Every child, just like every adult has a set of values, a hierarchy of things that are from most to least important to them. With children under 10, their highest value will usually have something to do with play, although this will differ from child to child. For example, one may like playing with dinosaurs and another with dolls and another may like playing ball games. Once they reach the 10-20 age range their values will normally shift to be around socialising, and again specific to each individual child.
Every one of us, regardless of our age is inspired to do things linked to our highest values. These are the things that we don’t need to be motivated from outside to do – that we just do without being reminded, they are the things that we enjoy, that give us energy, that we do with enthusiasm. We also feel heard, understood and loved when someone else acknowledges our values, and we feel hurt, misunderstood and unloved when our values are challenged.
Most of what parents call disciplining their children is trying to get the kids to live within their values, not understanding that a child has their own set of values that do not necessarily match those of the parent. Every person has a set of values that are fingerprint specific to them, so your child’s values, even if similar to yours, will never be exactly the same.
Now, I’m not talking about values as in social idealisms, like honesty or trust or dependability. I’m talking about things that are genuinely important to you in your life as it currently stands. So, a mother may have her children as her highest priority, followed by her career and then socialising. The father may have finances, then spirituality and then knowledge as his priorities. And each child will have their own list of things that are important to them. If we understand and respect each other’s values, instead of trying to force our own onto the other members of the family, then we open up a new level of communication and respect where discipline can be completely redefined. We will never need to bribe or punish a child to do or not do something if they can see how doing or not doing it is helping them to fulfil their highest values.
For example, my daughter has dinosaurs as her highest value. She is intrinsically inspired to learn about, read about and play with dinosaurs. So if I want her to come and bath (I have a higher value on cleanliness than she does) then instead of fighting with her and insisting that bathing is good for her because I say it is (imposing my values into her) I simply say, “Hey Kai, I heard a rumour that there are some glow in the dark dinosaurs getting up to no good in the tub, just waiting for you to come and play with them”. You can spend an hour of shouting and bribing and insisting that a child get in the bath when they don’t want to, or you can appeal to their values and have them actually enjoy doing what you want them to do.
It is worth finding out what your children’s values are, as you will need to communicate differently with every child as every child is a unique individual with a unique set of values. Respect their values, link what’s important to you to what’s important to them and you have respectful communication rather than discipline.