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4 Criteria for Effective Discipline: Long-Term Effects

by Hannah Slattery, LPC, NCC

We have gone over two criteria for positive discipline so far- how are you doing? This can be an immense amount of information, which is why it’s helpful to think things through your child’s eyes as well. How have you been handling trying any of these approaches or retraining your brain? Have you made mistakes, completely lost control for moments, if so, I’m glad. You are walking in a similar path to your child. They are learning about the world for the first time, this also includes how to interact with you. After we acknowledged the need to start being kind and firm instead of punitive and increase a sense of belonging and significance, I hope there was a shift for you.

How come Positive Discipline is different from other parenting ideas? The third criteria says it all. Is it effective long term?

Use a personal example, when was the last time you used punishment to get your child to do what you wanted them to do? Was there yelling, taking away electronics with force, or slamming doors? Maybe when you raise your voice or threaten to take away items the child may give in and then again the next day make the same mistakes which leads you to start the circle again. The reason Positive Discipline works is that it has lasting effects that help develop healthy and happy families.

To demonstrate the long-term benefits of Positive Discipline I would like to reference Daniel Siegel and his “Brain in the Palm of the Hand”.

To begin, open your hand and hold it in front of you.

Your wrist represents your brain stem, which is responsible for fight, flight, or freeze. Notice how often your child is utilizing this part of their brain while you are trying to problem-solve with them.

Now take your thumb and fold it across your palm, the thumb represents your limbic system which is what helps process our emotions and stores our memories. It also holds our amygdala which is our “threat detector”. Then it’s time to fold our fingers over our thumb to make a fist. This is our cortex, which is in control of our thinking. Our prefrontal cortex, where our fingers touch our palm, is where rational thinking and emotional control take place. So what happens when we lose our cool? We flip our lids( open palm with thumb in place).

When our prefrontal cortex is not functioning we cannot make healthy decisions. This goes for parents and children. If we have flipped our lid first, mirror neurons in the brain teach our child to reflect what we are doing. It also means that if we see our child flip their lid it is highly likely we’ll be flipping ours shortly after.

Let’s remember the first two criteria for effective discipline. Are we at this moment in time of having our lid flipped going to be able to be kind, firm, and help our child have a sense of belonging and significance? How come we try to solve it in such a state? Could we possibly feel as if we aren’t doing our jobs if we don't immediately react or that we are letting our child get away with it if we took a moment to think? What would it take to regain access to our prefrontal cortex after the heated moment?

  • Time out (break)

  • Count to 10

  • Splash cold water on your face

  • Tense and release muscles

  • Square, infinity, belly breathing

There are countless ways to regain our composure that can work for both you and your children. Being overwhelmed isn’t a child issue, it’s part of the human condition and if we can teach our children by doing, we can show them that stress isn’t bad—it’s manageable.

What I’d like to challenge you to do after reading this article is to notice the next time your child gets upset, what happens for you? How much control do you have of yourself? If you feel overheated, foggy, and severely stressed, then it is not the time to try and take control of your child. Saying, “wow, we are both feeling pretty stressed right now, I think I need to sit down for a moment and breathe before we can continue problem-solving.” This moment right here will change the way you move forward with your parenting. This moment will show you how Positive Discipline will start to have long-term effects on you and your family. Even making hand gestures to show each other if our lid is flipped or not can start healthy conversations and initiate self-soothing.

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