Judy is author of Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery. She has also written many articles on parenting, published in various newspapers and magazines. Combined with her 13 years of experience volunteering on the city’s crisis telephone lines, Judy has a broad understanding of the issues facing parents and relationships in the new millennium. She is a believer in helping parents make informed decisions based on research based parenting information. She can be reached at www.professionalparenting.ca or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those power struggles in parenting. Every parent knows that they are not fun and usually nobody wins — parent or child. They can be stressful, unpleasant and destructive to a harmonious family life and parent-child relationship. They do not have to be part of parenting. How can a parent avoid power struggles? The answer is simple: use positive discipline that doesn't include punishment.
When I begin discipline workshops, I always ask parents to envision their future relationship with their child as a teenager. What qualities do you want the relationship to have? Parents almost always answer with the qualities of: open communication, shared feelings, thoughts and values, fun times together, mutual respect, and being approachable when their child has problems. I make the point that how they build their parenting relationship will affect their future bonds, and discipline style is a key ingredient in the parent-child relationship. Every child needs discipline, and the discipline style can provide connection or disconnection in the relationship.
The goals of discipline are:
Power struggles are generally about meeting needs: the needs of the parent and the needs of the child. Both aim to get their way, but at the expense of the other person not getting their way.
When parents and children are locked in a power struggle, it is important for the parent to stay calm and let go for the moment. They have more experience in self-control and can switch gears easier. Refuse to participate. The time to re-examine the needs of the parents and child causing the power struggle is later, when the emotional temperature in the relationship has gone down. Be sure to address it though. Don't let it go unresolved forever.
Children don't really misbehave. They act in inappropriate ways to get their needs met. The job of parents is to meet those needs and teach children how to get them met in socially appropriate ways. Children are like icebergs. We see the tip of the iceberg (behavior) protruding out of the water. Most of the time, we don't even look at the massive ice part under the water (which are the needs and feelings) that supports the behavior. As parents, we need to jump out of the boat, and into our submarine to look at what's happening with the child underneath the iceberg tip. Once the underlying needs and feelings of the child are recognized and addressed, the behavior often improves.
The most common discipline tools used for younger children up to preschool age are redirection, substitution, supervision, offering choices, changing the environment, learning child development, ensuring enough nourishment, sleep, stimulation and attention. Most discipline at this age is prevention.
The most effective discipline tools used for older, school-aged children and teens are active listening, "I" messages, time in, changing the environment, modeling, related consequences, and problem solving. Family meetings are also especially effective for this age.
A crucial discipline tool often overlooked is meeting the needs of parents. Parents who are hungry, tired, stressed, need support and a time-out don't often make their best parenting decisions.
You can't raise a child in a dictatorship and expect them to function as an adult in a democracy.
Many parents don't use punishment in raising caring, responsible children. It takes practice and plenty of patience — something every parent can learn. Your child will appreciate it.
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