Wondering what she might think she is accomplishing, I observed a parent recently in a local store with her two young children. Her two boys were arguing and grabbing each other. She, apparently becoming distressed over their displayed behavior while she talked on her cell phone, grabbed one of the boys. Speaking sternly to him, she told him he was "not to yell at his brother" and "if you didn't stop acting like a brat, you'll be on time-out when you get home." She then swatted his rear end and pushed him up the food aisle, returning to talking on her cell phone.
We all have behaviors that we construct, because we find some sort of use for them. We wash our clothes, brush our teeth, say "hello" to the boss, and save our money. All of these behaviors are for good and useful purposes. Yet the techniques parents use on their children as a form of what they call "discipline," they think are for teaching the child to behave. But perhaps they are wrong. And if they are, all that work of applying "discipline" is for naught.
Consider the idea of a discipline. A discipline is a behavioral plan that you follow. Athletes have a discipline when they practice and practice, exercise and exercise. They become disciplined. However, a coach was the likely person to show them what to do. Thus, the coach was the disciplinarian, the leader, the teacher. The athletes become the disciples, the followers of the coach, and they followed his discipline. Thus, a discipline is something that someone teaches, and people who follow the teachings are called the disciples. Sound familiar?
Assume if your children are the followers in your family, you must be the disciplinarian leader or, the teacher. Thus, the children are your disciples. The way you live your life, the things you do, is what you are teaching your disciples, your children. They will learn to do as you teach them with your behavior. Therefore, anything your children are doing is most likely connected to you having taught it to them somehow, either by them observing you, what they hear you say or not say, orthrough the activities that you allow them to participate in, such as watching television. So, your children are behaving exactly the way they have been taught. If you are dissatisfied with their behavior you will have to change your behavior first. When you change your behavior, your child will change his; however, this will likely take several weeks to happen. It is important for you to recognize this is exactly how your child learned his behaviors in the first place.
When you see a behavior in your child that you want to see again, you can be attentive to him. Tell your child what you saw: Hey, I like the way you were so polite with the movie ticket lady. Your attention is the beginning of the new discipline. The mother at the beginning of this story pays attention to misbehavior, and she acts in a misbehaving way to her child, all while talking on the cell phone. She waits until the children are disruptive, and THEN, she responds. THAT is her discipline, and the children are her disciplines. So, it really does no good for her to be upset at the very thing that she created. It only confuses the children, as they think: Hey, this is what you always pay attention to with us, so it must be important. That is why we keep doing it, because it is the only time you talk to us!
We cannot blame the children, they are merely good students of the discipline that you have taught them. Want the child to be different, change your leadership. You act better first; you be polite; you be tidy; you be on time; and you talk nice to others. The child will pick it all up from you. You are the disciplinarian, and they are your disciples.
By the way, the parent in the story above was not disciplining her child. She was punishing him. Also, punishment does not work. It only serves to hurt your child. The yelling and grabbing, she thinks that's discipline? No! And punishment doesn't work specifically because her child THINKS she was teaching him how to behave. That is why he grabs his brother and yells at him just as the mother did to him. Now, that is him showing the mother he learned the "discipline" she was teaching him. Whoa! Why is she so upset?