Thursday, December 19, 2013

Discipline With Love

I'm often confronted by people from both sides of the "Spanking" controversy.  Is Spanking abuse?  It's a good question, and should be pondered.  Another one that should be pondered; Is a Time Out abuse?   Nobody really ever ponders that one because nobody is physically harming the child, so it can't be abuse, right?

The first thing we need to do to answer both questions is take a step back, and examine Discipline.  What is Discipline?   In a perfect world, Discipline is the act we take to ensure our children know that what they did is wrong, and never do it again.  Sadly, some take it to mean that we must hurt our children so they know what's what.   Does Discipline even need to be painful?   The only thing Discipline needs to accomplish is to eradicate that behavior and/or action from occurring again.

When do we cross the line from Discipline to Abuse?  There are two ways, and this is a very easy line to cross, so it's best to be prepared.  If you punish a child for doing something, and they keep doing it, than your punishment is not working.  If you keep using the same punishment, and your child continues to break the same rule, than you have crossed the line to abuse.  It doesn't matter if it's a time out, a spanking, a thumping, yelling, berating, or whatever punishment you think is the best form of punishment.  If it's not working, and you keep doing it, than it is not discipline, but abuse.

To put it a different way with language we commonly use to describe abuse.  If you smack your kid to teach him/her a lesson, and they don't learn, than all you are doing is smacking your kid around.

The second way to cross the line is to simply react out of anger.  Striking in anger is not discipline, but just an action that makes the parent feel better.  An eye for an eye.  The child has learned no lesson other than to not make a parent angry.  The difference is that not making a parent angry is by no means synonymous with not doing the act that made them angry.   All they have to do is try better at hiding it.

So what is the best way to discipline?   Everyone is different, and because you're a parent, you have to figure that out for each child.   One way that works perfectly for one child, probably isn't going to work for another.   I can however suggest a few guidelines to follow.

1.  Never strike in anger.  If you're angry, please tell your child to hold on, and go grab a breather first.   Both you, and the child need to be thinking clearly if this is going to work.

2.  Don't be lazy.   Discipline is hard work, and you have to do it right if you don't want to screw up your kids.

3.  Get to know your children as the people that they are.  Then act accordingly to each "Person's" reception.

What do we want when we discipline.  There are two parties here, and both must benefit.  We obviously want to teach a lesson, and we want that lesson learned.   If one form of discipline does not work, than don't do that again.   Try something else.  Escalate if you need to.

Spanking, and Time Outs are both worthless.   If a child is two or three, than you can get away with a small swat to get their attention.  Compared to them, you have the strength of a dragon on steroids, so just a light jerk will work.   It shouldn't take long for them to understand when they need to pay attention to you as a parent, and then no more swats are needed.   Spanking and Time Outs are Lazy.  They are what you can do to just take care of business, and get back to doing whatever it was that you were doing.  Then your child can go cry somewhere else, and leave you in peace.   Neither work, and granted, I'm basing this off never seeing either work.  I've never seen it happen.

My daughter is 12, and I inflict the worst possible punishment you can imagine.  I talk to her.   I've been doing it since she was 5 years old, and it's never failed me.  I know this won't work with some, but I'll share my method.  When she's acting out, openly defiant, or being unruly, she sits on my lap, and gets to explain why she did what she did.   I get to explain why it's wrong.  Then we get to talk about it a little more with some dialogue.  I then give her the expectations that I want her to live up to, and she sets goals to make that happen.

The last time she sat on my lap was when she was 9.   I'm by no means a dictator, but when I speak as a parent, she listens.  She's never repeated any behavior that she's sat on my lap for, but boy did she ever fight against that form of discipline.  She begged me to do what her Mom does, and put her in Time Out.  That didn't work, so she begged me to spank instead.  She would actually rather get hit than sit on my lap.   Why?   Because it's awkward, and painful to admit your faults.   She usually doesn't have a good reason for doing something worthy of a sitting on my lap.   Time outs are easy for both the child and the parent, but they are mentally damaging to a child.  Spankings are over quickly, and that's their appeal.  A quick show of force to show who the bigger human is.   Neither spanking nor timeouts teach a child to take ownership of their actions, and it probably won't instill the idea that what they did was wrong.  It will however most certainly instill the idea that getting caught is bad.   But taking the time and effort to solve the problem right is much more time consuming, and takes patience.   However, just like most things, if you do the job right the first time, you won't have to do it again for a long time if ever.  

Now remember, just because I gave you the secret to my disciplinary techniques does not mean they will work with your kid.  You have to get to know them, and discipline accordingly.  I can however guarantee that if you discipline with love, and understanding, than you will be successful.   Your bond will grow, and your child will be more well rounded.    You just have to find the right balance.

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