Mention the word “discipline” in the context of dealing with a child, and what usually comes to mind? Typically, one may have a mental image of a parent or teacher with a fierce look on his/her face, giving a stern lecture or command, with maybe a belt or wooden stick or some spanking implement in hand for good measure.
Now, imagine that you’re a child: how does that sight make you feel? Scared, right? Or maybe even resentful or rebellious. Either way, it’s definitely not very encouraging. But that’s how discipline was traditionally done, right? And we turned out fine, right? Moooore or less fine—right?
But think about this:
“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?”
This is one of the most popular quotes on Positive Discipline, and it makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s always better when children behave because they actually want to—not because they were forced to.
I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to attend a workshop on positive discipline a few weeks ago, and it was such a thought-provoking experience. It was so refreshing to realize that yes, discipline does not have to be a painful experience for kids, that correction should not necessarily mean punishment, that you can say “no” and still be kind, and most importantly, that a lot of misbehavior can be prevented in the first place if you build the right environment for good behavior.
In essence, positive discipline is anchored on building a loving, respectful relationship with your children, one that gives them a deep sense belonging and allows them to thrive and grow as capable, responsible individuals.
One of the quotes that I learned during the workshop is this:
“A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.”
This really struck me because lots of times, my two-year old twins act out because they’re simply craving for more attention from us—they feel the need for more attention and are discouraged that they’re not getting it. As I learned in the workshop, we are all social beings and we always need to feel a connection—children most especially. This connection is a basic foundation of positive discipline because, let’s face it, if your child doesn’t even like you very much, why would she/he obey you?
I’m not saying that I’ve got it all figured out, of course. It’s a learning process, and we have to be in it for the long haul. Right now, I’m still not confident of my grasp of what positive discipline is and how I should be applying it to my twins. Positive discipline is so much different—and harder!—from the usual “Just do as I say because I said so and do it now!” style that I find myself doing many times. In spite of my efforts, it feels like I’m still losing my patience with the twins lots of times, resulting in not so positive moments for all of us. I try to be patient, and positive, and sometimes, well, it doesn’t work.
Except of course, sometimes, lots of times actually, it does work, and it’s beautiful.