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Disciplining a Kid the Parental-Love Way
Is occasional hitting good for children?
Should I be an “independent” parent?
If I use consequences, does that mean I’m withholding love from my child?
A November time cover story said parents are overparenting. I think I am, but what should I do instead?
That’s just a sample of what you’ve read in the media and blogs over the past six months. Never in the history of parenting have parents been so confused and accused. But good news! There is a refreshing response to this confusion and accusation.
This answer has been under our collective noses since parenting began: it’s parental love. Rarely does parental love fully develop. It sounds so old fashioned, we just ignore it. But when parents fully implement their love, children always become happy and respectful. Now, don’t press the delete button. This isn’t just another crazy therapist rant. See for yourself. Take a few moments to read the brief summary that follows.
Here’s what I discovered after dusting off this “old hat” but potentially powerful parenting resource I call parental love. And it took forty years and 2500 clients to arrive at these proven conclusions that really work.
The fundamental, life-essential need of a child (equal to feeling the need for food) is to feel and believe “I am good for who I am inside, not my performance” and to avoid “I am bad.” When this belief is established, you will have a happy, respectful child. And you will feel good. Parents have the goods to establish a child’s need to believe “I am good” by constantly focusing on the good at the center of their child, even during discipline. (OK, training is required, but it can be done in a three-week period.) Discipline (teaching and training) is less effective when parents focus only on behaviors. (That is the normal parental focus). But doing so puts the parenting cart before the horse. The first commandment of discipline is to focus and validate feelings. Here’s the key: validating feelings makes the child feel that he or she is “good” in the eyes of a parent (remember “I’m good” is a child’s life-essential need). Now with “I’m good” established, changing behavior will work better.
That’s an overview of what it means to release your love. Now let’s dive into a summary of discipline, or, put another way, teaching and training. And we should always remember the overriding disciplinary principle: firm, consistent, respectful, boundary-setting.
Teaching The teaching part of discipline is helping your child acquire two critical pieces of information about living: healthy beliefs and acceptable behaviors. Beliefs are central. They act as a road map and energy source to determine a child’s behavior. The two fundamental beliefs to teach are “I am good” and what is right and wrong (a child’s guilt system). As these beliefs are established, parents train the child to acquire appropriate behavior. And here are the parent-love guidelines for teaching: use the discussion procedure (see next paragraph), avoid judging, avoid negative comments, be calm, talk no more than 25 percent of the time and during that time ask questions as much as possible. , do only one or two points at a time, keep points short, and admit your mistakes. (I bet you already practice at least two or three of those.)
All parenting must begin with the child feeling understood and accepted for their point of view. Only then can actual problem solving take place. This understanding and acceptance part is accomplished through the four-step discussion process shown below: Listen, Repeat, Agree and Validate.
“Adam, tell me what happened that caused you to take out your grief by hitting on your sister.”
“She came into my room and started playing with my Legos. I told her to stop and she didn’t.” (Listening)
Dad repeats Adam’s comment without giving his points, and then asks, “Did I get it right?” (repeating)
Dad agrees on one thing, although he knows Adam a lot in Sarah’s room, but he bites his tongue on this one: “I agree. You should be upset about your sister breaking into your room.” (Agreeing)
Then Dad confirms, “I can see how you’re fed up with your sister coming in unannounced. I would be too.” (Validating)
Now dad turns it around and asks Adam to listen and repeat what dad said. (He doesn’t ask Adam to take the last two steps, agreeing and validating. These steps are too complex for a pre-teen.) Listening and repeating takes some practice, but eventually even a three-year-old can learn these two steps. Now Adam and Dad understand each other and are ready to acquire new behavior. That’s the training part.
training. The goal of training is twofold: to establish within the child (1) healthy behaviors and (2) the ability to use, at a moment’s notice, the established ways of thinking and beliefs to choose between right and wrong behavior. A fundamental training task is to train your son or daughter to delay gratification. “I want it my way, now” doesn’t work. Again, remember the fundamental discipline principle: firm, consistent, respectful, boundary-setting.
Here is a summary of necessary training skills:
Always acknowledge the goodness at the center of your child throughout everyone (or at least 90 percent or so) training exercises, especially during boot camp sessions like “Learn to Drive.”
Always shape training expectations in line with your child’s (1) feelings and thoughts (reserve yours for now), (2) developmental stage, and (3) unique personality (temperament characteristics). Special warning: don’t automatically coach the way you parented unless it works for your child.
Use the guaranteed to work almost every time VT&T training sequence: “V” for validate the feelings causing your child’s behavior, “T” for to teach why specific behaviors or beliefs are important (75 percent listening, 25 percent talking—mostly through questioning), “T” for to train/establish healthy behaviors and beliefs in your child. (It may help to have your spouse or friend cheer on your efforts: “Give me a V…” OK, skip it. But encouragement helps.)
Set expectations for 98 percent success when training for a new behavior. Isn’t it good to be successful right away?
Maintain a calm or close to calm voice and facial expressions – no meanness either – during all training exercises. (Ninety percent will if you apologize for the 10 percent “I’m only human” mistake.) Too much anger, too many times is harmful.
Motivation is the training engine that changes behavior: logical consequences, rewards, deprivations. Special warning: Pain is a destructive motivator; skip the penalty. Post 3 x 5 cards with this message in several places: The biggest training motivation translated into baby talk- “I want my mom and dad to accept me no matter what.”
Now you have the basics for what the parental love version of discipline looks like. Apply these principles in your family and you too will raise a happy, respectful child.
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