Conscious parenting: 3 ways of lovingly disciplining your children
In recent news, I read an article that reported how a 13-year-old girl had jumped to her death. Her father publicly humiliated her by posting an embarrassing video online to try and teach her a lesson in how he thought she should behave. Reading that article highlighted for me the importance of the balance in educating our children whilst disciplining them, without shame. Of course as parents, we all want the best for our children and as such, should discipline thoughtfully.
Children sometimes experience abuse and humiliation in the name of discipline. It’s also common in some cultures to publicly humiliate a child as a disciplinary tool. At school teachers name and shame the child with the ‘bad behaviour’. At home they are grounded or punished for not behaving in the way that adults want them to. Unfortunately, parents and teachers don’t realise that they are actually causing more harm than good in the child through delivering these poor disciplinary methods.
Having completed thousands of hours of personal one-to-one sessions with clients, I have repeatedly found that people’s wealth, relationships and even their health issues can be related to how they were treated as a child.
It has been anecdotally reported that the majority of health issues in adults are due to how, as a child, they were rejected, abandoned and/or invalidated. The irony of this is that the act of so-called discipline is often done with the best of intentions by the adult, looking to instill their child with responsibility. Disciplining your child is important, but as parents we can often blur the line between discipline and humiliation.
Many times I have experienced myself as a parent that my ‘telling of’ my children was really my own stress levels being high and my patience level being low. The frustration that I was currently experiencing, expressed itself in the shape of trying to ‘discipline’ my children. And if you look inside before telling your children off for shouting and screaming or creating a mess, you too will find an underlying stress of what might be happening at work or in your life.
The best way to start changing the way we discipline our kids is to become aware of our own feeling and keeping our personal issues outside of our interaction with our kids. In other words, If we could leave our worries at the door before we enter our homes, we’d recognise that our families are waiting to embrace us, that our children look forward to seeing us and want our love and attention. We’d then open up a space for the awareness of our behaviours, such as when we perhaps shouting at children as a way to vent out our own upsets.
Discipline does not have to equal to a trauma that stays in that child long after the event has happened and shows up in the form of lack of confidence and low self esteem as an adult.
In my experience, here are 3 ways I have found to work remarkably well in instilling discipline in your child without leaving them feeling humiliated.
Stay open in communication:
Stay open in communication. Communication is the essence of life and when we stop communicating, we die. The same applies when we refuse to listen to our children: somewhere we allow the relationship to die.
The challenge is when a child has done wrong in the adults eyes, but the adult hasn’t taken time to find out why the child actually exhibited this behaviour. Instead they resort to blaming and shaming them, often without even realising what language they are using to try and correct the behaviour. By refusing to listen to your child’s opinion you are invalidating who they are and giving them a belief that they don’t deserve anything. Its important to keep the flow of communication going regardless of how emotional you are. Being honest with your child will help them understand your reaction. If you don’t express how you are feeling, they will make an assumption and will define the meaning of your behaviour as them being a ‘horrible person who makes mummy/daddy angry’ or ‘Mum/dad don’t love me, I am bad”. Instead when you communicate with the child how their behaviour made you feel, instead of pinpointing their personality and express your love for them, they will feel your love behind the anger and will aim to make you happy.
Develop healthy emotional expression :
As mentioned earlier that sometimes as adult, we misplace our anger at work onto our child’s behaviour. Aim to avoid using your children as an emotional ‘dumping ground’ . Start being aware of what is happening underneath the surface and address the real situation. Parents don’t realise how much emotion they are carrying and how they might be displacing them onto their children.
When I was writing my book, The Awakening and was a deadline with the editor, I was feeling stressed all the time. One day, I was angry at my kids for not putting their shoes properly on the rack and how their room is always a mess. Then my 12 year old son said, “Mum you are really stressed aren’t you, your book is due soon. you need a 20 second hug and he hugged me tightly .Suddenly, I realised that he was right, I was really stressed as I felt stuck with one of the chapters. This realisation made me aware of my frustration at kids was really my frustration with myself.
Many times, as parents we express wrong emotions to wrong person. For example, if you are angry at work and have had a long tiring day and you come home to your child who wants to play with you or show you their drawing, you might simply snap at them because you feel tired.
By developing healthy emotional expression, instead to snapping at them, you will be able to express to your child that you are feeling tired at the moment and would love to play with them after resting.
Give them options:
If you believe your child has done something wrong instead of taking things away from them, give them options. Usually parents use ‘taking away’ technique to teach their kids a lesson. “Give up your mobile/game/tv for a week” or “you are grounded” are usual means to discipline. Then the child reacts in a tantrum or even ‘worse behaviour’ to show their disapproval.
When you give them options instead of just taking things away, you will not only minimise the emotional drama but also fill the empty time that punishment has created in your child’s life. If there is no Tv for an hour then there is one extra hour for them to be ‘naughty’.Give them something to do ‘instead’ of watching the Tv.
May be an hour of gardening or cleaning. Replace their behaviour with a new one. If the child has said ‘rude’ words and you need to discipline them. Ask them to say more good things to the person they were rude to. It is much better to replace things then simply taking things away.
In a nutshell, it is important to remember that each one of us is doing the best with the knowledge that we have. Our world revolves around our children and for our children, we are the most important people too. So during those things when things aren’t going their best, it is important to remember that all there is, is love between us. This will help align whether our behaviours are coming from that love or not. By doing so, we can consciously choose more loving ways of disciplining our children.