To discipline or not to discipline is a hot topic! This is a question that enters almost every parent’s mind, sometimes on a daily basis. Do you ever find yourself in a reactionary role to something your child has done wondering if you should discipline him? And then if you do, what disciplinary action should you choose? For many this is a constant dilemma.
Of course our goal as parents is to teach our children to be the best they can be. Our motive is admirable and out of love. With that being said, let’s look at the effectiveness of disciplining children.
I will use a situation I recently experienced with my grandson, Zach, as an example. Zach had 3 of his friends over for an afternoon to play basketball and swim. Their parents were scheduled to pick up their sons between 5:00 and 5:30.
Their parents all arrived on time. The boys were all still in the pool having a great time so I invited them to join me for a glass of ice tea. The boys were thrilled because it gave them a few more minutes to swim.
Within about 30 minutes their parents began calling them out of the pool to change and get ready to leave. In the midst of drying off, Zach blurted out for all to hear, “Can they all spend the night?” Of course all of the boys thought this was an awesome idea and immediately began asking their moms if it would be okay. “Yeah!” “Can I Mom?” “Please Mom!”
My reaction was not as enthusiastic; I was not prepared to host a sleep over for 4 very energetic boys!
But of course, all eyes were soon on me…the parent’s, the boy’s and Zach’s. I felt absolutely horrible to have to explain that it wasn’t possible because I had planned a quiet evening to work on an article that was due the next day. Seeing the disappointment on all 4 faces was awful. (Of course the parents all quickly chimed in with words of understanding for me and words of comfort for their disappointed boys.) I issued my apology and suggested we do it another time as the sweet sad faces, one by one, thanked me for a fun afternoon and said good-bye.
As soon as they all left, I called Zach into my office for a talk. I must admit I initially felt angry because of the impossible situation he had placed me in. I had 2 ways to go…
The first, tell Zach how inappropriate it was for him to put me in such an awkward position by inviting people before checking with me and issuing a punishment…a week with no friends coming over, to bed early or perhaps losing a privilege that was important to him.
Or the second, explain to him that it was unfortunate that he hadn’t thought through how upsetting and disappointing it would be for everyone if I did not agree, which of course is what happened.
Choosing the first option would have most definitely delivered the message to never do that again. He would no doubt remember the lesson. But would he have gained an understanding of why it was something he should not do in the future? Would he simply be learning what not to do and what to do because of fear of being punished? Did I want him growing and developing out of fear?
My answer of course was no so I chose the second option. I wanted Zach to understand the “why” of the entire situation. I wanted him to gain information that would increase his maturity. I wanted Zach to really “get it” and not just change his behavior in the future to avoid punishment.
Did it take longer for me to explain and communicate the feelings of everyone involved that led him to the realization that it was not a good choice on his part? Absolutely. However, taking the extra few minutes immediately had several benefits. Zach not only learned a valuable lesson, he felt respected because of the way I responded, the situation ended on a positive note and my relationship with my grandson deepened rather than suffering from resentment, anger or fear.
Helping your children learn and gain insight to valuable lessons in life can be done without discipline and punishment.
Life has a way of providing natural consequences if we are willing to allow them to happen. I could have very easily chosen to rearrange my plans and simply gone along with Zach’s invitation to prevent the conflict. However, the look of sadness and disappointment Zach saw on his friend’s faces as well as the unhappiness he felt inside had a much greater impact on him than any form of “discipline” I could have issued.
And that is how I began my talk with him, “Andrew, Jason and Kevin all looked so sad and unhappy when I had to explain that it wasn’t possible for them to stay over. I wish you would have asked me first in private, we could have prevented them from feeling so bad.”
Zach immediately responded, “Yeah, me too, boy I’ll never do that again!”
When faced with situations with your children that need attention, ask yourself if you want to help them see a better way based on an understanding of the dynamics of the situation or do you simply want to control their behavior. There is a huge difference.
Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parent coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 150 articles on parenting, several of which have attracted international attention.
Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives
She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.
Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has nearly 600 members. She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets “Parenting Using the Law of Attraction” and “Becoming an Awakened Parent".