Parenting - - In This Issue -

John Cowan on be­ing a coach

John Cowan on be­ing a coach not a pros­e­cu­tor.

Who-dun­nit de­tec­tive sto­ries, po­lice shows and CSI style pro­grammes – peo­ple love the idea of iden­ti­fy­ing and pun­ish­ing the wrong­doer. That might be good for law and or­der, but it is not the best strat­egy in our homes with our kids. “Catch ‘em and pun­ish ‘em” is not dis­ci­pline. Think of your­self as a coach, not as a pros­e­cut­ing lawyer. Good dis­ci­pline doesn’t fo­cus on the ‘crime’ our kids com­mit, but rather the in­ten­tion is to help them make a bet­ter de­ci­sion the next time the child is in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. The goal is not to make them feel bad about what they did, the goal is that they will do bet­ter think­ing and make a bet­ter choice next time.

The ques­tion, “WHY did you do this!?” never gets a good an­swer. They know they can’t give you a sat­is­fac­tory rea­son for smash­ing your vase or scrib­bling on the wall-pa­per. In­stead they will just red­den and fume, and their brain will lock up with emo­tion. Bet­ter ques­tions fo­cus on the fu­ture: “What would be a bet­ter way to get the re­mote in­stead of climb­ing up the China cabi­net?” “If you want to do some drawing, where’s a good place to do it?”

Sadly, what of­ten gets called ‘dis­ci­pline’ is re­ally just ‘re­venge’. They have made you up­set and so you are go­ing to make them up­set. Maybe a penalty is ap­pro­pri­ate, but make sure it is not so harsh that the child only thinks of the per­ceived injustice they are suf­fer­ing rather than how to be­have bet­ter. The real ben­e­fit is the de­brief­ing and

prob­lem solv­ing you do later.

Take care how you la­bel your chil­dren dur­ing dis­ci­pline. “You liar!” is so much dif­fer­ent from, “That’s a lie and we tell the truth in this fam­ily”; “You’re a thief!” means some­thing quite dif­fer­ent from. “Hey, that’s steal­ing, and you know that is not on!” Call­ing them a ‘liar’ or ‘thief’ is la­belling them, giv­ing them the im­pres­sion that we al­ways think of them as a liar or theif; it is so much bet­ter to la­bel the ac­tion in­stead of the child. Let them know that your dis­plea­sure is not be­cause you think they are ‘bad’ but rather you are up­set and dis­ap­pointed that their be­hav­iour is bad when you are so sure they re­ally are a good kid. Dis­ci­pline, done well, can ac­tu­ally leave a child’s self es­teem in­tact or even bol­stered.

It takes years for kids to de­velop good ‘brakes’, to grow their im­pulse con­trol to stop them do­ing silly, im­ma­ture and mis­chievous things. Your kids are not vil­lains; they are good kids and you are help­ing them to learn how to be­have. Their mis­de­meanours are op­por­tu­ni­ties for you to coach and train them.

Pos­si­bly the dis­ci­pline at your home would make a very dull TV show com­pared with a de­tec­tive Who-dun­nit but I think your story will have a much hap­pier end­ing.

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