Respectful Discipline: Part 1

A child in time out or in troubleBy Abby Bordner

I recently did a live training call for my subscribers on the topic of Respectful Discipline. The feedback was so positive; I’m turning it into a 3 part blog so the information will be available in another format.

First of all, when we talk about discipline, let’s be clear. Discipline is a teaching or lesson about behavior, interaction and/or attitude that you want your child to learn. Right? Discipline is NOT making our kids suffer or withdrawing our love and connection.  Many parents become unclear about the purpose of discipline and how to implement it into their relationship with their children.

What was discipline when you were growing up? Was it when Mom or Dad went into a rage? When things or people got hurt and you felt scared? Or perhaps it was a wishy-washy series of threats or bribes that intended to manipulate your behavior. Did you find yourself feeling more connected and respectful toward your parents as a result of discipline or more isolated and alone? What would you like it to look like in your family?

Let’s be real. Usually when you need to discipline your children, you are already in a state of annoyance, frustration, rage or hysteria. Depending on your awareness of your own emotional state, sometimes you get there by surprise or sometimes it’s been building for a while and you finally blow up. As I’m sure we can all agree, we parents are not at our best in these moments. We yell. We grab. We slam. We say things like, “You ALWAYS… “, “You NEVER… “, “You are a… “, “You make me… “. You get the idea, right? These are not helpful responses; we are not teaching and/or connecting with your children in these moments.  And, the worst part of reacting to your children in this way is you LOSE respect, trust and connection. Wait a minute. That’s not consistent with our goals for our children!

So, my number 1 rule of respectful discipline is DO NO HARM. When children lose respect, trust and connection they respond in a few different ways. Some become more rebellious. Their behavior gets worse and their desire to please you, as a parent, lessens. You start to see your children withdrawing from you. Some children become compliant but disconnected. With rage driven discipline, some children will learn how to “not rock the boat” but also won’t experience trust or respect for you in a healthy relationship.  Some children will start to act in rage themselves or have difficulty with problem solving. These are high prices to pay for our kids to “learn a lesson”.

I’m proposing something entirely different when I talk about Respectful Discipline; something that actually builds trust and respect between kids and parents, something that helps our children have motivation to “do the right thing” and understand the consequences of bad decisions.

So, your first assignment is to practice managing your own emotions. Notice when you’ve moved from annoyed to irritated. Then notice when you’re moving into anger and rage; your middle brain that is ruled by emotion and reaction. Develop some skills to bring yourself back to your frontal lobe, the part of your brain that accesses logic, reason and resource. Read my blog “My Kids Are Pushing My Buttons” to get some ideas about managing your emotions. Count to 10. Take a break. Take a deep breath. Make the commitment to DO NO HARM. If you can do this, you’ve already started teaching your child something of value. And the discipline begins.  The good news is… Respectful Discipline actually earns trust, respect and more connection.

Respectful discipline is going to take a commitment from YOU to be a better person. It’s not easy. Parenting in a way that is consistent with your goals for your children is going to take some work on your part. Let’s face it. Step up to the plate and be a better person and a better parent. Your whole family will benefit and you’ll allow for deeper connection and respect in ALL your relationships.  It’s worth it!  Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging about what to do next. My blogs in the next two weeks will be Respectful Discipline Part 2 (Be a Leader!) and Part 3 (The Three Most Important Things to Say).

What was discipline like for you growing up?

Leave A Reply (7 comments so far)

  1. I agree. Great article! Keep up the good work, Abby!


    • Abby
      3 years ago

      Thanks, Anna! I’m glad you liked it.


  2. Anthea
    3 years ago

    Thanks very much Abby for your timely reminder. I am already trying to reduce my anger in such situations.To be reminded of the importance of practicing managing my own emotions is very helpful. Also remembering the concept of DO NO HARM!


    • Abby
      3 years ago

      You’re so right, Anthea! Managing our own emotions is key to keeping it respectful. Congratulations on working toward this goal :-)


  3. Raewyn
    2 years ago

    Parenting was not consistent. We would beg beg beg, until we got what we wanted. We would be threatened with ‘wait for Dad to get home’. Then there would be the volatile mood swings probably associated with PMS, but impossible to predict as a child just what would trigger a reaction which might only happen once every two or three years, but memorable still the same.


    • Abby Bordner
      2 years ago

      And now Raewyn, it’s interesting to see how you reflect on it as an adult. It’s always helpful to imagine our actions through the eyes of the child. And ask ourselves are we “teaching the lesson” we want to teach, are we getting more trust and respect from our kids? As parents, we have to be willing to reconsider our actions to align them with our priorities and values for the family. Thanks for sharing!