As a parent, you know that disciplining your children is an important and necessary part of raising them. But it’s just as important to pay attention to how you discipline your children as it is to why you discipline them.
While a child being lazy and irresponsible is certainly detrimental to their development, the most critical factor in raising children is actually the parents themselves. Just as your children playing video games all the time will lead to bad results, so too can your lack of wisdom and self-restraint when interacting with your children lead to bad results.
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If you are not mindful, you may find yourself disciplining your children in ways that are not in their best interest. If you are reactionary and emotional, rather than rational and reasonable, you may later regret your words and actions, and the negative consequences that can result.
Harmful forms of discipline
Let’s look at a few methods of discipline that can be detrimental to a child’s development.
Corporal punishment is a common method used by parents to discipline their children. Rather than the parents tuning into their child’s mood and trying to help them understand and work through what’s going on, they use physical punishment to make their child fearful and force the child to obey their demands.
This is not unlike an authoritarian government ruling over its people by demanding things of them and instilling fear through the use of force and physical punishment.
Verbal abuse is also used to make children fearful and can sometimes be even more psychologically harmful to children. It’s hard to discipline children effectively this way, and by using this approach, it makes it impossible to teach children to recognize their own mistakes, let alone learn from their mistakes.
When good behavior exists only out of fear without a rational understanding of things and a desire to improve, bad behavior is sure to occur again.
Being cold and distant
When parents have an attitude of disregard toward their children’s mistakes, become distant or cold toward their children for making mistakes, or expect their children to realize their mistakes on their own, they hinder their growth.
Oftentimes, children don’t even know what mistakes they’ve made. As a result, they may be unable to understand why their parents are angry, upset, or distant and will not acquire the knowledge and skills needed to improve.
So what are some of the harmful effects that may result from using these methods in disciplining your children?
A loss of confidence
Since these methods are used to make children fearful, in time, children may completely lose their self-confidence and become susceptible to developing negative or unhealthy interpersonal relationships.
When parents use incorrect methods to discipline their children, the children are harmed both spiritually and psychologically. Coupled with the long shadow of the parents, a child’s state may decline to the point that they eventually develop depression or other psychological issues.
When faced with their parents’ corporal punishment and verbal abuse, rebellious behavior may develop. While children may not be able to resist when they are young, when they grow up and can no longer tolerate the abuse, parents will face more fierce resistance and rebellion from their children, and the parent-child relationship will deteriorate as a result.
So what are some effective methods of discipline that a parent can employ?
Pause and reflect
Before reacting or deciding on a punishment, you should pause before you speak. This is a good rule for parents as well as a valuable lesson to emulate and teach your children. This gives you a chance to calm your emotions and reflect on what has happened before responding.
Granted, some situations allow more time for reflection than others, but even in situations that require a more immediate response, it’s important to respond from a place of kindness, patience, and compassion. If you keep these things in your heart at all times, you can respond from a place of wisdom and reason, even in the moment.
Admit your mistakes
When you are aware that your way of disciplining your child has caused them harm, you should find time to communicate with your child about your mistakes. By admitting to what you have done wrong and apologizing for it, it helps open the door of communication and will improve your relationship with your child.
When you admit your mistakes, you demonstrate the importance of being accountable for your words and actions. It also teaches the importance of forgiveness and compassion and helps your children learn the difference between right and wrong.
Interact with your children
Once a child has suffered as a result of poor disciplinary choices, it will take time to repair the parent-child relationship. As a way of mending the relationship, you can take the initiative to interact with your children in a variety of positive ways.
Spending time with your child through something as simple as a family game night, asking questions about your child’s day over dinner and discussing how they’ve handled situations they’ve faced, or even taking a trip somewhere with your child, can help open the hearts of the parent and child to one another.
I once asked someone I respected what the best advice was that he could give to me as a parent. He replied: “Work on improving yourself.” It wasn’t an answer I’d expected, but I immediately recognized the wisdom in what he’d said.
Your children are a reflection of who you are and act as a mirror of your own states. If you can recognize this, and strive to do better yourself, you will find that your relationships with your children naturally improve as a result.
Just as your children are educated and grow in their knowledge and wisdom, so too can you as a parent grow. And when children and parents grow at the same time, it results in not just making them better, but in making each other better.
Translated by Joseph Wu and rewritten by T. Denning