Let’s face it. Parenting is hard!  You are not alone if sometimes you have trouble getting your child to finish his or her homework or refrain from fighting with a sibling.  You’re not alone if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed when your little one is having an uncontrollable meltdown in the most public of all places.  You’re a parent, you’re human, and parenting is challenging.  In these difficult moments, I imagine that you sometimes wonder “how can I be a more effective parent?” I imagine that you want the negative behavior to stop and the drama to cease, but you also want to build and maintain a healthy, nurturing relationship with your child.  These two things can be so exhausting to achieve, especially in the heat of the moment.

Before focusing on specific parenting techniques, it may be helpful to ask yourself an important question: What is the purpose of discipline anyway?  Many parents think of discipline as simply punishment or giving consequences. However, it means so much more!  The word “discipline” is derived from the root word “disciple” which means “student or learner.”  The primary purpose of discipline is to teach! When our kids react in ways that we don’t want them to, our job is to “teach” or discipline them in a way that gives them new ways of reacting.  Punishing a child after a negative behavior will only stop the behavior in the short term.  While discipline may include natural consequences as punishment, in order to ensure that values are instilled in the long-term, it must also focus on teaching and skill-building.

I believe that it’s fair to say that we don’t just want our children to simply stop negative behavior. What we really want is to discipline them so that they have the ability to control their impulses, notice how their actions impact others, build and maintain healthy relationships, regulate their emotions, handle conflict and make good choices over all.

The next several blog entries will focus on techniques suggested by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D, two parenting experts and authors of the book No-Drama Discipline. They offer tools that parents can use to discipline their children in ways that communicate love, respect, and connection while also teaching their children the skills they need to grow and develop.  My hope is that you’ll find a few of these techniques and tools helpful as you take on the adventure of parenting!

Written by: Charity Livingston, MA, LAPC