperation and joy and in our homes. Part of this is letting go of always needing to be right and to make the children wrong.  When we are in relationship we do this thing called life together.  As the adults we have more experience but that doesn’t mean we are better people. Children are bound to make mistakes, repetitively, they are wired for it.  Our job is to sculpt their brains, their wiring, in their best interests, and the most positive way to do this is when we are connected to them and they to us.  Fear thwarts learning.  Love builds happy children.  Love instills boundaries, but kindly. Go on – connect with your kids today.

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