Even as the owner of The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships, for the longest time when it came to disciplining my traumatized children for misbehavior, I was stuck teetering between two polar extremes: all in or all out. I was either intensely engaged, enraged and engulfing the offending child with my disappointment and anger or completely disengaged, disaffected and dismissing the offending child from my world altogether.
Each reactive approach was antithetical to creating safety, behavior change or stronger attachments. So what was my point? Punishment, pure and simple. I thought I needed to punish my children with too much or too little of my emotion. That’s how I was disciplined as a child.
While I intellectually understood that was hurtful, unconsciously I was hardwired to repeat the past. In the moment of upset, I didn’t have any other easy-to-call-upon parenting tools. Empathy and compassion surely were not on my radar as viable positions, especially when confronted with chronic, nonsensical misbehavior.
I take no pride in revealing this, though I often do. Frankly, I repeat this story in as many forms as I can for those of you who are raising children from difficult beginnings of abandonment and maltreatment, because I hear from so many parents trapped between these same two emotional opposites.
Discipline was never meant to be about wielding emotions in the first place. It was always intended to be about teaching right living. The only thing emotional disciplining does is give children emotional whiplash that last a lifetime.
You are the greatest force in your child’s life. Do you want to influence with love or fear?
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