Believe it or not, I’m just now starting to have “mommy friends.” I’ve spent the first 7 years of my parenting career mostly as a lone ranger, not having many other friends with kids. The more mommies I get to know, the more I realize what a gift my background in psychology really is. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, something I’m passionate about even, but now I see what a gift it has been to my parenting. Realizing that what I’ve learned over the years isn’t necessarily common knowledge, I thought I’d write a few posts about behavior management. Most of the practical knowledge I have comes from my time working at Youth Villages Center for Intensive Residential Treatment and from the outpatient skills training I lead at Denton County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center. Of course, some of my knowledge comes from book work, as the majority of classes I chose to complete my psychology major were in some way related to children. Several mommies have asked me questions recently about my children’s behavior and what we do at home. Because of that, I thought sharing what I know may prove helpful to others.
I think the first thing one must understand when realizing a need for behavior management is what discipline really is. The word gets a bad rap. I’m not sure why. My guess is that it stems from a misunderstanding about either (1) what discipline really is or (2) what children really need to thrive. I’d like to clear up both problems.
The word discipline derives from a Latin word that means “to teach.” Teaching is the goal of effective discipline. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. Parents discipline their child(ren) in order to teach them some kind of lesson about life. How one goes about teaching these lessons is where the controversy arrises.
Some would claim that the only way to discipline a child is through a good ol’ fashioned spanking. You know, “spare the rod, and spoil the child.” Others are so obsessed with psychological correctness and developing adequate self-esteem in their child that they believe no discipline should be used, ever. They believe children instinctively know what they need and that children can lead the way. Both of these approaches, especially as extremes, are unacceptable and ineffective methods of behavior management.
The former teaches with fear. Fear is not a successful motivator. Spanking, used alone, is simply not an effective technique. It can not be done consistently enough or provide the proper motivation for truly effective behavior management. It the future, I will talk more about consistency as well as what schedules of reinforcement provide the most motivation for a child.
The later is just silly. I don’t know where this came from. I don’t care what’s trendy, reality wins out. Children need to be molded into well-rounded, decent citizens. They aren’t born that way. They are born completely self-centered and self-obsessed. That is a good thing for an infant. One of the many tasks of parenting is helping children move past this self-centerdness so they can function in the world.
Good discipline forms children. It creates people with character; people who are responsible; people who are respectful. Children need this. Otherwise they become the spoiled, selfish 20-somethings who bring their pets to job interviews because they have no concept of how to control their desires in favor of what’s appropriate.
I want to end with a word of encouragement. Parenting is supposed to be a joyous. If it’s not joyous for you, if you dread the moment when your children wake up or when you have to take them out in public, something is not functioning properly. I’m not saying parenting is easy. Quite the contrary. Parenting is hard. And good parenting is the hardest. But it’s well worth it. By properly disciplining your child, you get to discover who they really are, instead of only knowing them for their behavior. Properly disciplining your child will bring out the best in both you and him. It allows for an environment in which all involved can really thrive.Next Post in the Series: Target Problem Behaviors