When I was filling out my home study questionnaire, I had to answer some questions about discipline practices in parenting. I've always had some vague thoughts about this, but for this questionnaire I had to flesh them out a bit. I'll admit right now that I am probably the least qualified person in the world to give advice on this topic (considering I have no experience as a parent yet), so these are just my thoughts on the subject and things I want to try to incorporate into my parenting.
I have to start with my thoughts on “discipline” as it is used most commonly, and I promise I'll step off of my soap box after this paragraph. Let's face it, “discipline” usually means “punishment.” While I know this perspective isn't shared by all parents, it's all too common. Discipline comes out of the word Disciple, meaning someone who follows a person or a set of ideals fully. If you want to discipline your child, you shouldn't focus on the punishment, but how to get them to understand the set if ideals you want them to follow. Punishment is only a small part of the discipline equation, and it shouldn't be overused.
Stepping down now.
When I thought about disciplining children the other day, one of my oldest pet peeves came to mind: I always hate when people consistently give instruction without explaining any of their reasons for giving the instruction. In a business, you should all be working toward the same goals, so why not get your goals in line before giving the instructions? In a family, you should all be working to keep a household running and helping the kids to learn and grow as they should, so why not follow the same principals here?
This is probably where most parents start, but what about those times where you've had this talk 3 times already, and they still break the rules? This is where most parenting styles diverge. Many will follow some of the more proven methods, like spanking or grounding. Others will yell a bit. My preference? Make it a teaching moment.
What I mean is that spankings don't necessarily make a kid think twice before stealing, and sending them to their room doesn't necessarily make them stop lying. Parents do these things because kids don't like them, and we hope that the negative experience of the punishment will connect with that thing they did in their memory. And I'm not saying there shouldn't be a punishment, but if you picked a punishment that naturally arises from the crime, wouldn't that make the punishment more meaningful?
One great example I turn to came from a scene TV show, although I'm sure they weren't the first to try it. When the kid abused the privacy of their room, do you know what the parents did? They took her bedroom door. It sent a very direct message that “we provided you with this privacy out of kindness. You don't need it, and if you use it improperly, it gets taken away.” There's also been a story going viral on Facebook about a mother's 18 rules for her 13-year-old's new iPhone, where the rules clearly state that the phone is owned by the parents and can be taken back at any time if it isn't used responsibly.
These got me thinking about other “relevant” punishments. What if the kid steals? Maybe the parents could “steal” toys from the kid to show how it hurts when you're stolen from. What if the kid won't tell you the truth? Maybe he parents could stop sharing unnecessary information with them, so they know what it feels like when they're not trusted. What if they never finish their healthy dinner before going for dessert? Maybe the parents could let them engorge themselves on sweets and feel the stomachache that comes along with it (I know this works for me every December).
Point being, I can clearly remember the things I did as a kid that weren't corrected when I was spanked or grounded, and as I grew up I pinpointed the reason they didn't work: I knew what I was being punished for, but I never saw the natural consequences. My goal is to find a way to help my kids learn from their experiences, just like I try to learn from mine.
Now, all that's left is the big question of parenting: will it work with my kids? I guess we'll see!
Always moving forward,