My contemplations, understanding and opinions about parenting, Positive Discipline, children, child development, psychology, spirituality, and everything in between! All posts below are inspired from books and personal experience. I will try my best to quote sources wherever possible. I will be including a books section too. Happy musing!
One of the interesting ideas of the Positive Discipline Adlerian model is that all human beings are equal; that they are deserving of being treated with dignity and respect – including children. Now, there might be arguments to this – “How can children be equal if they don’t have the same life experience or knowledge of the outside world?” “Won’t the house become more chaotic, without my position of control?” By equality, Adler did not mean “the same”. What he meant was that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They also deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills they need in an atmosphere of kindness and firmness instead of one of blame and punishment. The impact of parents' behavior on the child is profound.
Daisaku Ikeda in his book “Happy Parents, Happy Kids” says: “There are many different kinds of plants, all varying widely in shape, size and nature. Some grow fast while others take time to mature. Nevertheless, the rain falls upon all plants equally, nurturing their growth. And each plant blossoms and bears fruit according to its own unique character. All children are different; each possesses wonderful unique qualities.”
Educating our future generation is not just giving children access to knowledge. According to Wikipedia, education is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, morals, beliefs, and habits. It is the process of facilitating learning, through our own example. The root of the word education is "educare" from the Latin language, which means ‘to draw forth’. This word is related to other Latin words which collectively mean ‘to lead’. So, just giving instructions to our kids isn’t going to work.
Parents usually “tell” their children – what happened, what caused it to happen, what should have happened instead, how they should feel about it, what they should do about it…The lectures usually go in one ear and out the other. Why do parents “stuff in” and then wonder why children “tune out”?!! The type of discipline we use determines the way our children perceive themselves as well as the outside world. The not-so-good type of discipline may involve methods of control, and angry or violent responses to undesired behavior. Yes! This way gets the desired behavior, but is it stemming from fear? Is it self-driven?
Positive Discipline is a model used in schools and parenting, that focuses on the positive points of behavior and is sustainable in the long run. In contrast to other discipline models that are based on punishment and rewards, Positive Discipline is in favor of encouragement and addresses the basic needs of children to belong and feel significant in socially useful ways. It is a way of teaching and guiding children in a firm, yet kind manner; about what behavior is acceptable.
Many people think discipline and punishment are the same. They are not. The words disciple and discipline, both originate from the Latin word "discipulus", which means "a follower of truth" / "to teach". So, true discipline happens as a consequence - it is to learn to discipline oneself.
When excessive control is used, children depend on an “external locus of control”. It is the adult’s responsibility to be constantly in charge of children’s behavior. In the case of rewards and punishment, which fall under the system of external locus of control, adults must “catch” the children being good to reward and “catch” the bad to give out punishment. Here, the adult is more responsible. What happens when the adult is not around? Whereas, if children depend on an “internal locus of control”, they are self-driven. They learn responsibility – a critical life skill.
So often we find controlling adults complaining about lack of responsibility in children. Permissiveness also teaches irresponsibility because here, both adults and children give up on responsibility.
Rudolf Dreikurs (child psychologist and educator) in his book “Children: The Challenge” says that children are more willing to follow rules which they help in forming. This way they become good decision makers, learn about mistakes and learning from mistakes, with a healthy sense of themselves. The big question though is – Are adults willing to let go of control? Are they willing to let go of the pressing need to be in control?
One of my favorite quotes from Jane Nelson is -"Where did we get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse?" Encouragement is not just the act of giving someone support or hope, it can also be an act of trying to stimulate the development of a skill or quality. By encouraging children, we help them to have the courage to develop into the type of person they want to be, and to develop a belief in themselves, thus resulting in critical resiliency skills.
“A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.” -Rudolf Dreikurs
Encouragement has a language of it's own. Encouragement is not praise. There is a very thin line between the two, which became strikingly evident after I attended Positive Discipline parenting classes. I explain what happened here. There were so many activities to help parents realize and practice the acts of giving praise and encouragement, and thus distinguish between the two. While praise is specific to the person, encouragement focuses on the effort and the act of trying – irrespective of the result being good or bad. Praise tends to cater to good outcomes only; whereas encouragement caters to the need to belong and feel significant, whether the result is good or bad.
Encouragement instills the "I can" feeling whereas praise breeds a people pleaser, and thereby triggers the "what does the other person think about me? Am I capable enough?" kind of thoughts. There is more self-validation when one is raised predominantly on encouragement. Praise seeks more praise; and is more dependent on external evaluation. Praise can be likened to eating candy, whereas encouragement is the healthy food – meaning, occasional praise is no harm. The locus of control changes from external to internal, when we move from praise to encouragement.
In an age of instant everything – instant messaging, instant high-quality pictures, microwave cooking, quick food takeout, OTT movies, etc. etc., Parenting takes time!!
It would indeed be great if parents had an “instant solution” to any parenting challenge, as and when it occurs! The truth is that children don’t come with a set of directions. And each child is unique; and so is each family. It is the responsibility of the parent to understand the child and from this responsibility arises trust, resulting in a beautiful relationship!
The shortcut is trying to fix a challenge on the surface, also telling the child how to fix the problem. The result is the child continues to seek help, not feeling capable enough by themselves. The long road involves listening to the child, monitoring, self-introspection, and modeling. Yes! This means patience and effort.
In this age to “do” more, let’s pause and listen!
Books that inspired me
"Positive Discipline" -Jane Nelson
"Children: The Challenge" -Rudolf Dreikurs
"The Whole-Brain Child" -Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
"Happy Parents, Happy Kids" -Daisaku Ikeda
"The Self-Driven Child" -William Stixrud and Ned Johnson