Epi #46. How to Discipline Without PunishmentFeb 07, 2023
Happy February, Cycle Breakers! 🥰 We’re beginning this month with an important conversation about disciplining your kids without resorting to punishment & other types of negative reinforcements.
1. What’s Discipline and Punishment?
According to the Oxford dictionary, discipline is defined as “to teach; to guide” and punishment is defined as “the infliction of a penalty as retribution for an offense”. In other words, they have opposite meanings and aren’t mutually exclusive words! 🙅🏻♀️
Society treats them as equals, so most parents believe that imposing punishments is a great way to discipline, but that’s NOT true. So, why does this misunderstanding continue to happen? Because healthy, respectful discipline wasn’t modeled by their parents either, so the cycle gets repeated through the generations. 😭
A key component to differentiating between discipline and punishment is its focus. Punishment focuses on past behavior, i.e.: “Because you hit your sister, you’re going in time-out!” For those of us who were punished as kids, it’s highly possible for us to struggle to move on from past mistakes. It’s also hard to forgive ourselves and others. 😓
We tend to bring up past events, not because we’re revengeful or hold grudges, but because that’s what was modeled to us growing up. Our parents constantly brought up our past mistakes and kept us stuck there by making us “pay” for it. 😖
However, they never taught us what to do, instead, so that we could make better choices in the future. Failing to provide us with coping skills meant that we repeated the behavior, got punished again (probably worse), learned to yell, blame / shame, and the vicious cycle continued. 🌀
Discipline is future-focused, yet we use the past to reflect on what happened and how the kids felt at the moment that caused them to react the way they did. In other words, the past is used to collect information, not as a weapon used against them. As parents, it’s our job to equip them with coping and conflict resolution skills, and prepare them for new environments. Basically, how can we solve today’s conflict, so that it isn't the cause of the same conflict tomorrow? That’s discipline! 💪🏽
When people who don’t parent with understanding observe us disciplining our kids in this way, they don’t interpret it as such because they’ve been conditioned to believe that “true” discipline requires blind obedience, teary eyes, and forced, insincere apologies (these kids only “apologize” because they fear punishment). 😨
Then, we often get the following comments: “You’re too lenient.”,” You’re letting the kids run the show.”, “There’s no discipline in this house.”, etc. Even I, Marcela, founder and CEO of HIC Parenting Education, regularly get these comments from my mother in law! 🤯
2. How Much Does Punishment and Discipline Cost?
I’m sure you’ve heard (or read in my comments section) people say that spanking and other punishments “taught” them respect, discipline, and boundaries. I can’t argue with that. Sure, I imagine you learned boundaries / limits, to act as if you respected your parents / other adults…but at what cost? 🤔
What’s the cost of spanking, sending them to a room — alone — with no emotional support to figure out how to control their big emotions with no guidance, their boundaries being crossed by us and other adults, throwing out their personal belongings when they don’t clean up after themselves? ⁉️
Those actions will ALL become core childhood memories that they’ll carry with themselves into adulthood. It’ll affect their confidence and trust in you. So, I don’t say this to guilt-trip, but to bring awareness and reflection, so we can do better. I was also stuck in this cycle when I began my parenting journey as a foster mom because it was all I’d known, but when I realized it was ineffective, I went on a mission to learn how to be the best mom I could be for my kids. 👨👩👦👦
3. How Do Discipline and Punishment Feel?
I still vividly remember my mom telling me, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” and “I’m doing this for your own good.”, when she’d spank me as a kid. Emotions are messengers, they’re not a problem to be solved and stopped. They let us know when experiences are right or wrong. The fact that she felt hurt/pain by her actions was an indicator that she was doing the wrong thing. Yet, I extend her grace because she had limited tools and didn’t know any better. 🙏🏽
However, there are many sources of information available to parents nowadays: books, YouTube, podcasts, and HIC Parenting, just to name a few. So, there aren’t any more excuses. 🤷🏻♀️
On the other hand, when we apply true discipline towards our kids, there aren’t feelings of guilt, shame, hurt, or regret. Instead, you feel confident, accomplished, and connected because you’re teaching them lifelong skills to communicate, regulate their emotions, and relate to others better. 🫂
Punishment leads to disconnection between parents and their children. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be shown in obviously harsh ways either. For example, guilt-tripping is a form of punishment, manipulation, and emotional abuse. It could sound like, “After all the things I’ve done for you, I can’t believe you’re so disrespectful.” 😠
While you may not be yelling, spanking, or taking privileges away, your words have power and are heavy with guilt. Speaking to our kids this way and having this impact on them is often unintentional. You’re usually defaulting to how you were spoken to in similar circumstances by your own parents. 💡
But, it doesn’t have to be this way! This is your chance to break your generational cycle, releasing old patterns that only serve to weaken your parent/child relationship, learning to unveil your unconscious patterns of communication, and creating new patterns from a place of understanding yourself and what your kids need in their moments of emotional display. 🙌🏽
This didn’t come naturally to me either because it was never modeled to me by either of my parents or caregivers. Even with all my training, I still sought out a parenting coach to help me because it’s their job to expose my parenting blind spots to me, so that I’m aware of them and can use that information to improve as a mom. And, this is the same work we’ll do for YOU at HIC Parenting! 🥳 *
PSA: If you attended last week’s masterclass, 5 Shifts to Go from Frustrated to Peaceful Cooperation, & had questions you’d like me to personally answer, you’re in luck! 🍀
I'll be LIVE on Zoom today, Tuesday, February 7th @ 7:30pm EST to answer your questions. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to get individualized answers to your specific parenting struggle! I’m really looking forward to seeing your faces & speaking with you directly! 🤗