Too often, we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A disciple is a student, not a recipient of behavioral consequences.
—Dr. Dan Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child
Parents often interact with their children in the way they were themselves parented. Without pausing to reflect and choose a different way to parent, we all go on autopilot, making subconscious choices about what it means to raise a child. This can mean adopting a harsh, punitive approach to correction; we display our might and strength to get the child’s attention, to show him who’s boss. Or, on the other side of the spectrum, we might be permissive. In the moment, it feels easier to give in and say yes than to deal with tears and tantrums that come with setting limits. But neither approach works long-term to produce the character traits you want to see in your child as an adult. Have you heard about positive discipline?
Does the tension between authoritarian and permissive parenting styles leave you feeling confused? Well, be encouraged: no one parents perfectly. We all mess up from time to time. Research does, however, tell us that what matters most in our relationship with our children is attunement, connection, and enjoyment. As we teach our child, we are to do it from a place of warmth and concern for the person they are becoming—not from a place of anger and negativity.
Have you lost the joy in enjoying your child? Have frustration, anger, and despair crept into your parenting style?
Your child needs to know that you are for him and in his corner—even during moments of correction. Children do better when they feel better, and secure attachment is a primary need for every human. Punishment is anger based and wears down a child’s sense of efficacy and value. Discipline seeks to guide the child to better choices so he can develop a sense of capability and self-discipline.
Would you like to learn how to promote secure attachment, diffuse behavior problems, and recapture the delight you once held for your child?
I offer group sessions in my Woodstock office, but I also work with individual clients and couples as a certified Positive Discipline instructor.
What is Positive Discipline? Positive Discipline is a parenting approach built upon four main ideas:
Let’s talk more about how to thrive as a parent as you build a stronger emotional bond with your child.
Why won’t my child obey? His bad behavior is driving me crazy!
Bad behavior is hard to ignore. It’s embarrassing. It’s annoying. In an attempt to gain control, parents often crack down on discipline, reasoning they’ve just not been tough enough. However, with the exception of, perhaps, naturally compliant children, harsh punishment doesn’t work. In fact, parents may be puzzled to see that the stricter and more punitive they
get, the more defiant and resentful their children become. Stopping the bad behavior is never the main goal. The goal is to understand what overwhelming emotion the child is attempting to regulate with his behavior.
“Old-School” discipline was good enough for me. I don’t trust an approach that makes me seem “soft.”
It’s easy to forget how it felt to be child, to be small and unsure and desperate for your parent’s attention. It’s easy to believe that you won’t gain your child’s respect if you “spare the rod and spoil the child.” On a subconscious level, we may equate proper parenting with tough love. Yet, research shows that what our children need most is a secure attachment with at least one
consistent caregiver. Discipline tactics that make a child fearful or feel unheard and unseen erode secure attachment. Over time, an approach that says, “I care more about your behavior than your feelings,” will set up insecure relationship patterns that follow the child into adulthood, making friendship and intimacy more difficult for him.
I’m afraid that emphasizing kindness and connection won’t work. You don’t know my kid! Can strong-willed children be disciplined through positive parenting?
All children are born prewired to connect. Throughout the lifespan, we long to be reassured that our needs will be met, that we are precious to special other(s). When children don’t feel connected to parents—which is becoming all too common in this age of distraction—they don’t know how to articulate the distance they sense. What they do instead is, you guessed it, behave badly. Naughty, defiant behavior is their way of saying, “Hey, something doesn’t feel right between us.”
In a desperate attempt to establish connection at any cost, they’ll pitch a fit, pick a fight, or disobey. You’ve heard it before, negative attention is better than no attention at all. When you learn to prioritize connection through your parenting approach, you will fill the child’s emotional cup and eliminate his need to use uncooperative behavior to get needs met.
Jennifer is a wife and mother who has walked through many of the struggles she sees in her office. She connects with empathy as she guides clients through the strong emotions that so often accompany family life. She knows what it means to feel stuck between how you thought life would be and how it currently is. If you are near Woodstock and need parenting counseling, call for a consult today.