Last column I said we’d cover non-physical disciplinary techniques today. I started collecting notes and realized that one column would not do this topic justice. So, here begins a series on the safe and sane discipline of your child. Don’t think that lets you off the hook though! I’m still looking forward to your questions about parenting and family issues. I’ve even joined Twitter (@mlmarkel) to offer another way to contact me.
Did You Know… ? According to Merriam-Webster, the origin of the word “discipline” is from the Latin for “teaching” or “learning.”
“Discipline is really more about guiding children toward positive behavior than it is about punishment.” - Dennis Vickers, MD.
If we view discipline as a means of instruction rather than one of punishment, its dynamic changes from being frequently negative and reactive to being positively proactive about the healthy development of our kids.
There are three main elements in an effective disciplinary system, in order of importance: 1) A strong parent-child relationship; 2) Positive reinforcement; and 3) Appropriate punishment of unwanted behavior.
A positive parent-child relationship is stable, supportive, respectful, attentive, and most importantly, loving. The value of having a strong relationship with your child cannot be overstated for many reasons. If our disciplinary system consists only of punishment, how does this affect our child’s self-esteem? Punishment can be traumatic for a child unless she knows that while being punished is temporary, the love of her parent is not.
Further, if she knows that the only way she can get our attention is by misbehaving or acting out, what unspoken message are we relaying? We spend time on those things we feel are important. If the bulk of the attention we pay them is in response to their misdeeds, children learn that they are only important when they are in trouble.
Maybe your relationship with your kids isn’t what you wish it was. If you remember nothing else from this column, please remember this: It is never too late to build a loving, communicative, and mutually-respectful relationship with your child.
But… There is no shortcut, no magic bullet, no quick fix. Sorry.
There is only one surefire way to build and strengthen your relationship with your child, and that is by spending time together. All parents need to have quality time with each of their children on a regular basis. Enjoy each other’s company; have some fun! Showing a genuine interest in your child will do wonders for the quality of your relationship, which will likely result in an increase in the quantity of your positive interaction. That is the kind of “vicious” cycle I can get behind!
Next time, we’ll look at some specific techniques and suggestions you can experiment with in your quest to develop and deepen your positive relationship with your children. Until then, here’s to the health and happiness of you and your family!