There is great joy in parenting, and great frustration in disciplining. Many parents think that discipline and punishment are the same thing, when in fact, they are different.

Discipline - Jenn PinkertonDiscipline is teaching your child new behaviors, while punitive punishment is an attempt to teach them a new behavior using fear. Fear is not a motivator of change. Rather, it can cause a cycle of shame. When this applies to children and parenting, this shame cycle can cause kids to not share as much with their parents and create self-worth concerns. When your kids don’t share with you the ability to connect is greatly reduced. When fear is the tactic used, parents are using superior positioning and are modeling intimidation. This normalizes the behavior for kids and can create a desire to do the same to those weaker than they are and can cause aggression. Punitive discipline is controlling which can break down your child, minimize their voice and teach them to abandon their own needs and feelings. That sense of abandoning themselves and the feelings of futility that is created when a kid is “always in trouble” is one of the core reasons kids can turn to substance abuse and other negative behaviors to soothe and can cause them to feel powerless in relationships as adults.

Children want to be seen and heard and understood. When your child is acting out, you may feel you need to punish them for their behavior so they will learn the consequence from those actions. However, punishments control and don’t create an environment for discussion and understanding. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for obedience in discipline. Concerns such as safety, health, harm to people, pets or property do call for a greater emphasis. Yet often parents are trying to control kids with their own emotions, ego and experiences when instead they need your presence and support. If you can validate their emotions and talk thru fears and feelings, you can learn the root cause of the behaviors. You are prioritizing connection while embracing curiosity in understanding your child which opens the door to focus on skill building and emotional regulation. This fosters relational safety. This looks like consistent messages, age-appropriate responses, and effective modeling of good behaviors. Teaching problem solving with positive reinforcement is empowering which encourages change and secure attachment.
Many of us were raised by emotionally immature parents who punished us and feared us into submission. We weren’t taught functional ways to solve problems. We want to raise kids who are emotionally healthy, kind, confident and have critical thinking abilities with independent life skills. When we connect the meaning behind a child’s behaviors to the real experience happening around them it can change behavior. This promotes trust, connection, and emotional safety. They will trust you, and themselves.

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