First of all, thank you so much to ALL OF YOU who responded to the last blog post– I felt the love! I’m going to incorporate all of your questions throughout this series but especially during Week Five – Reader Spotlights and Questions. So keep your comments and emails coming!!
Second, I promised you some great content; and today we’re covering How to Reframe Discipline.
When we think of the word “discipline,” what’s the first word or thought that comes to mind? If you’re like most people, we think of the word “punishment.” We ask ourselves questions like, “How do I make this punishment SO BAD that my child will never engage in this behavior again?” Or, we think “How do I bribe, create incentive, or manage changes in this behavior so that it stops happening?”
Discipline, by definition, means: To train or develop in instruction and exercise, especially in self-control.”
WAIT, WHAT??? Yes, discipline is actually a practice of instruction and exercise. This means, you’re the teacher of behavior! If I tell you, I’m disciplined in the area of psychology – you would know I’ve been a student of psychology and I’ve been trained in that area. If I tell you, I’m a disciple of X – you know I’m a student or follower of something.
So, that means that when it comes to defining discipline, I’m referring to HOW you train and develop self-control and HOW you train and teach your child (the student) about self-control and behavior.
Wow…..now we’re talking about something entirely different.
Now, I want you to take a moment and write down the TOP THREE behaviors you most often feel frustrated or overwhelmed by. What are three behaviors that, if your child or student stopped engaging in, your life would get easier. Write them down. Better yet, leave them in the comments below so we can showcase in week five – we’ll problem-solve together!
Great, now I want you to think about the behavior in an entirely different way. Suppose you said, “hitting” or “yelling” as the most concerning behavior you see in your child. And if you’re on the same page as me regarding our new, shared definition of discipline, then you know, that instead of STOPPING, BRIBING, CORRECTING OR SCARING YOUR CHILD OUT OF THIS BEHAVIOR, you must, instead, focus on a different way of training or exercising self-control.
So, ask yourself this… If my child is engaging in X behavior (hitting or yelling), what SKILL does it show that he/she has not yet learned? What behavior must still be learned so that my child will stop doing X behavior. For instance, if I don’t want my child to hit, yell or engage in aggressive behavior, what skill must they learn? Or what have they NOT learned yet that they need to acquire?
Here are some possible answers. If my child is hitting, hurting or yelling at others, the SKILL they’ve not yet developed is…..
Non-violent ways to express anger
Verbal ways of identifying feelings
Non-verbal ways of expressing frustration that are safe
Who to find when I’m upset
Models of positive behavior
Revisit your top three concerning behaviors and write down the skill your child must still learn.
Now that you see this behavior as a “skill set yet to be learned” aka, a “new discipline to follow,” you can revisit the behavior.
Find ways to teach the new skills such as problem solving by using words, walking away to avoid hurt feelings or finding an adult who can help him/her. Play games, take turns, model problem solving during play – all of these activities teach the new behavior or discipline. Then, reinforce that behavior with words of praise and encouragement.
To close, this isn’t easy. It’s a new way of thinking about behavior and discipline. But we can all get better with greater intention. And when we’re more purposeful about our approach to children’s behavior, we gain more meaningful connection.
That’s a wrap folks! Thanks for learning together.