Dis­ci­plin­ing a child can be pos­i­tive

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY GRA­NIA LITWIN

A ll too of­ten the word dis­ci­pline goes hand in hand with the con­cept of pu­n­ish­ment.

“So the idea of pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline might seem odd to some peo­ple,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Joan Dur­rant. But in her lex­i­con dis­ci­pline means teach­ing, and it’s based on build­ing blocks that help chil­dren suc­ceed.

She be­lieves the key is for par­ents to iden­tify long-term chil­drea­r­ing goals, such as pro­vid­ing warmth and struc­ture, un­der­stand­ing how their chil­dren think and feel and help­ing them be­come prob­lem-solvers.

“Pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline is not per­mis­sive par­ent­ing,” stresses the Uni­ver­sity of Man­i­toba pro­fes­sor in the Cen­tre for Peace and Jus­tice, who was re­cently the first guest speaker at the Cen­tre for Child Hon­our­ing on Salt­spring Is­land.

The project is be­ing spear­headed by Juno Award-winning singer Raffi Cavoukian who de­scribes the cen­tre as an ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­ity to ad­vance “child hon­our­ing.” He de­fines child hon­our­ing as “a chil­dren-first ap­proach to heal­ing com­mu­ni­ties and restor­ing ecosys­tems.” (See child­honour­ing.org)

“I am thrilled to have this hon­our,” says Dur­rant, “ be­cause Raffi wants to ad­dress the con­cept of child hon­our­ing in re­la­tion to con­cepts of child rights. I’ve worked for many years in the area of child mal­treat­ment preven­tion, and have come to un­der­stand it’s not just a fam­ily or par­ent is­sue, but a hu­man-rights is­sue.

“I’m very ex­cited to see how Raffi has man­aged to take all of the com­po­nents that are crit­i­cal in chil­dren’s health de­vel­op­ment, and some­how cap­tured all of them in a con­cise, hu­mane frame­work. What he has come up with is a thing of beauty.”

His term “con­scious par­ent­ing” is es­pe­cially pro­found, she says.

“How many of our ac­tions are more im­pul­sive and re­flex­ive than con­scious? We get so caught up in short-term stress we lose sight of what we’re try­ing to achieve. This con­cept was like the skies open­ing. It’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary ter­mi­nol­ogy.”

She says there is a per­cep­tion that dis­ci­pline must be ei­ther harsh or per­mis­sive, but sug­gests there is a mid­dle road.

“Harsh dis­ci­pline drives chil­dren away, and per­mis­sive­ness doesn’t give them the in­for­ma­tion they need,” but pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline in­volves teach­ing and men­tor­ing by par­ents, she said.

“ What do we need when we want to learn new in­for­ma­tion or suc­ceed in chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions? We need the sup­port of peo­ple around us. We need to know we will not be hurt or shamed if we make a mis­take, and we need in­for­ma­tion.”

She il­lus­trates her point by de­scrib­ing a child about to drop a pre­cious or­na­ment.

“In the first place, rather than leav­ing tempt­ing things around, and slap­ping a child who touches them, keep the en­vi­ron­ment as safe as pos­si­ble. You don’t want to de­crease ex­ploratory be­hav­iour, which the brain needs to de­velop....

“But you want to help chil­dren grad­u­ally learn to con­trol their im­pulses. So sit with them. Hold an ob­ject that isn’t ter­ri­bly break­able and ex­plain how spe­cial it is. In­stead of yelling, ‘ Don’t touch, you’ll break it,’ which sends the mes­sage they are clumsy and in­com­pe­tent, give them a sense of car­ing and re­spect.”

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