"It is that feeling that you've done this to me, so I'll do this to you, then you'll do this to me, and then I'll do this to you. And what happens in that is: It just gets bigger and bigger, and bigger. And no one ever wins. There is no triumph that ever comes from any of that."
A child does something wrong, so the parent punishes, hoping to teach a lesson. Intentions are good but the lesson learned is not. Punishment tends to lead to one of two outcomes, compliance or rebellion.
If you rely heavily on punishment, you may believe that punishment has worked with your compliant child. Outwardly he or she may be well-behaved. But children that are frequently punished are likely to create an inner world filled with self criticism, doubt and fear. Scaring your child into submission may appear to be beneficial, but it comes at a great cost to your child's sense of self, wellbeing, and the relationship you have with him.
Or perhaps you keep upping the ante and are dumfounded that punishment does not make a dent. Rebellious children won't shut down. Punishment leads many kids to feel angry so they act out even more. So the cycle goes. The parent yells and the child yells louder. The parent uses physical force and the child hits the parent back. Back and forth the swirl of pain gets larger and larger until eventually the entire relationship lacks love, trust, and respect.
Punishment, the act of inflicting pain and suffering upon your child, is not the answer.
Children do not need to be dominated. Their will does not need to be broken. Yes, children need leadership, structure, guidelines, and limits. They also need safety, nurturance, affection, acceptance, and unconditional love. Hurting children, emotionally or physically, is never the right way to obtain authority or teach appropriate behavior.
It is possible that you experienced some level of pain or suffering when you were a child. Maybe it was from the hand of your own parent. Many parents find themselves repeating the actions of their parents, even if they set out to do things differently.
I was assisting at The Remembrance Course, a personal development course that is offered through Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company. At one point, Jeff Everage, my friend and founder of www.peaceinyourhome.com, kindly and firmly proclaimed that, "it stops with you". Jeff was referring to destructive behaviors that have been passed down from parent to child, generation after generation. Jeff was not speaking to me. Yet, I took his demand to heart.
I realized that if it stops with me, it starts with me too.
Even though I see myself as a mindful and compassionate parent, there are plenty of times that I do not handle tough situations with my kids in a responsive manner. In fact, in the heat of the moment, I have to work very hard at remaining responsive. It isn't easy. It takes consistent inner work for me to address challenging behaviors in a way that will not break the spirits of my children. I rely on the wisdom and teachings of many great experts in the fields of personal development, psychology, family therapy and spirituality to help me stay on the positive parenting path. The process is on-going.
It can be incredibly challenging to refrain from poor behavior when our kids are acting in maddening ways. Yet, being able to master this skill will make it far more likely that you will see the behavior in your children that you want to see. Meaning, that when you are able to be consistently well-behaved, it is likely that your children will be consistently well-behaved too. The best discipline you have to offer is the modeling of your own self discipline. Read on for some practical tools so that mindful and effective parenting, and more peace, can start with you.
When intentions and expectations for behavior are high, but self acceptance is low, progress will be slow. You will beat yourself up if you make a mistake which actually makes it more likely that you will repeat the behavior that you want to avoid. It is imperative that you spend some time forgiving yourself for the actions of your past. If you are harboring self criticism and judgment, resolve today to release it. Keep in mind as you read this you may have moments of awareness as you reflect on your parenting. Begin now by committing to self compassion as you continue reading. It is never too late to begin raising your children the way you really want to. Great learning comes from our mistakes as long as we view our mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.
2. What did your parents teach you about raising kids?
What did discipline look like in your home? Was there scolding and screaming? Spanking or slapping? Were your parents neglectful? It is important that you spend some time analyzing what was modeled to you. In your journal, write down what your parents taught you about discipline. There will be some things that you will want to repeat because your parents likely engaged in some fantastic parenting. There may be some things that you will want to discard. If you find yourself holding on to pain or anger surrounding the way you were parented, get support and move yourself into a space of forgiveness. Holding on to your pain, unfortunately, will not lead to more effective parenting. Many great things can happen in your life today if you heal the relationships you have with your own parents.
