Positive Disciple Starts With Me
Positive Discipline is easy when you know your highest intent for disciplining, and you personally practice positive discipline for yourself and for your children. As well, positive discipline is easy when you willingly let go of the need to control, especially when those needs are pretty deep-seated and unconscious. This is not so easy!
I’m visiting friends Sara and Kirk in Bali this month. They have an eight year old daughter Hanna, who is brilliant, creative, playful and sociable. Hanna seems to have a pretty positive relationship with herself and the world. I love watching this family communicate with mutual respect and appreciation. They make it look easy!
For years I’ve had the privilege of watching the way Kirk and Sara discipline Hanna. Consistently they talk to her as if she were a wise human being – well, she is, as are all children. However most parents disregard the wise human being within the child and speak to them as if they couldn’t know better, because they are just kids.
Hanna tests her parents all the time, and for the most part, Kirk and Sara consistently allow the testing without punishment or control tactics. They just know the boundaries that Hanna is testing and in a strong and wise way, they let her know she isn’t going to get things the way she wants through strategizing or manipulating.
Both Kirk and Sara come from families where children were not seen or heard. They have done a lot of work to overcome the traumas of their childhood. They’ve learned how to be aware of everyone’s right to be acknowledged for their needs and wants. At the same time, with compassion, they cultivate fluidity between building bridges of connection and boundaries, which sets the foundation for safe and respectful living for everyone.
I shared with Sara that I was writing this article about positive discipline, and that I’ve been witnessing her and Kirk doing a really good job of utilizing the skills of positive discipline. She laughed, and acknowledged that neither of them are consistent, especially when the stresses of their business of running a hotel in Bali becomes overwhelming.
As I work on this article, observe Sara, Kirk and Hanna, and as I attempt to articulate my perspective of what creates and supports positive discipline, I observed myself the other day, reacting to Hanna in a way that would inevitable cultivate not so positive discipline techniques. Hanna was wanting something from her mom. Though I was just a spectator, I found myself (not out loud, mind you,) saying NO. Whatever Hanna wanted, in my mind, I was saying no to her, even though there was no reason to say no. It was just an automatic reaction to a child wanting something. Gulp!
People like me who write articles and blogs are supposed to be experts in their fields. We like to think we experts walk our talk and practice what what preach. Here in this moment I found myself being reactive and unconscious to that which is the source of my reactivity. I shake my head, and say to myself, "what do I know about disciplining children positively? Absolutely nothing!" I couldn’t do it as well as Sara and Kirk.
I humbly admitted my little moment of self-deprecationto Sara. She quickly responded by sharing that to say no instills a sense of control. If control is what you want, saying no will give that to you, but it won’t create healthy, loving and safe relationships with your kids or your partners. If you want to build fun and loving relationships with people, especially children, then control can’t be Number One on your list of priorities. You have to choose consciously what it is you believe is the most important life quality and skill you want to instill in your child. And, then actually discipline yourself to live into that practice.
I already knew that what Sara was saying was absolutely true. I’d already written that in the first draft of this article. However, the realization that there were underlying patterns that interfered with me practicing what I preach, triggered the practice of unconcealings the source of all my no’s.
So, when I asked myself why I automatically say no to Hanna, here is what showed up as my unconsious reasoning. I humbly share this with you as a way of articulating deep-seated patterns, which too often override the intellect or wisdom, from which most of us say we want to respond.
My automatic reaction to saying no comes from: a need to control how often children ask me for something. If I consistently say no, they will stop asking. They will leave me alone so I can do what I want; I also say no because children shouldn’t always get what they want; I say no because I can say no to children – I’m not good at saying no to adults; I say no because as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have what this child in front of me wants. My own disappointment arises, as does resentment and hurt feelings from the past. I say no because I judge this child as privileged and entitled, so saying no deprives them of their assumed position of entitlement.
You might be asking yourself – "What kind of ‘expert’ would admit to each of these reactions when they so go against positive discipline?" I know – Right?
I admit these to you because my experience is that, anytime I think I have the answers, and they may be the answers, there is always the human factor of truth, which interferes with truly and consistently practicing what I preach as an expert, which in essense cultivates positive discipline. If I don’t admit where I lack emotional maturity and emotional intelligence, I will keep utilzing the patterns that override maturity and intelligence.
Each of these reasons for saying no is sourced in my desire to control my emotional environment, which protects me from feeling stuff I don’t want to feel. Inevitably, this will interfere in cultivating authentic, deep and engaged relationships with anyone. Even though I may say I want close, engaging relationships with adults and children, if I don’t unconceal these patterns I’ve just exposed to you, I will continually respond from those unconsious needs for self-preservation and protection. And, I’ll never have what I say I want.
Relationships between parents and children are never ending. My children are grown with children of their own. But, who I am as a human being within this body that gave birth to two beautiful human beings, continually evolves, only if I willingly practice introspection as part of my positive discipline.
Relationships will always challenge us to mindfully choose to live from unconscious patterns or from a conscious practice of positive discipline. The outcome is never known, but the true experience of connection that every parent and child desires is experienced in the moment of truly hearing and seeing each other with honor, dignity and love. I want to know that with every individual with whom I come in contact, especially my children and grandchildren. I definitely have some positive self-disciplining to do!