Discipline is one area of parenting I have seen parents struggle with in my 5 years as a parent coach. Most of the disciplinary strategies parents use are a struggle because they don’t understand what works and what doesn’t work. Our parents showed us that you only discipline by flogging, punishing, and yelling at a child but deep down you know there should be more, right? For you to get it right, you need to understand what discipline is about. Myles Munroe said, ” when the aim of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable.”
The most abused system is the system of discipline and parenting. In Africa, it is believed that African parents are disciplined but the truth is that they are not disciplined but irresponsible with their emotions. You need to understand how the brain works when it comes to response to stimuli.
There are three parts of the brain:
A. The Reptilian brain is said to control functions like breathing, heartbeat, digestion, fight, and flight reaction, and other survival functions that require conscious effort.
B. The Mammalian brain which is also called the emotional brain is responsible for strong emotions like fear, rage, separation anxiety, caring, and nurturing. When you parent with fear, you trigger it.
C. The Human brain is also known as the Thinking brain. People who do better in life are the ones that have developed the part of this brain. It is responsible for learning, reasoning, problem-solving, decision-omaking, or sophisticated thinking. So when I hear people say, ” oh I was raised like that and I turned out well”, it means that they are not thinking at the higher functioning level of the brain because they’ve been raised to activate the mammalian brain.
The difference between punishment and discipline is that discipline invokes the thinking brain while punishment imparts the emotional brain. For example, our response when we are faced with a situation that poses a danger, the danger triggers an alarm in our emotional brain without going through the thinking brain. When in danger, the stress hormone known as cortisol is released to equip the body to fight back or get away from the object or scene of threat and that’s what we call the fight or flight mechanism. It is also the reason why most parents fight with their teenagers because they’ve not been raised to think. Children especially toddlers and preschoolers are curious, ambitious, and fearless. They know little or nothing about safety so they don’t understand why they are expected to behave in a certain way or do certain things. They don’t follow reasoning so if the parents resort to fear-based control or threats of punishment every time they trespass, it becomes dangerous because it induces fear in the brain. It’s one of the mistakes parents make because they think that it makes the child abandon undesired behavior and adopt the desired one, however, the fact is that frequent fear messes up the brain. Frequent fear causes a reduction in the grey matter in the brain.
Having seen the above explanation, let’s take a look at the strategies you use and why they don’t work.
1 . Punishment vs Discipline: Punishment creates negative behavior and shifts the child’s focus to avoid punishment instead of thinking and that’s why the child is afraid to make mistakes and or fail. The fear in the child won’t allow the child to try new businesses or speak because they’ll be afraid to fail. Nonetheless, discipline teaches decision-making, values, learning, and instructions. Instruction is the ladder of legacy and also part of the legacy you leave for your children. Instructions are part of disciplinary strategies and the topmost in the seven legs of legacies.
2 . Inflicting Pains: When you inflict pain on a child, it won’t give room for the child to think about the wrong he did because he will be focused on nursing the pain he is feeling at that moment. Hitting the child won’t activate the part of the brain that should think through the process and learn from it so the child struggles.
3 . The Use Of Cane As A Quick Fix: Some parents think that their children listen only when they weld their cane. The question you should ask is, ‘ Do they listen, or do they stop for that moment and repeat the same thing? It is a food for thought.
4 . Being Permissive. When some parents hear me say that hitting a child won’t solve the problem, they stop but do not apply another disciplinary strategy. When you leave your child with no effective disciplinary strategy, the child will grow wild and you will cry foul that the tips don’t work. It won’t work because you didn’t understand the process. There’s a process and if you don’t follow the process but copy the display, you’ll be frustrated and resort to hitting.
5 . Yell, Criticize, and Don’t Teach. When you yell and apply criticism all the time, you’ll fail. Teach them skills and values.
6 . Being Abusive. Most parents abuse verbally all in the name of discipline. Nobody likes name-calling. The way you don’t like it when someone abuses you is the same way your children dislike it. Verbal abuse won’t give your child the opportunity to think through the mistakes or take corrections.
7 . You Reward. Rewarding is not a disciplinary strategy. When a child does something good, you reward and when he does something bad, you withdraw the reward. You are not being consistent and trustworthy.
8 . Accusation and Assumption. Do not accuse your child without verification.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
1 . Create a System of Trust. In parenting, trust is one of the biggest currencies of trade. You can’t create trust without working on your emotions. Your children need to trust you even when you might be doing things that they don’t like but they trust you through the process because you are a parent and not a friend.
2 .Create Structures. Without structure, your discipline strategy will fail. A good structure, when put in place, will help you not to resort to yelling or hitting.
3 .Work On Your Emotions. I always say that emotions are the control valve of your life. Your emotions will make you responsible when disciplining your child. If you don’t work on your emotions, you can’t achieve all the tips I’ve dropped. You can handle and manage your emotions by getting into a course that works with a curriculum. Be consistent and make discipline a teaching tool.
Replicating a healthy relationship with your children is key. When creating rules without a relationship, you’ll cause rebellion. You have to put in the work by working on your emotions. When you fail to do so, you are just being a lazy parent. The Bible says that the journey of a foolish man wearieth him because he doesn’t know how to go to the city. Stop being weary in parenting and rather access wisdom.
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