My Parenting handbook

Parenting Hadnbook

Chapter 1

Chapter 5: Reframing Discipline

In this chapter you we’re going to explore misconceptions about discipline and how some modern parenting methods (or those used by our own parents) can cause more harm than good. We also introduce a 4-step method to  “H.E.L.P” you during difficult parenting moments!

For a large majority of the world, discipline is code for punishment—inflicting some discomfort or pain to get a child to comply or change their behavior. For my parents and grandparents, spanking, the belt, or a switch we’re not uncommon, even in schools. I know I was spanked and even slapped on one occasion as a child. However, this was what parents were taught to do. This was the norm. And in many parts of the world it is still the norm.

We are not here to chastise or judge your parents or how they raised you. This was what they knew, and they did their best with the limited tools and knowledge they had. Maybe you’re thinking: See, you’re like me. You were spanked, and you turned out just fine. We hear that more often than we like to from parents, and we like to offer this analogy: For decades, we drove vehicles without seatbelts. Did everyone who rode in a vehicle without a seat belt end up dying or suffer a brain injury from an accident? No. Did more people die or suffer injuries before seatbelts? Absolutely. When the research came out that demonstrated the preventive nature of seatbelts, they mandated them.

We live in a golden age where we have concrete research available at our fingertips to do better by our children. Thanks to 50+ years of research, we now know how harmful spanking and corporal discipline is on the brains and psychological well-being of children, so it is no longer encouraged and in many cases is illegal. When we learned not wearing a seatbelt could be harmful, we changed our laws—we did better as a society. When you know better, you do better.

Many of us are taught to believe children lack the will to behave well, but science has taught us that they lack the skill to behave well.  Whether this is a social, cognitive, or emotional skill that is missing, they do the best they can. This mindset changes everything. You no longer see the child as manipulative or deceptive but in need of assistance in growing as a human being.

Discipline comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil. Discipline means you’re guiding your child through a learning process. Learning implies that your child is either your child is lacking a skill that has yet to be taught (i.e., the capacity to share or not knowing how to use their words to express their frustration with a family member) or learning to trust that you will understand that their behavior is a cry for connection or an expression of an unmet need. Maybe they are tired, overstimulated, feeling ignored, or struggling at school but don’t have the words to explain that to you. It is our job as the adults to see through the behavior to the heart of the issue.

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