Good Discipline Manual: Step 1 - Understand the kid/parent "mechanics"

by Gary M. Unruh
(Colorado Springs, CO)

Understanding parent/child wiring is an important  positive parenting tip

Understanding parent/child wiring is an important positive parenting tip

What's the first thing you will do when you open that new blue-ray video player that you know you’re getting for Christmas (besides saying "wow")? Of course, read the manual, especially to find out where all those wires go, and which buttons to push when. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a "quick start" manual for disciplining children that really made sense and really worked with just a little practice (two weeks)?

I know, you’re thinking, Yeah, sure. I know a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch when I hear one. Please, keep reading, and stay with me for just three minutes. A quick-start manual does exist, outlined in my four December Monday blogs, starting with this one.

Here’s step one:

Make disciplining easier by understanding how kids and parents are wired. (How-to steps: next three weekly blogs.)

Kids "wiring":

• A kid’s most important motivator is to feel "I’m good," not "I’m bad"; experienced as "I want you (Mom and Dad) to accept me for who I am on the inside not just what I do on the outside." They may not know it, but this is what kids feel. (Tip: Parents need to consistently focus on the good in a child. Result: self-confidence, respect, and happiness.)

• Kids have two parts: feelings and behavior. Feelings represent the core of a child—"who I really am." Validating feelings = Kids feeling valued. Kids need to speak feelings as soon as possible. (Tip: Along with "Mama" and "Dada" encourage, "upset," "happy," etc. It’s the language of good mental and physical health.)

• A kid changes behavior best if unacceptable behavior is experienced as a "mistake to learn from," not "when will you ever learn." (Tip: Focus on supportive learning, not negative blaming; the behavior is an important but small part of a child.)

• A kid requires firm, consistent, respectful limit-setting. Why? Children require training to delay gratification. "I want it now" doesn’t work in real life. (Tip: Use motivators—consequences, rewards, deprivation—always with respect, keeping in mind the fundamental good of your child.)

Parent "wiring":

• Parents automatically parent the way they were parented. (Tip: Be aware if you are. If what your parents did was great, hallelujah. If not, get a set of new parenting wheels; traction’s better.)

• Parents automatically think their children should feel, think, and behave identically to the parent. (Tip: Sorry, "mini mes" are cute, but your child’s unique personality is special. Develop it.)

• Parents focus mostly on behavior. Behavior is a small representation of a kid. Feelings represent your child’s core being. (Tip: Focus on and validate feelings, then deal with behavior.)

• Anger is the most common, potentially damaging emotion a parent can express—too intense, too often is damaging to a kid. Mild anger is normal and a great motivator for children. (Tip: Keep anger mild 90 percent of the time. (Sounds impossible, but with practice and attention, it’s doable.) And when it gets out of hand, apologize. No damage done.)


Make sure you understand the parent/child wiring before you turn on the discipline.

This article is courtesy of Gary M. Unruh, a practicing clinician and the author of Unleashing the Power of Parental Love

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