Will Traditional Forms of Discipline Keep You From Connecting with Your Child? One mom thinks so… and is it a surprise that I don’t agree?   Leave a comment


This week a friend asked me to comment on the blog entry of the mother of a 3 year old that never punishes her child.  Here is the link to the short blog entry – http://moms.today.com/_news/2011/04/20/6501676-why-we-dont-punish-our-son-ever

First of all, I would like to say that I view punishment as something that takes place as the result of committing a crime, not the everyday attempt to discipline a child by using methods such as time outs or taking away a toy.    I view the attempt to correct a child’s actions as discipline or consequences and this would never include something that publicly humiliates or belittles a child as most of us have probably sadly witnessed. 

When I was about 7 years old in the mid 1970’s, I met a neighbor girl who called her parents by their first names.  When I asked her why, she said her parents did not want her to view them as authority figures and ‘labels’ like Mom and Dad gave their family a hierarchy of control.   I think this idea is similar to what this mom of the three year old has in mind – the idea that we, as parents, are our children’s equals, that they are like mini adults and that if we use discipline tactics that involve anything more than “getting down on the floor and connecting with your child” or “attempt to identify their feelings” we will damage their precious self-esteem by wielding our power over them.   I disagree and whenever I hear parents using this kind of “reflecting back their feelings” kind of talk – it just sounds fakey – (is that a word?).  

I do believe I have the authority to use discipline to help my children attain a level of appropriate behavior.  Sometimes that discipline is a gentle reminder or are quiet words to help them see something from another person’s point of view.   But other times that discipline comes in the form of a tight grasp behind their neck as I get down to their level and quietly, through gritted teeth and a steel stare, say, “You will stop what you are doing immediately.”  Have I lost an opportunity to connect with my child as this mom suggests?  If you’re always looking to have warm, fuzzy interactions with your children – then yes, from her point of view this is a ‘lost connection’.   Honestly, there are times when I’m not interested in connecting with the kids – as when they are arguing or fussing and I just want quiet – not ‘connection’.

 I don’t believe I need to always be warm, fuzzy and gushingly understanding to connect with my children.  There’s a time for warm and fuzzy, but sometimes when things aren’t going well I will decide to take a toy away if I see the need, remove a child from my presence or at times – even issue a top of the head whack.  Ancient wisdom gives advice to parents such as the Chinese proverb that says, “Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes,” and Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” 

I have found this wisdom to be true.  Because I demand good behavior – and yes, that demand sometimes comes by way of the fact that I am the mom  and they do as I say ‘just because’ – but it leads to them realizing that when they behave pleasantly, we all enjoy being together as a family.  Sometimes we’ll see a family while we’re out and the children are whining, pestering or being disrespectful and the mom looks exasperated and might repeat the same request to behave three or four times in a tone that is too syrupy nice.  They certainly don’t look like they are enjoying each other’s company – but maybe they would if the mom would take her position of authority and quietly, but firmly demand proper behavior.   Would this undermine her relationship with them as this mom suggests?  Actually, I think it does the opposite.  It lets the kids know that the parent is in charge and there is security in that.

This mom claims that punishment and rewards– which I see as discipline – will not create long term good behavior.  I don’t believe she has the experience, since her child is only three, to claim that statement as true.  It might be interesting to check in with her in the future –especially if there are a few more children in the mix.  How will this child react in the future when someone in a position of authority – such as a boss – demands something of him and doesn’t give a crap about his delicate self-esteem but just needs the job done right? 

I can agree that the regular use of harsh, angry discipline along with the absence of warmth and love would not create long term good behavior.  But my experience has been that in order to build a family life that is generally peaceful, various discipline methods along with love, understanding and open communication are necessary.


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