As a parent, we all want to raise polite, thoughtful, kind, empathetic, generous, sweet, loving, little people. No one wants to be that parent whose kid is pushing others, stealing toys from smaller children, yelling or crying when they don’t get their way, throwing tantrums, yelling “no no no no no no” when asked to do something, or basically just acting like a little shit-head. So how do we stop that from happening in the first place? It is MUCH easier to prevent bad behavior from starting then to try to fix it once it has become a habit. The trick is simple – Discipline.
Discipline without punishment should be happening if you have a small toddler under age 3-5. This is the age when a toddler begins to understand the significance between punishment and the “act” that caused the punishment. Before this age you aren’t teaching your child anything from punishing. They don’t have the brain development in place to get the concept. Standing in a corner, sitting in time out, etc. etc. – these “punishing acts” are actually creating a divide and rift in your relationship with your child. You will just be pushing them away from you instead of pulling them closer to develop a nurturing and loving example. Children cannot control their emotions and reactions – literally! They don’t have the regions in their brain responsible for control over emotions fully developed until later in childhood!- Think about it. Your child is upset about something. To you it’s no big deal, but if it is a big deal to your child then it should be a big deal to you as well. This is empathy and sympathy. If you do not react in a way that is comforting and nurturing in their distress, you are simply modeling that their emotions and feelings don’t matter, and then when you punish them on top of invalidating their feelings you are compounding their distress. When they are upset they need you to be there for them. Emotionally and physically. You must remain calm and let them know that you in control and when they calm down you can comfort them and talk through what just happened. This is what you should be practicing and exampling for your child.
I read a book that really changed the way I saw discipline and punishment. Discipline is completely different from punishment. Discipline focuses on setting boundaries. Discipline makes little ones feel safe and secure knowing that their big person is in charge. Their big person can be mom, dad, grandparents, teachers, or anyone in a position of authority. They need to know that even if they cannot control themselves or their feelings, you are strong and sturdy and can take everything they throw at you. Discipline may mean that you have to set boundaries that they do not like. Too bad. That’s what boundaries are. It may take a tantrum or ten for your little person to realize that the boundary won’t change even when they push against it. Then guess what…they will stop pushing against it and you! This actually makes them feel good! They don’t have the pressure of being in charge! You are!
This great book that I recommend to all my mommy friends is Discipline Without Damage. Buy it here:
This book is amazing in that it tells you how to act, how to respond, and most importantly – WHY! This is written by a professional psychologist and a thoughtful woman and mother. It was so helpful to me. You can discipline without punishment for little ones, and you can discipline without damaging your child’s mental and emotional health too.