Today, I want to address the fear parents have when it comes to disciplining their kids. Whether you are taking away privileges, giving time-outs, or using more controversial practices, such as spankings, disciplining your kids gets a bad rap. A big reason why is because people feel they are “shaming” their child when disciplining them. The reality is, any disciplinary technique that you use can lead to your child feeling ashamed or sensing that they are a “bad kid.” But there is a secret to discipline that allows you to address your child’s behavior without leaving an emotional scar on their hearts or damaging your Parent-Child Relationship. This key component to discipline is about how you implement the technique. Today, I’m going to show you how you can discipline your child in a way that does not shame him/her. In fact, what I will teach you today, you can apply to any disciplinary tactic, it will improve your child’s behavior, and it will improve your Parent-Child Relationship by establishing mutual respect between you and your kids.
As I mentioned earlier the key to using any disciplinary tactic is all in how you present the discipline to your child, how you actually implement the tactic, and how you wrap-up the disciplinary session. One of my foundational teachings to parents is that discipline is all about teaching your child.
“To discipline a child is to teach him.”
If you approach discipline with this perspective, then you will be much less likely to shame them and much more likely to get a positive response from your child. Let’s review my 3 core strategies to discipline as a positive tool in the Parent-Child Relationship.
How you enter a disciplinary session is really going to set the stage for how the whole session is going to turn out. If you enter the disciplinary session with anger, frustration, resentment, etc., your child is going to sense that. This, in turn, is going to trigger an immediate emotional response from them before you ever even start talking. This response may be shame, guilt, anger or defiance. Coming into the disciplinary session in a calm manner is going to be a critical first step. If you can manage compassion, this will greatly add a soothing effect to the disciplinary session. You also want to remain firm. Being firm is going to send that message to your child that the situation is serious, and you aren’t playing games. Finally, coming into the disciplinary session with the intent “to teach,” is also going to help keep down the sense of guilt or shame your child might begin to feel. Express to your child that you are there to teach them alternate behaviors that are going to get them better results.
Implementation is all about how you conduct the disciplinary session. It’s essentially the “lecture” portion of your chosen disciplinary method. Ideally, you are going to wait until your child has calmed down enough that they are able to listen. When your child is in the height of a temper tantrum, that’s not the time to lecture. In this situation, you’re going to want to wait until he/she has settled down some and can focus on you. This is, generally, when sending your child to a quiet space or separating them from the situation that is causing them distress is a good idea. Remember, though, that when you remove them from the space, you should be doing this in a calm manner (i.e. Presentation).
Once your child is calm enough, you should begin the lecture portion of the disciplinary session. Now, when I say “lecture,” I don’t mean that you talk at your kids. You should be trying to engage them in a dialogue where they can explain to you their side of the story, their own emotions, and express their thought processes. This is important. It shows your child that you care about their opinions and “their side” of the story (particularly important with pre-teens and teens). Be patient as you listen, reflect what you hear often, and truly try to understand the situation from their perspective.
During this dialogue, be sure that you are helping your child to identify their emotions (i.e. “Sounds like you were pretty angry at your brother”), and help your child to understand how their behavior has affected other people (i.e. “When you yelled at your brother, I think he might have felt embarrassed,” “When you say that to Mommy, it hurts her feelings”). Doing this helps to develop empathy, compassion for others, and grows your child’s emotional maturity. Remember to present these emotions in a calm way to help encourage the dialogue and keep down any potential feelings of shame or resentment.
Finally, be specific when discussing the behavior you disapprove of, and be specific in what you would like to see next time. Encourage your child to think of alternate behaviors with you! This is a great practice because you are modeling problem solving skills to them, as well as critical thinking. For younger kids, you’ll need to “spoon feed” these alternate behaviors a little more.
3) The Wrap-Up
When ending the disciplinary session, always end with an act of love. All kids want to know that, even though they may have displeased you or have hurt someone in their family, they are still loved. It is very important to make sure your child feels loved and accepted by you regardless of their behavior. One way to accomplish this is by ending the disciplinary session with an act of love, such as a hug or a kiss from you. Let your child know that, no matter what, you will always love them! This is immensely important. This helps to reaffirm for your child that they are still number one in your eyes regardless of the mistakes they may have made. This also helps to repair any minor damage caused to the Parent-Child Relationship due to the disciplinary session. When disciplining siblings, you can encourage them to give each other a hug, shake hands, or anything else that would help to display love towards one another.