Horrible, Horrible Report Card Day
I remember feeling a deep fear in the pit of my gut as I walked home on report card day. I knew two things: 1). My grades were not acceptable 2). My mother’s retaliation would be merciless. She would either disconnect the television in order to remove the temptation that added to my procrastination, or she would correct the wrongdoing by spanking me and causing pain that I would not forget.
My mother, like most other parents of her generation, understood a key parenting concept: Spare the rod, spoil the child. And believe me, my mother did not spare any rods, in fact, she threw in belts, timeouts and whatever else she could grab to “keep me from being spoilt”. Today, I love and appreciate that tiny lady for the fierce love she gave me over the years. I know she did the best she could with what she knew. The key strategy she used for parenting is what I refer to as Traditional Parenting. For all intensive purposes, I call my mother’s strategies and those like it, Traditional Parenting.
Traditional Parenting is a strategy used by parents to gain compliance from their children. Strategies such as timeouts, removing privileges, extra chores and for some (of us) spankings. All of these interventions are meant to give the child pain and shame, which would hopefully be seared into memory so that the child would learn to never make those mistakes again.
There is nothing instinctively wrong with traditional parenting, and many of us were raised with this parenting style and today we are, more or less, sane. Although, traditional parenting may not be enough to change a child’s internal attitude. At best it may result in a more compliant child. However, compliance has nothing to do with character and resilience. My mother’s traditional parenting strategies taught me to be afraid of authority figures. It also taught me to do my dirt when no one is looking.
Alone, traditional parenting was not enough to genuinely changed me. And we should not expect that these strategies alone will cause meaningful change in the children we are raising.
Take a look at the infographic below. I created it to show you the two main objectives of traditional parenting: removing the temptation and correcting a wrongdoing. Alone, these two approaches may not be enough to create meaningful change in our children. Ultimately, you will find that these parenting strategies are simply an effort to cope reactively to the behavior but never touches the core issue.
Crossing the bridge [your turn]
I have outlined two primary parenting strategies that we use to gain compliance. I made the point that neither removing temptations nor correcting wrongdoings are enough to create genuine change in a child, although, they are necessary. As we continue this discussion, I’ll make you aware of the ways we change the story and therefore change the child.
Start with making sure you are doing traditional parenting well.
A word on spanking:
- Spanking hurts trust. Most other traditional parenting strategies involve interventions that associate misbehavior with pain. Spankings complicate this simple cause and effect cycle because it tells the child to fear the pain but also fear the person distributing the pain. It takes the moment of correction from a behavioral problem to a relational problem. This is not what we want because ultimately we need our kids to form trusting relationship with us so they can learn how to create trusting relationships later. Spankings could be the quickest way of destroying the hope for absolute trust without fear.
- Science says, “No.” There are tons of scientific studies proving the negative impact of corporal punishment. There are no scientific studies that prove physical punishment enhances developmental health.
- Spanking is a slippery slope. If your child realizes that you only spank when you are serious, then every other intervention you use to correct their behavior will be a joke. You will find yourself spanking more because it is the only intervention that works for your child.
- Phase out and replace. I encourage you to phase out corporal punishment and replace it with other traditional parenting strategies to teach a lesson. Instead of spanking, use other interventions that teach your child to think through their actions.
*End of Rant
Let us start with making sure you are using traditional parenting well. You need to have a consistent and predictable way of removing temptations and correcting wrongdoings.
Be Consistent. Consistency is the structure that tells your children that they are safe and that they can relax because you are in control.
When disciplining your children, be a vending machine, not a slot machine. When they hit the Twix button, they better believe they are getting a Twix. As opposed to a slot machine, sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t.
- Create your Top 3 household rules. My number 1 rule is always: “Everyone gets to stay safe.” You can include other rules like we respect each other’s property/we listen to each other/we ask before taking.
- Have consistent family meetings to discuss progress and practice proper behavior together. A weekly meeting with your children to get on the same page is greatly profitable.
Be Predictable. Predictability is the structure that teaches your children how to “own” their behavior (responsibility). The more often they can guess what is coming next —> the more often they will practice the correct behavior —> the easier it will be for them to perform well in the future. Makes sense?
- Make the child aware of the why behind your intervention. Tell them why they are losing privileges, going to time-out, etc. For example:. “I am sending you to time out because you are not listening and you need help calming down.”
- Give the child an opportunity to self-correct. Allow time and space to think about a better way to perform.
- Give the child an opportunity to decide the consequences and rewards. Let your child be a part of creating your Top 3 Household rules. Let them learn to measure themselves against themselves as opposed to having to constantly measure up to your expectations.
How are behaviors scripted by life’s story? On the next post, I’ll draw a picture for you on how this works.