We’ve all been there – a child behaves in a way that makes us cringe. We know it’s our job to make clear that this behaviour is completely unacceptable. We know that we need to instill some guilt. After all, if the child doesn’t really feel at an emotional level how wrong they have been, they will never change. I have to admit, in my own parenting, that there are times that I have felt I needed to drive the message home, and it’s only when I see tears that I know the message has been received.
Sounds reasonable enough… but yet, I’ve witnessed over and over again how this can go wrong.
The ultimate goal in discipline is supposed to be to teach a child. And teach we do…. we teach kids that they are bad. We teach them that we don’t trust them. Sometimes we even teach them that we have given up and don’t care about them anymore. I’ve heard people say “I never tell the child they are bad; only that their behaviour is bad.” Honestly, I’m pretty sure a lot of kids don’t really hear the distinction.
We learn about who we are by what others reflect back to us. If we want to build strong, responsible kids, we need to reflect to them that we see those qualities in them. Saying to a child “I know you are a good person, so I know that there must have been a really good reason for you doing what you did” is a great opener to get kids talking about what happened. Approaching a child by telling them that they did a terrible thing tends to result in a kid shutting down. It’s only when we can get kids talking that we can find out what they really need to learn to avoid a repeat situation. I find kids are much more open to learning when they see themselves as a good person who made a mistake, as opposed to feeling like a failure and a disappointment.
What are you reflecting to the children that you discipline?