Disciplining a child can be positive
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.”