The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Emotional discipline

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Emotional discipline

"Your children may not remember everything you say… but they’ll never forget how you made them feel."  Rachelle Gardner

Think back to your own childhood. You probably remember how your mother felt when you came home with an F in math that marking period.  She transferred her feelings to you, so you felt her pain.  She didn't even have to use physical force.  You felt true emotional pain for disappointing her.  Most likely, many of your childhood memories are emotion-based rather than simply facts, words, or events.

So, when disciplining your children, consider that the emotional route is sometimes the most direct route to permanent change in behavior.  When you discipline (translation: punish) your child, you try to teach him or her how to behave.  When you use emotional discipline, you teach that same child to control his or her own behavior.  Internalizing the need to be good is so much more effective than being good so you don't get into trouble with Mom, Dad, teacher, or any other authority figure. 

Consider this scenario:  Your child hit another child because he wanted his toy.  You might yank your child from the playroom, sit him on a chair, and tell him to think about what he did.  Hmm... do you think he actually thinks about what he did or is he really still coveting that toy?  Or maybe, you bring your child inside and lecture him for fifteen minutes on how sharing is so important.  Does he understand or even remember this conversation?  OR, you might go to both children.  Explain that the toy likes it when children play nicely with it. (Dissociate the children from the situation and place the blame on the toy - a tactic I occasionally used when my children were growing up.) Then with a very sad face, explain how you are disappointed with your child's hitting and ask him to apologize to his friend.  Do you think your child will remember this situation more than the other two?  Absolutely!  Why?  First, you personified the toy - kids love that!  Second, you used an emotional rather than physical or verbal method of discipline.  Emotional discpline is far more effective than any other form of punishment like restriction and taking away things from your children. 

Emotions cause behaviors.  The child who hit when he wanted the toy was reacting to greed and anger.  The child who knows how to deal with that greed and anger is acting on self-control and empathy.  Help your children to understand their emotions and they will be better able to control their own behavior.  Emotionally strong children will grow up to become responsible, emotionally strong adults.  And isn't that exactly what parenting is all about?

Happy parenting!

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