3. Find support online
When I first set out to parent in a mindful way, I had a baby and toddler at home with me 24/7 and my older child was in preschool. At that time in my life I was not interested in attending classes. My initial introduction to positive parenting came from an online yahoo group called Positive Parenting Discipline. I cannot tell you how much support this group offered me in the early years. As time went on, I found more support in online parenting classes and videos. To sign up for free parenting videos, from parenting expert Susie Walton, that will help you become a more conscious and positive parent, click here. Susie has been working in the fields of parenting and personal development for over 25 years and I cannot thank her enough for the influence she has had on my family.
4. Utilize visual tools
I am not a big fan of imposing sticker charts and reward systems on to children. To read more about my reasons for decreasing the use of rewards, click here. However, a lot of behavior modification tools work very well at helping individuals set and achieve goals as long as they are in charge of the system. Let's suppose you are yelling frequently and really want to stop. Create your own chart for yelling. Put it up in an area of the house that is visible to the children too so they can see that you are really working on it. Every time you go a day without yelling, give yourself a point. If you get through an entire week without yelling, celebrate.
5. Think Peace
What qualities to do you want to instill in your children? I know that I want to teach my children about peace, compassion, love, and fairness. I also want to teach them that it takes immense power and strength to be kind and respectful even when I want to lash out. To watch a beautiful video on James O'Dea being interviewed by Susie Walton on Peaceful Families, click here.
6. Allow yourself to feel
It took me a long time to believe that there is nothing wrong with feeling sad, angry, hurt, or afraid. It has only been in the last year that I have actually learned how to be in these states without trying to suppress the feeling or run from the experience. This is a skill I am still working on. If you want to parent more effectively it is important that you allow yourself to feel. There will be many parenting moments that put you to the test. The goal is not to avoid anger. Anger is a part of you and this is OK. The goal is to move yourself into a space where you can feel anger without expressing it in a way that will hurt yourself or another person. Feeling your own feelings is the greatest tool you have to offer your children guidance in being able to understand, and handle, feeling their feelings. It is also very helpful to name the feeling out loud. Not only will this help you return to a place of calmness, but it also teaches your children that feelings are a natural and healthy part of being alive.
7. Become solution-focused
Change your mindset. If you child acts out in a way that you believe is worthy of punishment, stop yourself before punishing and try to come up with solutions that help your child learn appropriate behavior. If you have already punished, you can always bring the topic up at a later time and come up with solutions together. According to Jane Nelson, the author of Positive Discipline, you want the solution to be related, respectful, reasonable, and helpful. For example, lets suppose your child is throwing the ball in the house and ignoring your request to take the ball outside. You can say something like: "I know you are having fun throwing the ball in the house. I am feeling frustrated because you are ignoring me and I am afraid that something in the house may break. I would like for you to take the ball outside. Can we come up with a solution that works for both of us? "This actually happened in my house this morning. My 6 year old son was ignoring my requests to take the ball outside. I found myself getting angry and was just about to take the ball away when I remembered to brainstorm solutions with him. My son's solution was for me to come outside and throw the ball with him for 10 minutes, which worked for me. He agreed to stay outside on his own after that. Remember, adults do not need to make children suffer in order to for them to learn. Team up with them and come up with solutions to their challenging behaviors. Children are creative and ingenious problem solvers. Allow them to teach you and enjoy their out-of-the box thinking.
8. How do you want your grandchildren to be raised?
Every single day you are teaching your children what raising kids looks like. We cannot avoid or get around the impact of modeling. Know that when you choose to take on a philosophy of love, kindness, and respect you will be teaching all of these qualities to your children who will then teach these qualities to their own children. Remember that every single time you yell at or spank your children, you are teaching them that yelling and hitting are appropriate behaviors. Peace starts in the home and it starts with you.