Our “philosophy” about discipline is evolving as our daughter grows.
In 2.5 seconds flat (oh, was that years…?), she went from a bright-eyed and button-nosed infant to an active and independent toddler who is fearless, fun-loving, and full of spunk. She has a mind of her own and she doesn’t hesitate to communicate her needs and wants. She truly is a leader in the making. She is tenacious yet tender-hearted, assertive yet compassionate. She’s going places and we want to help her in that journey, while providing the boundaries that she so desperately needs from us.
My husband and I talk about parenting often and here are a few “principles” that we believe in. We actually have never spelled them out in an acronym like this. But here goes…
- BE the person you want your child to become. Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are big proponents of this…and so are we. In their book, The Parent You Want to Be, they state that, “It is more important who you ARE than what you DO.” We couldn’t agree more. If we are patient, our daughter will be patient. If we say “please” and “thank you,” she will mimic those phrases. If we are gracious and forgiving, she will follow in our footsteps. We truly believe that working on our own character and considering our own actions/words is far more important than implementing any specific discipline strategies.
- ASSESS the situation. Take time to consider possible “causes” behind “bad behavior.” Again, I think parents should first point the finger back at themselves before reprimanding their child unnecessarily. It always makes me sad when I see parents scolding their child when it is obvious that the child is hungry, overtired, or bored due to preventable situations. For example, is it really okay to get angry when YOU kept your child up past their bedtime or gave them a sugary treat in place of lunch? I certainly don’t think we should excuse bad behavior, but I always strive to put things in perspective and to look at myself first.
- SET appropriate boundaries and state them clearly. Age-appropriate boundaries are crucial. If there are crayons all over the floor and your 1-year-old just won’t stop putting them in his mouth, don’t discipline him – just take the crayons away, for goodness sake! If you do set a boundary, be clear about your expectations and what will will happen if your child disobeys. For example, I might say to my 2-year-old, “Please hold my hand when we cross the street.” If my daughter runs out in the road or lets go of my hand, I might say, “It’s dangerous to cross the street without holding my hand. Please hold my hand. This is your warning. If you let go of my hand again, then X (you will have to go to time-out, we will have to go inside, etc.).”
- KEEP anger in check. Anger doesn’t help. Period. Screaming, shouting, getting red-faced, cursing, hitting things, hitting people. If you feel yourself losing control, step away. Don’t risk losing your relationship with your child because your harshness gets in the way. Gentleness should be present – even smack-dab in the middle of a disciplinary situation.
You might notice that I didn’t list any “tactics” (spanking, time-outs, grounding, etc.). That’s because we think they are less important than examining the heart of the matter. Again – who we ARE is more important than what we DO. Actions speak louder than words…or spankings or lectures. Our kids watch us and then they do what we do. It’s almost as simple as that.
You might also notice that the acronym is BASK, which seems appropriate. To “bask,” means (1) to lie exposed to warmth or light, or (2) to revel in and make the most of something. I think that’s a nice way to view parenting. Positively. With a bent toward grace and forgiveness and compassion…and light.
YOUR TURN: What’s your “discipline philosophy”?
P.S. I shared this movie clip some time ago, but – in case you missed it – here’s a very powerful “visual” that demonstrates the fact that “Children See. Children Do” (produced by NAPCAN and Child Friendly Australia).