Let’s set a scene that I am sure many parents have experienced before… It’s Monday evening, and after a long and stressful day you’re trying to prepare dinner or are tidying the house before bedtime. Your toddler is nagging behind you. You do not have the energy for confrontation, so you’re hoping they will forget what they wanted and wander off and occupy themselves for five minutes. The next thing you realize it is five minutes later and their nagging has reached a crescendo that you just cannot handle.
You explode in an emotionally-charged outburst that you can barely contain, leaving your toddler shocked, and you feeling completely guilt-ridden. It happens… more often than you think and to more parents than would like to admit it. And that is why we have written this very important instalment in our ‘discipline workshop’. The most influential person in the discipline-equation, the only one who is able to make it or break it, is you – the parent. That is why it is important to protect yourself emotionally; so that you can have a better shot at remaining calm and collected when it comes to your boundary-pushing toddler.
HOW TO DISCIPLINE YOUR CHILD
– PART 5
Pearl of Wisdom #5
Act from conviction and not from emotion – to keep your emotions from boiling over.
When you realize that discipline is just like brushing your teeth or taking out the garbage – something you don’t particularly love to do, but something that is necessary to a balanced life – then it becomes simply another tool in your life. Before you know it you will be able to act out the conviction that training your child is an important and necessary duty, and you will no longer find yourself in situations where you have been ‘pushed to the brink’.
Boundaries are vital
The first step is to keep your boundaries and rules clear and ‘close’. By that we mean that it will help a great deal to take the time beforehand to decide what your boundaries are, and consider whether they protect you emotionally, as they should. The idea is to act before you get angry – when your child oversteps the line the first time. That’s what it means to have ‘close’ boundaries.
Anger is not necessary
The second step is to discover that, contrary to popular belief, a parent doesn’t have to be angry or pretend to be angry to be taken seriously. You don’t have to wait until you’re all worked-up to have the energy and forcefulness you need to get your child to respect you. You don’t need anger. It doesn’t serve you. In fact, you should try your utmost to never be angry when you discipline your child. Effective discipline comes from a place of calm conviction.
When parents rely on anger to be their ‘partner’ in the act, their child typically puts two and two together and discovers that their parent’s bad moods are often directly related to something that they have done. This leaves them feeling as if they are responsible for their parent’s happiness. This is simply not true, and not something that a child can carry on their shoulders – it is an unfair burden.
Break the anger-discipline-guilt cycle
If you are in a cycle of anger-discipline-guilt, and cannot seem to escape it, it is sometimes effective to behave as you would like to, even if you are not feeling it at that moment. Start by setting up clear boundaries that are ‘close’ enough. Then uphold your boundaries gracefully by acting immediately and calmly when your child oversteps them – even when you’re not feeling as if the time is yet right to act. Ask yourself, “When would be a good time to take action – when I have been pushed too far?”
There is a well-known notion that if you smile when you’re down, the smile itself will lift your spirits. Similarly, practice this ‘character script’ for a few days, as it’s the ideal way to change the way you feel and think about discipline:
Imagine your child being very cooperative, and then overstepping a boundary. Visualize how you say to him (or feel in your heart): “I know you’re frustrated, or upset. I know that you will make mistakes and test boundaries. It’s part of my job as your parent to guide and protect you, so that you can learn and we can grow through this together. I want you to know that I don’t see your childlike behaviours as a crisis or a problem. Look at me, I’m fine and happy, I’m still having a great day. It’s OK that you’re a child. And I am OK. Don’t worry about me.”
Truly one of the greatest gifts that we as parents can give our children is to take back the burden of guilt that we have unintentionally placed on their shoulders through waiting to act until we are at breaking point.
Words: Loren Stow
When we know better… we do better.