THE N BOMB OF DISCIPLINE
This one little word, two little letters can do a tremendous amount of damage to your ability to successfully foster your child's self discipline.
It can "Blow Up" your hopes and dreams about the joys of being a parent and turn life with your child into a daily struggle.
Some parents describe their relationship with a child as a war.
I want to prevent this from happening in your home. If it already has, I can guide you to eliminating the turmoil to create a relaxed, enjoyable home life for you and for your child.
If this is the help you are seeking, if you want to live in peace and joy with your child, the process of change will begin with the way you THINK about your responsibilities as a parent.
So, here we go!
When your helpless infant suddenly becomes mobile you are faced with entirely new responsibilities and if this one word, no, gets you off on the wrong foot, you can create the beginnings of a negative relationship to follow you all the way into your baby's teen years and beyond.
Let's get down to how NO can lead us into frustration, anger and helplessness beginning from your toddler's point of view.
Your eighteen-month-old is contentedly playing with his blocks in the middle of the living room floor. You smile at him from time to time when he looks up from his play. To you, it only looks like "play." What he is really doing is his WORK. The fun and immensely satisfying work of wiring his brain.
Now he looks up and spots the TV knobs, a new source of experimentation for following nature's plan to create his own personal intricate brain circuits. Very different from his toys and irresistible. In a flash he is across the room and fiddling with the TV knobs.
This is where Traditional Parenting has you saying NO and this is when your troubles start.
Question: Why would this bright, inquisitive little person stop exploring a fascinating newly discovered source of investigation just because you want him to stop and just because this NO sound is coming out of your mouth?
Answer: He wouldn't.
Now what do you do? The old way is to exercise your advantage in size and strength and scare him into complying with your wishes. The angry NO and a slap on the hand, or in some homes a real spanking have been accepted tactics for a long, long time.
During this frightful confrontation he has only his trust in you and
the strength of his Attachment to help him. Your confusing and frightening reaction have struck a blow to his trust, leaving him bewildered and his Attachment undermined.
He could not possibly grasp your motivation as it relates to all the hours you worked to pay for this TV set. It simply looks like another inviting source of investigation and learning to him.
Since he was a tiny infant, you have smiled and exclaimed when he reached out for a new toy. Now his reaching out brought this scary face and loud voice, alarming him and assaulting his innocence.
You have taken your first step in drawing him into a contest with you; a contest you will never win. The losses on your side of this ledger and his can be many and long-lasting.
Positioning yourself as his adversary, you have started down a treacherous road. You have embarked on the path of control through fear and punishment. Your toddler has no way of comprehending why this big person who takes care of him, holds him, feeds him and plays with him now has an alarming look on her face, frightening sounds coming out of her mouth and is hurting him.
Although you may scare him enough or inflict enough pain to gain momentary control of his behavior, you have contaminated the foundation of your relationship. Instead of working with his inborn need to fit-in and cooperate you are now exploiting his fear of the loss of your love and at the same time creating in him a reservoir of hurt, anger and the seeds of defiance.
Part of his attention now turns away from finding positive ways to settle into his place in the family. His newly activated Counterwill, focused on protecting him from your control, provides him with a new feeling and new behavior to go with it: defiance. Instead of spending all his time pursuing learning and development of his self hood, now much of his energy may become focused on staying out of trouble and/or hiding his activities from you.
It is during this toddler stage with a newly activated Counterwill when a parent may find a bowel movement in her best shoe or big black crayon marks on her bedroom wall.
The traditional way of handling such "bad" behavior has been with harsh punishments. Prolonged beatings, burning with electric irons, severe shakings are not uncommon measures for attempting to stop this sort of defensive innocent behavior of a toddler.
Children die each day because of terrible misunderstandings about
their behaviors and motivations.
As a defiant child gets older he may find satisfaction in seeing how much he can get away with. All the while you are trying to "make" him cooperate his inborn Counterwill keeps doing the job of protecting him from outside influences as a part of the process of his individuation.
Read all about COUNTERWILL in another chapter.
Being engaged in a struggle with him, you look for new ways to punish him when the old ones stop working. Scolding and yelling soon bring no improvement and time-out escalates to locking him in his room. You may slap or spank harder. You try removal of privileges, withholding of treats, lecturing and grounding for an older child, all the while fueling his anger and resentment. Under his feelings of humiliation and rage lie deep pools of hurt and despair.
Your punishments and expressions of anger slash away at his Attachment to you, the one thing most important to his emotional security and to his ability to cooperate.
Somewhere along this road, you try using rewards to control him only to find your sticker charts, ice cream cones and bribes with toys eventually lose effectiveness over time just as your punishments do.
Or they may have never helped bring about cooperation to begin with and you are wondering what to do next as your frustration and anger escalate.
Because he is being treated as though he is bad, he may come to see himself as deserving of this treatment and fall into the "bad child" role.
Accepting your view of him as his own, his self hood is destroyed.
A sensitive child will lose his self hood by having his spirit broken
as he gives up the quest for autonomy.
The only way out of this unhappy situation is to abandon traditional coercive methods and take on your natural position as a loving guide to extricate yourself from the punishment/reward trap you occupy with your child.
It is never too late!
Your focus can become WORKING WITH your child instead of following the old patterns of DOING TO.
To begin this transition your first goal will be to strengthen your Attachment Bond by treating him with full respect as you eliminate
any and all hurtful or frightening control tactics.
Always keep this in mind: The stronger the bond, the more cooperative your child is capable of becoming.