Discipline is one of the first socio-emotional challenges parents face as our children become toddlers. To me, this is when parenting really starts, which is why several members of NYC Dads Group were very happy to sit down with Janeen Hayward, parent, consultant, and founder of Swellbeing to discuss how we can positively handle these difficult situations.
I won’t share all the details of our very informative discussion, but I do want to share some of the highlights about positive discipline.
The power of positive discipline
According to Janeen, the goal of discipline is teaching rather than punishment. Ultimately, we want children to learn how to self-regulate and solve problems on their own. These early years are about “teaching, guiding, and loving” our children as they learn to navigate the world. Much easier said than done, especially in those moments when we ourselves are frustrated and feel like joining our child face down on the floor with our hands and arms flailing.
Janeen suggested several things to consider as we effectively discipline our children. First, we need to think about our own parenting style. If we are too authoritative, we deprive our children of the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. If we are too permissive, we deprive our children of the boundaries they need as they figure out how the world works. In order to teach and guide our children, we need to be kind and loving, but we need to be firm. In addition, we also need to consider the child’s temperament, intent, and age. To me, this is common sense, but not necessarily in those ugly moments.
Janeen also suggested ways to avoid ugly situations in the first place. Children are misbehaving either because they want attention or they want power. If we give in, then they’ll continue to do what works. If children are seeking attention, then we should not give it to them at that moment– don’t give them eye contact, don’t talk to them, and certainly don’t yell at them. We should give them physical clues that we love them even if we aren’t busy with them at that moment. If children are seeking power, then we need to create choices and situations where they can make their own decisions. Better yet, avoid power struggles in the first place by thinking about your child’s triggers, planning for difficult situations, and sharing the plan with your child ahead of time.
Special thanks to Janeen for the time she spent with us on positive discipline. I think we all really appreciated her ability to share her knowledge in the context of real-life situations. For more information, Janeen recommended several books that address these issues:
- 1-2-3 Magic, by Thomas Phelan Ph.D.
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman, Ph.D.
- Parenting from the Inside Out, by Daniel Siegel, MD
- Redirecting Children’s Behavior, by Kathryn J. Kvols