I heard someone say about being disciplined as a child, “I didn’t want to disappoint him.” In other words, no frowns, no anger, ever hit so hard as a look of disappointment or even betrayal.How does a parent reach this point?
Realize that a parent’s sadness hence disappointment is hard for a child to conceptualize until some time after the basic dynamics have been set. So, here’s how I saw them set.
As soon as a child can stand and walk the child wants to be involved. Say the parent allows the child to participate in small mundane household chores, which is much of what goes on during the day when the child is awake. The child of course is going to exhibit clumsiness, enthusiasm, downright joy – and make the chore much more difficult -the first few times.
Children learn rapidly when interested, and before long the child is actually helping a tiny bit. This is how children “learn” to help around the house. The child’s self-esteem grows because the child is making a positive difference.
SO – when the child volunteers a little mischief or outright rudeness, all that is needed is for the parent to show sadness. This is as bad as, and much more effective than, a swat or spank or time-out. Why? The above punishments are concessions from the parent that a contest of wills in in play, and the parent is simply going to outdo the child to win the contest.
But by showing disappointment the parent doesn’t challenge the child so much as demonstrate that the child has wandered off the path of all those prior esteem-building cooperative efforts.
No system is perfect – but parents who offer participation and approval to their child have closed the gap on about nine-tenths of all discipline problems.
Truth in advertising – I was raised well, but not in the above manner, and alas didn’t raise my own this way. Now, at least, I understand why and how this works.