The wrong kind of dis­ci­pline

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­nie Lane

Two years ago, my brother and his wife, who have no kids, took my then8-year-old son on a great trip. They re­turned very ex­hausted after a week, hav­ing had a won­der­ful time.

Once home, my brother in­formed me — by demon­strat­ing on me phys­i­cally — that he had hit my son in the head to dis­ci­pline him. I was im­me­di­ately up­set but did not show it. I asked my son about it later, and he said it had hap­pened a few times. When broach­ing the topic to my son, I re­mained neu­tral, though I did as­sure my son when he sug­gested he may have de­served it that peo­ple should not hit other peo­ple in the head.

Be­cause I see my brother only a cou­ple of times a year (he lives far away), I waited a while to have time to re­flect. I wrote a thank-you note for the trip. After a month or so, I wrote a very short note to my brother, say­ing again that I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated the trip and also say­ing that though I re­al­ize he didn’t know I feel this way, I do not want him to hit my son in the head again. My brother was fu­ri­ous and cut me off en­tirely.

It re­ally hurts my heart to think that my son and I will not be able to visit him or my sis­ter-in-law or her other rel­a­tives. My sis­ter-in-law has tried to rea­son with him, but he will not be moved, and I don’t want to push her to get in­volved more. I called and wrote to apol­o­gize for hurt­ing his feel­ings. No re­sponse. My mom feels I am to blame for not trust­ing that the child needed to be dis­ci­plined in that way, though she al­ways taught us never to hit other peo­ple. Any ad­vice? — Sad Sis­ter in

Penn­syl­va­nia

Take some so­lace in the fact that you are ab­so­lutely right. Dis­ci­plin­ing one’s chil­dren is a very sen­si­tive is­sue, let alone some­one else’s chil­dren. And hit­ting a child — es­pe­cially on the head — is un­ac­cept­able and in­ef­fec­tive (it’s also il­le­gal in all 50 states). San­dra Gra­ham-Ber­mann, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor and re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, says that though the child might mo­men­tar­ily stop prob­lem­atic be­hav­ior when hit or spanked, it’s only be­cause he or she is afraid. The les­son doesn’t stick for the long term. Pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment, as well as re­main­ing calm dur­ing tantrums, is more ef­fec­tive at en­cour­ag­ing good be­hav­ior. Try shar­ing this re­search with your brother.

This is in re­sponse to “Family Di- vided,” who has been butting heads with her sis­ter about pol­i­tics.

As a physi­cian who coun­sels pa­tients with life-threat­en­ing ill­nesses, I have learned that when there is family con­flict for any rea­son, it’s best to be­come a love war­rior and use love as your weapon.

“I love you.” Say it ev­ery day to the peo­ple with whom you are in con­flict, no mat­ter what the rea­son — from some­one who screams at you for tak­ing his park­ing space to par­ents with whom you’re al­ways fight­ing.

One pa­tient thought that I was nuts and say­ing “I love you” would make no dif­fer­ence. But she started telling her al­co­holic par­ents she loved them any­way. Each week, she told me it made no dif­fer­ence. Three months later, she came in with a smile. I asked her what the smile was about, and she said, “I was late for work to­day, so I ran out of the house and heard my par­ents yelling, ‘ You for­got some­thing!’ I told them I had all my stuff. What had I for­got­ten? They an­swered, ‘ You didn’t say, “I love you.”’ Next thing you know, we were cry­ing and hug­ging each other and heal­ing all our wounds.”

Love is a pow­er­ful weapon, and the op­po­site of love is not fear or hate but in­dif­fer­ence, re­jec­tion and abuse Bernie S., M.D.

Take some so­lace in the fact that you are ab­so­lutely right.

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