Aim to teach, not to punish.
Current research in the fields of mental health, brain development and child development supports the theory that acts of violence against a child, no matter how brief or how mild, not only damages the parent/child relationship but destroys a child’s pride and self-esteem. Both are associated with a significant increase in a child’s vulnerability to child sexual abuse.
The harsh reality is that our parenting choices will significantly impact on our children’s ability to feel pride in themselves and to fully trust in us. Smacking not only damages the precious relationship we have with our children, it destroys their pride and self esteem – vital characteristics they will require to outsmart the approaches of a paedophile and to know they have the trust and acceptance of loved ones to confide in if they are ever approached in this way. Furthermore a child who is resilient and resourceful, who has been raised with love, respect and given healthy boundaries but is not rule-bound will have the self-esteem and self-awareness to recognize and avoid the approaches of a pedophile in the first place.
The first step in this process is to understand completely that our children want to co-operate and communicate with us. They do not want to displease us and to acknowledge that they are doing the very best they can at any given time. Once we fully believe this statement, we can begin to change the way we discipline our children and see their behaviour as a means to express a need, not to simply annoy, frustrate or anger us.
The other thing we need to understand is that punishment and threats do not teach children how to behave differently, nor does it motivate them to be the best people they can be.
Discipline essentially means to teach, not to punish. Promoting freedom with healthy boundaries that encourages self-discipline, responsibility, respect for the feelings of others and positive emotional health should be the goal of any lesson with a disciplinary message. Parenting is about influencing our children through love and understanding.
It is also important to remember, that our children cannot “make” us angry or “push our buttons” if we consciously choose to stay calm and in control of our own emotions. It is when a child’s behaviour is taken personally, that we react from a place of fear and the need to control. Often our reactionary stance as parents is essentially telling the child, ‘You need to stop acting this way so I’ll stop feeling this way.’ Look for these unconscious patterns in order to stop shifting the blame onto your child for your own reactions.
The four elements that should be avoided when disciplining children are:
The following are a few ideas of how to teach children manners, rules, respect and safety without resorting to smacking, time out or imposing consequences.
Just remember that the GOLDEN RULE also applies to children, so treat them the way you would be treated in ALL ways.
1. Establish structure and routine – Establishing routine, tradition, structure and order into our children’s lives in subtle and caring ways is a gentler, less adversarial way of bringing discipline and respect to a home.
2. Listen to you children – The best way to understand you children is to listen to them. Children will more often than not, communicate through their behaviours, not through their words. So as a parent, you must look past the behaviour to hear the true messages they are trying to express.
3. Work to understand your child – Understanding creates trust and cooperation; misunderstanding creates fear, frustration and anger. When we understand our child’s fears, we are more able to recognize the connection of these fears to her behaviour and more empowered to respond with love rather than reacting out of fear.
It is incredibly empowering to stay in a place of love during behavioural outbursts. When we lose control of ourselves, we have effectively lost control of the situation and our ability to positively influence our child. Remember that behaviour modification techniques (removal of privileges, grounding, point charts, etc.) do not address the underlying stress; and thus, will not teach your child to learn to regulate when stressed in future circumstances
4. Be realistic in your expectations – By having an understanding of a child’s ages and stages we can avoid placing unrealistic expectations on them which can cause conflict and damage trust.
5. Encourage creative expression of difficult emotions through art, music, movement and writing - Children often find that through these creative activities, they are able to express things they may not be able to express in words. Experiment with these things with your children. You may even find that a good sing and dance to the Wiggles will calm your frazzled nerves also.
6. For behavior that is reoccurring or consistent – Look for triggers that may lead up to the undesirable behavior and when you notice the trigger you can anticipate, intervene, distract or divert, before the undesirable behavior occurs. As a parent, look not at your child’s behavior, but look at what triggering event caused the behavior; this observation will lead to understanding and positive solutions.
7. Be a good example yourself – The only logical way to teach children about rules, manners, respect and safety is to be a good example yourself. Children do what you do, not necessarily what you say.
8. Be calm and consistent - Consistency creates a comforting and predicable world for your children and helps them to know what to expect and what is expected of them. They also feel safe that you are predictable. You say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you say you are going to do.
9. See difficult times as opportunities for developing problem solving skills and self-discipline – for you and your children.
10. Encourage self-discipline - The best way to do this by being a positive role model to your children. Model self-discipline by controlling your own angry and destructive feelings and behaviors. Take care of your own health, exercise and eat healthy foods and strive every day to be all the things that you wish for your children in all aspects of your life.
Give everything you do 100% and strive to be the best person you can be and your children will follow suit. Life is an amazing adventure and to only give it 5% of your effort is an awful waste. Self discipline is such an important ingredient in a successful, resilient and happy life. Teach your children about positive self talk and involve them in the decision making of family life. Show them how much their input is valued and respected and that you hold their opinions, ideas and decisions on equal footing to your own.
A “good child”, bound by rules and prohibitions about what his parents want him not to do and who is punished if he fails to meet these expectations, is being denied the opportunity to nurture his own flexibility, his sense of power and his personal resourcefulness. A child taught to follow the rules instead of being taught to respond intuitively and flexibly to real-life, real-time information will be at a distinct disadvantage if confronted by the resourceful and dangerous paedophile or molester.
When children feel valued and respected, they are more likely to tell someone they trust if they are worried or have suffered abuse. Furthermore, when they are empowered, they are more likely to be assertive and self-confident and less likely to be targeted by potential abusers.
Amanda Robinson is an ex police officer who has worked with both the victims and perpertrators of child sexual abuse. In the course of her work, she has developed a deep empathy and compassion for the victims of abuse and an in-depth understanding of the dynamics involved in child sexual abuse including the physical, emotional and spiritual wounds that are inflicted upon its young victims.
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