I have a problem with discipline. Rather, I have a problem with many of the popular parenting books out there that promote different methods of discipline and how many parents have come to view their children’s misbehaviour as a result.
I am all for rules and boundaries, don’t get me wrong. It’s important that we establish values for our families and standards of conduct in our homes so that our children have clear guidance on the path to developing positive character traits such as respect, consideration and responsibility. And sure, I’ve gained plenty of valuable tools from the overabundance of parenting books I’ve read and own. But I think these guidelines are lacking in one very essential area.
For the most part, these methods of discipline focus solely on our children’s behaviour, thereby overlooking entirely the greater meaning underlying their actions.
We, that is, you, me, and our children, are like icebergs. What is exposed at the surface of the frigid waters is only the tip of a great mass. Our behaviour is an expression of our internal world; our thoughts, perceptions and feelings about ourselves, others and the world around us. If we focus exclusively on our children’s behaviour in our task of shaping well-balanced and secure adults, we are missing vital elements of who our children are, often exasperating undesirable behaviour.
I understand that many parents are concerned that if they respond to their children’s misbehaviour in any other way than with firm limits or punishments, then they are positively reinforcing their child’s negative behaviour. In some cases, this is true. However, our children are far more complex than Pavlov’s dog and require greater thoughtfulness and empathy when considering behaviour modification.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in the word NO, but I also believe that when it comes to ongoing behaviour patterns, it is necessary to look below the surface, at our children’s entire experience, as well as our own.
The word discipline is derived from the word disciple. Which makes sense, since, after all, we are trying to teach our children proper behaviour through limit setting. However, in order to be successful in our endeavour, for them to be receptive to our efforts, it is imperative to take into account our child’s entire experience and ask ourselves if our child is in a position to learn. Personally, I struggle to sit through a lesson when I’m hungry, tired or stressed about something, so I wonder if we can expect any different from our own children.
When our children misbehave, it is first and foremost necessary to remain aware of our own experience of our children’s misdoings as to remain calm, clear headed and empathic in our interpretation of their behaviour and then in our response. At times their behaviour may require a clear cut penalty. However, we must also consider that our children are acting out of a greater need to connect to us and gain comfort and support through their experience of strong emotions. Taking a moment to reconsider the context of your child’s behaviour is an investment in to your children’s development that can’t be ignored.