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Why disciplining children inhibits them

How research tell us to stop disciplining and begin guiding them

When scrolling through my Facebook a picture of a boy standing in the corner with the text saying “5 minutes in the corner is better than 5 years in prison. Discipline them now so I don’t have to later” posted by Law Enforcement Lifestyle.

As a parenting tutor and a mother of two, this kind of parenting makes me quite sad, to be honest. I know there is a lot of people out there believing this is the right thing to do. That disciplining your children is a necessity of parenting and that people like me raise spoiled children doing as they wish while I sit and watch. This is a pure simplification of reality, a black and white perspective.

What a lot of people fail to see is the large number of studies done in this field that points to the contrary. Disciplining children with methods like these are more likely to harm your relationship and inhibit their growth missing out on important life lessons needed as adults.

When parents discipline their children it is a behavior they want to manage and remove. But what parents, doing this, fail to see is the motives, thoughts, and feelings that drive the behavior. Children do not misbehave simply to make us angry. They want to feel happy just as everybody else. When children misbehave there is something psychologically hurting them and with little resources to know or communicate what is wrong they act it out. That is how most people behave when the communication skills are lacking and this is true for both adults and children. Children do not need to be disciplined but they do need adults who are empathetic and guide them to more life experiences.

By just trying to fix the behavior we are not seeing or helping them with what is actually causing the behavior. Disciplining children give most often excellent results though because the behavior will often disappear but because the cause still remains another behavior seen as problematic will sooner or later emerge.

It is true that there are some parents letting their children do as they like and they will behave in manners not seen as good. This is what is called a permissive parenting style and this is not something I encourage. Children to these parents miss a connection to their parents which is no better than disciplining children. What I advocate is an authoritative parenting style where the parents are able to be interested, curious and warm towards their children and still have reasonable requests giving them the freedom and responsibility appropriate to their age and maturity. That enables their children to grow with no preoccupation with filling their needs. The parents using discipline are using the parenting style authoritarian. As you might have guessed where I want to go with this I will mention a few drawbacks with this parenting style: their children are more worried, have a low self-esteem, reacts with hostility and performing worse at school than children to parents using an authoritative parenting.

Most parents want to achieve the outcomes of the authoritative parenting but have very different approaches to reach the same goal.

So how do disciplining children inhibits them and ruin a deeper relationship between the child and parent?

– Human beings have a need to be seen and heard for us to feel good and thrive. This is just as important for children as well as adults. When our needs aren’t met we become irritable, lose our temper and behave badly. How do you act when you don’t get enough sleep? By disciplining a child for its behavior and not listening to what causes the problems you are just hammering a wedge between you bound to shatter a deeper relationship.

– “Children do as adults do, not as they are told” is a Swedish saying that is more than true. If you are disciplining them, guess what they learn. That it is okay to act and behave with no respect to those smaller or younger than themselves and growing up they will meet more and more people that are both younger and smaller than themselves.

– Disciplining will create an external motivation due to fear of punishment. In other words, they will be more likely to behave as the parent wish if their parents are likely to find out in fear of punishment. When they are sure their parents will not found out, however, there is nothing holding them back. What motivates them to behave well is only to avoid punishment not to actually be nice to people because they want to.

– What they learn by being disciplined is only the feeling of shame, guilt, and humiliation. These are strong feelings and they will do most things to avoid them including behaving badly in their parents’ company. But they do not learn how to find the root of what is hurting them, they do not learn naming end recognizing the feelings inside of them, they will not learn to listen to other people or to manage conflicts because this is never taught by their parents.

– Discipline is often done when the child is angry, humiliated or sad which is a bad moment to learn new things because we are too preoccupied with our feelings instead of the lessons that are forced upon us.

So what to do instead of disciplining our children?

– Try to understand what is causing the behavior. Are they tired? Hungry? Feel sad? Need to be more close to you or someone else? Ask, be responsive and listen.

– Do have rules, boundaries, and requirements for your children but they need to be reasonable.

– Keep your cool as much as possible.

– Be the person you want your child to be.

Do to others what you want them to do to you. Children are no exception. 

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