One of the most important decisions we have to make as a parent is how we will discipline our children. Do we spank them when they don’t “behave” to show them who’s boss or do we speak gently and let them get away with everything?
Those are the only two options right?
Many parents seem to think so, but that is 100% wrong.
WHAT IS DISCIPLINE?
The word “discipline” itself comes from the Latin word disciplina- which means teaching and learning. However, the dictionary definition almost always contains the word “punish” and is why the two terms are often used synonymously.
People who grew up receiving physical punishments such as spankings for misbehavior, typically think that is the only way to discipline. Many will continue using that form of discipline on their own children because it is all they know and it “worked” on them.
They think that people who don’t spank, are permissive and let their children get away with everything. Well, that MAY be the case for some of those people, but not for all.
ANSWERING WHY AND HOW
The most important aspect of discipline when it comes to parenting is determining your WHY. Why are you disciplining your child? Is it to…
- make your child pay for their mistake? OR
- teach them how to correct their behavior in the future?
Once you determine if your WHY is for short term or long term gain, you can start mapping how HOW you will achieve that desired outcome.
I know that almost ALL parents have the best intentions. The want that long term gain. They want to raise a child who is respectful and can control their impulses and behavior. They truly feel that their discipline method is the “right one” and will ultimately lead their child to a happy and successful future.
But what if it was proven that one of those methods could possibly result in the exact opposite? Instead of an emotionally stable, honest, and respectful child, he becomes someone who is full of anxiety, has a fear of authority, is dishonest and sneaky, and is overall emotionally unavailable?
Research is telling us that those characteristics can and have become a startling reality. Are they saying that EVERY SINGLE person who was physically punished as a child will end up like that? Of course not. But the risk sharply increases. Are you willing to take that risk?
Thankfully, there IS another option in between the physically punished (as many people refer to as “disciplined”) approach and the permissive approach. Not only has it been proven to be better for a child’s overall well-being but also more effective! Win-win!
THE THIRD OPTION
“That’s the problem with kids these days! They need a good butt-whooping so they know who’s boss and don’t end up in jail!”
“I wouldn’t DARE let my kid get away with hitting me. I will smack his butt and let him know that hitting is NOT okay!”
“If you don’t punish your kids, they will all become special little snowflakes who think they can do anything they want!”
Oh man. If I got a dollar for every time I heard those responses, I’d be rich!
The people making those comments are unaware of the middle ground between Authoritarian Parenting (lots of rigid rules and structure) and Permissive Parenting (lack of rules and structure). They assume that if you don’t physically or emotionally punish your child, that you are letting them get away with everything and letting them walk all over you.
This is just not the case.
There are people in the middle who use something called an Authoritative style of parenting. There are no physical punishments but there certainly are BOUNDARIES and LIMITS. This method also involves a whole lot of patience as the parents are teaching their children valuable life lessons instead of using fear as their only leverage.
Authoritative Parenting is characterized by sensible demands and high responsiveness. Parents have high expectations for their children, but invest in teaching and supporting them so they can best succeed. Authoritative parents encourage independence, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. They also take the time to listen to their children and allow them to express their ideas and opinions.
Research shows that the Authoritative style of parenting is the most effective and the children of authoritative parents tend to be happier, more confident in their abilities, have better emotional regulation, and develop stronger social skills.
Authoritative parents act as a role-model instead of a dictator (or a friend as with permissive parenting). They consistently model appropriate behavior and expect the same out of their children.
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BUT PUNISHMENTS WORK
It would be more accurate to say “punishments work NOW”. While it may stop the behavior at the moment, it doesn’t always translate into better behavior moving forward. Here are some reasons why:
- A punishment conveys to the child what NOT TO DO instead of what TO DO.
- A time out forces the child to deal with his big feelings by himself instead of learning how to manage them with a parent.
- A spanking creates fear and fear isn’t the foundation of a respectful relationship.
- Physical punishments often make kids more sneaky and dishonest because they fear the punishment so will try and get around it any way that they can.
- Spankings show kids that it’s okay to express their emotions by hitting other people.
The list could go on. Bottom line is that punishments may “work” in the moment, but only for that moment. Deeper, more critical, issues may arise from the physical and mental nature of punishments.
A great way to start learning about creating a strong connection with your child instead of using punishments, is through a book called Connection Parenting by Pam Leo.
Do you enjoy yelling at your kids? Do you like spanking them? Do you take pleasure in sending them to timeout?
If you answered NO to those questions, good news, YOU DON’T HAVE TO! You don’t have to yell, spank, or send your child to timeout when they are misbehaving. You just have to teach. Teaching isn’t a quick fix and it involves an abundance of patience and understanding. If you put the time in, however, you and your child will reap the benefits down the road as you’ve built a relationship built on trust, honesty, and mutual respect.
You will find your child able to successfully regulate his emotions and control his impulses and behavior into adulthood. You will have the opportunity to watch your pride and joy live a happy and fulfilled life.
No longer do you have to decide between the traditionally defined Disciplined Child or the Special Snowflake.
Let’s make a difference.
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