Friday, February 18, 2011

The "D" Word

What is the correct way to discipline your child? Just mentioning the word discipline brings up controversy. Spank or not spank... rigid or relaxed... force or freedom...tough love or abuse; there are many opinions. All families are different. Parents have their own personalities. Children are unique. No family situation will or can be the exact same. So it is difficult to set hard and fast rules about what kinds of discipline will work in your home. Having said that, I must emphasis that there are certain truths about discipline that must not be ignored.

The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciple, which means to teach or to learn. Discipline was never meant to be used as a form of punishment. If your chosen method of discipline does not teach your child how to improve, it is absolutely wrong! Your role as a parent is to nurture your child. Children need time, care and parental involvement in their lives. They need to be allowed to make mistakes and not be punished for making those mistakes. Things can go very wrong if a child doe not receive positive messages when they do something wrong. Don’t call it a failure, call it an education.

Many professionals claim that a lack of strict discipline is the problem with today’s kids. This is simply not true. In fact, just the opposite is true. If your home environment involves overly strict parents with rigid discipline, your kids will at some point rebel, publicly or privately. When parents use a rigid form of discipline, they are parenting out of fear. Why are they fearful? There are multiple reasons:
*Parents are frightened they are losing control of their child.
*Parents are frightened they are losing power over their child:
*Parents are frightened they are not good parents and do not know how to handle a situation.

When you discipline out of fear you eventually use control to discipline. Control is often referred to as tough love. Tough love is a lazy parenting technique that exhibits itself when a parent is tired or not willing to put in the effort to figure out what they need to do to help a child. From personal experience with my own children, when I got tough, they quit trying. Children do not need toughness. They need love, understanding and help.

Anger usually accompanies tough love or control. When a parent uses anger as a form of discipline they believe they are commanding respect from their child, Anger is often used by parents because it gives an immediate response, stopping a child from a particular behavior. Do not fool yourself as a parent. When you use anger in your discipline, there is always damage to your child. A child who is fearful or acts out with violence is a child who has been raised with an angry parent. As an adult you are in charge of your emotions. Calm yourself when you are disciplining your child.

So if control and rigid rules are not the best way to discipline, what is the best way to discipline your child? Ask yourself how you like to be reprimanded. At work, do you learn when a boss or co-worker yells or sets rigid rules when you make a mistake? No. Don’t you learn more when someone communicates with you in a gentle manner? That is the exact way you will have success with your child.

I learn best from examples, so let me give you a positive example. Say your son is playing baseball too close to the house and a ball breaks the window. You may have already asked him to be careful and he probably knows better. If your response is to scream at your son or take away his baseball or ground him, has he learned anything? When you humiliate your child, you have robbed yourself of the opportunity to teach. Your goal with discipline is to help your children learn from their own experiences in a positive manner. Your child has made a mistake. He knows he has made a mistake. The shattering of the glass makes anyone cringe. Begin by helping your child clean up the glass. This gives you an opportunity to do something physically and also gives you time to calm down. This is a great time to gently
talk to your child about the expenses involved with a broken window. Give your child opportunities to earn small amounts of money to replace the window. When a difficult situation is handled with love and understanding instead of punishment and degrading, a great lesson is learned that will stay with your child for the rest of his life.

It is important as parents to learn about the stages of development and recognize that certain undesired behavior may be normal for a child at a given age and maturity level. Such knowledge can help a parent respond lovingly when a child pushes an anger trigger. Practice expressing concerns calmly and with an attitude of respect, without attacking or blaming your child. If you can change your attitudes about discipline from one of punishing to teaching, you will be amazed at the maturity and growth you will witness in your child. Your child will be confident, happy and successful. Isn’t that what we all want as parents? Give it a try!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tiger Moms

Have any of you paid attention to the recent article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior?" That was the headline of a Wall Street Journal essay excerpted from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the new book from Amy Chua. Battle Hymn is a memoir on Chua's experiences as a mother describing a very strict and rigid style of parenting. I must admit as I was raising my kids I wondered how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. It seemed as if there wasn’t a dumb one in the bunch They were all either math whizzes or Suzuki prodigies winning every honor at the high school awards ceremony. After reading this article and doing a bit of research, I feel I need to blog about my findings so none of you are led to believe this might be a better way to raise children.
First, I respect that Chinese parents give everything to their children and also many of their values such as a strong work ethic. I believe all good parents, Western and Eastern believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away. What I disapprove of are the methods suggested in this article used to make children successful. Amy Chua never allowed her daughters to:
attend a sleepover
have a play date
be in a school play
complain about not being in a school play
watch TV or play computer games
choose their own extracurricular activities
get any grade less than an A
not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
play any instrument other than the piano or violin
not play the piano or violin.
Western parents might believe they are being strict, they are nowhere close to Chinese mothers. They believe nothing is fun until your good at it. Practicing the piano every day for 30 minutes is what Western parents do. Eastern moms believe 2-3 hours is a must. I could continue with more examples, but this blog would be too long. I have included the link to this article if you would like to read it.

One of the reasons we live in the Western World is for our freedoms. What are we doing as parents if we take those choices away from our children? Sure our kids may not always be number one in their class. They may even fail on occasion. I happen to believe that some of the most important lessons I learned in life came from my failures.

As many of you know from reading ParentFix and this blog, I believe it is important for children to find their passions. They need to learn how to socialize with other kids. I also believe it is important for your child to try a variety of talents, not be dictated too, or forced, even belittled by their parents (calling them “fat” or “lazy”) when they fail. Not every child has the ability to get straight “A’s” . When did getting a “B” become such a bad thing?

I must admit you will find success stories with this kind of parenting. But I believe if we could track the data, there is more negative that comes from too much pressure put upon a child. There is one fact that must not be overlooked. The suicide rates for Asians are much higher, in some areas of the U.S. as much as 50 %.

The reason I chose this topic is because I would ask you to reevaluate your goals as parents. What is more important for your child? A high level of success or happiness?