Discipline is our seventh facet of a healthy family culture. Discipline, to me, boils down to nothing less than how you guide your child or children toward becoming a mature and healthy adult. Discipline requires authenticity, yes, but also a steadiness and platform of patience and evenness, and an understanding of children’s development and the best tools to use when. The tools of discipline, to me, differ based on the developmental stage of the child.
Being An Authentic Leader – This is one of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/
The first ingredient is of course, you. Your views, your steadiness, and yes, your family culture obviously influence things. And no, I don’t think you need to be this completely calm mother who walks around like she in a valium-induced haze. I know loads of mothers who have incredible energy! I do think, though, that there has to be a steadiness of not being completely overwhelmed and frustrated. And that, to be honest, can be really difficult when children are very small. And teenagers also take a lot of energy!
The qualities I think about most in my own mothering were the ones I described in the series “20 Days Toward More Mindful Mothering”. Some of my long-term readers might remember that series. Cultivating these qualities is what inner work and personal development is all about. You can see those posts here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/category/general-wisdom/20-days-toward-more-mindful-mothering/
How Do You View Children and Childhood? Much of this boils down to what you think about children. Do you think they are miniature adults with less experience just waiting to be filled up with knowledge? Do you think the consciousness of the child and the rationality of the child is the same as the adult? Many times we would point to teenagers, and laugh, and say, oh no of course a teenager is not as rational as an adult, but yet we parent them by talking them to death and expecting them to come to the same conclusions that a forty-three year old adult would in the same situation. They might, but they might not!
I often think of the ages of birth through seven being a time of doing, the time of age seven through age fourteen of being the time of strong feelings, and the time of age fourteen through age twenty-one being when rational thought is being developed. To me, childhood ends around the age of twenty-one.
If we concur that development does take time, that children of different ages actually are different in the way that they think and respond to things, then we can look at tools and expectations based upon development.
However, the one thing that remains steady through all of these ages is CONNECTION and ATTACHMENT. You cannot parent without this. Please do go back and read the posts that summarize the wonderful book “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers”. Connection is the number one way to discipline a child.
Discipline Tools – So, for me, the methods and tools of discipline looks a bit different dependent upon the child’s age. I have written many, many, many posts on this.
In a brief nutshell, for the ages birth to seven, your discipline techniques really involves slowing down. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, and slowing down really sets the tone for what happens. Small children should be involved in meaningful work, and plenty of indoor and outdoor play. Physically moving with your child into what needs to be done whilst you are singing and helping them is most helpful. Children of this age imitate what you are doing, so making sure you are doing something worthy of imitation is very important. Words and talking the child to death is the least important part of this picture.
For children ages seven to fourteen, this is a time to be a loving authority in your child’s life because there will be many instances of your child discovering what the boundaries of your home life truly are, and they are searching to see if you yourself walk the walk of what you are telling your child. Criticism of the parent seems to start in our times around ages nine or ten, not in the same way that a teenager criticizes, but children of this age certainly do notice if you tell them one thing and then do another! Calm, sure, steady and warm are hallmarks in discipline of this age.
For children fourteen to twenty-one, the parent is moving into more of an age of being the expert guide on life’s issues and the child is of course taking increasing responsibility. Here is an interesting blog post from over at Christopherus regarding parenting teenagers and talking specifically about dealing with friends: http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/07/keeping_one_ste.html