A few years ago, I spoke with some students enrolled in a high school AP Psychology class about parenting, including the work that I do. We spoke about my parent coaching practice and how I help parents with everyday challenges with their children.
One of the major topics that parents bring to my sessions with them is discipline. How do we get kids to do what we want them to do? When I shared this with the students, I learned a lot from their perspective. It wasn’t a new revelation, but one that came directly from a group of incredible teenagers. What happens when we give children the opportunity to voice their concern or ideas about discipline? Their biggest complaint was that the majority of their parents take electronics away every time something didn’t go the parents’ way. They stressed that parents are not teaching them anything with these “discipline” methods; rather they were just basically using a tactic that would “annoy” their children. After this, we dove into the root cause of this. We discussed how a lack of connection impacts the ability of our children to cooperate.
How can we move from discipline and shame to connecting and teaching lessons through conversing and explaining? One technique is to use natural consequences that relate to the behavior in question. Perhaps your child forgot their homework at home one day. A natural consequence would be that they would receive a penalty when turning it in late. This consequence directly relates to the situation, and the child, not the parent. Another example might be a child who arrived home late after curfew. Sometimes we want to rush to punish – naturally or otherwise. But, this child could have a “story” surrounding the reason for tardiness. If we do not take the time to listen to the story, we might be punishing something we know nothing about, and yet, need to hear.
Listening is a great way to create more understanding and trust between the parent and child. Allow your children to share freely as you listen distraction free. Perhaps nothing is needed in some situations, just an understanding, and a compassionate ear. This will help to build connection as opposed to correction.