We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in parenting, to switch from power over to power with.
Much of how we were parented and certainly how our parents were raised to be "seen and not heard" is now starting to change. The traditional approach to discipline has been trying to control our child's 'bad' behaviour and simply make it stop at whatever cost. This is where time-outs, rewards, punishments, and consequences come in. Unfortunately these outdated methods often cause more upset and disconnection. There are 2 reasons why children act out: one is normal child development, and the other is disconnect. Knowing this can be helpful in times of distress. For example, your 2 year old may not be deliberately disobeying you, he may just be doing what a 2 year old is wired to do, explore his environment even though you have told him specifically not to touch something.
Time-outs and punishments may temporarily stop the 'bad behaviour', but have we done anything to help them learn, regulate or do better next time? The answer is no.
What we have done is used fear, emotional and social isolation, and created more disconnection with our children. This will undoubtedly ramp up the undesirable behaviour.
So, if discipline isn't about stopping the behaviour, what is it about? It is about connecting with your child in their time of need. It's about supporting them by helping them regulate and calm, and then perhaps later seeking a 'teachable moment' where we can talk about suitable behaviour when their brain is actually able to hear us and take it in.
What we now know through the latest in developmental science is that children aren't capable of much self control (especially in the early years up to 5) because their prefrontal cortex is very immature. They may intend to do better, but the reality is that they are still impulsive and can't self regulate.
Discipline with Connection
As you know, your baby, toddler, child is completely dependent on you for their health and well being. They are also dependent on you for their emotional well being. As their brain grows from the bottom up, their emotional safety is paramount to their development. Your child's greatest fear is loss of connectedness with you.
All challenging behaviors arise from a state of stress, so helping them to cycle into a calm when they are acting out, emotionally upset or physically hurt is key. This helps their brain and nervous system mature, and their stress response centers in their brains become increasingly capable of "self regulation". Over time, with lots of repetition and modelling, these behaviors will lessen as they develop.
3 ways you can support your child when they are presenting a challenging behaviour:
1. Acknowledge the feelings: "I see you are having a really hard time with this, you seem angry with mommy because I took your toy away".
2. Be present with them: and stay connected to yourself, your breath, feel your own feet on the ground
3. Be kind but firm: state the limit, but stay connected. " I can't let you hit the cat sweetheart", and inside yourself you are saying and I'm still here with you.
If you are looking for extra parenting support, don't hesitate to email me for a private consult