In a recent article Washington Post columnist, Claire Gillespie, questions the modern wisdom of giving unruly children “time-outs” as the best method to instill discipline. A mom of two older children and expecting a third soon, she says she never used time-outs and does not plan on using them with her next one because “it just didn’t make sense to me,” she explains.

Referencing the SuperNanny TV series as promoting time-outs and hugs in exchange for compliance, she gives examples of how the “time-out” technique doesn’t necessarily work for all kids. One example she offers is of a child who refuses to leave her “time-out” space, and in many cases young kids do not understand why they are on “time-out”. She also points to research that suggests “time-outs” isolate a child from the parent and/or group which can contribute to behavioral health issues associated with feeling not worthy or disconnected from a parent’s love. As a counter measure, she refers to another discipline technique called “time-in”, wherein the parent gives the misbehaving child undivided attention and has a good conversation about the emotion driving their unruly behavior.

The most valuable insight Gillespie offers is that when a parent perceives misbehavior as an opportunity to teach their child self-control rather than to be in control their child’s behavior, it is possible to establish a human connection essential to inspire a correction in thought and deed on the part of the child. Now that’s empowerment.

Confidence + Discipline = EMPOWERMENT

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Photo via: Speedofcreativitiy.org

In my own experience as a parent and in my fieldwork and family life coaching practice, one of the things that I have observed about the challenges of parenting modern youth is a lack of confidence on the part of the parent. A confident parent can administer age-appropriate consequences in loving ways, including spanking, time-outs, time-ins, grounding, loss of privileges, etc. A parent who lacks confidence will be focused on controlling the child’s behavior which signals anxiety and/or anger.

Consider this. As long as a child perceives that you, the parent, is in control of their behavior and feelings and you do not show up with confidence to reinforce this truth that they are in charge of themselves, there will be a power struggle. Take a look at SuperNanny re-runs and you will likely find parents who lack confidence in response to their child’s unruly behavior which surrenders their power to the child who is already struggling with feeling out of control. And this challenge of strong emotion in the home is more common and intense today. In this digital age, we are parenting in a whole new context wherein anxiety is amplified and the perception of authority to bring about peace and order is no longer associated with titles and formal rules. We parents are struggling with our own emotion and the children who are struggling with behavioral issues sense it.

Steps to strengthen your parental confidence

In order to strengthen parent confidence it is important to address what undermines it in the first place: limiting beliefs about worry, punishment and your opinion that disturb the peace as described below.

  • Worrying is not the same thing as caring. Worrying is the result of fear emotion that inspires negative goal setting and this state of heart and mind sends a signal to the child that it is not okay to talk about their issues and misdeeds. Getting kids to comply with your rules so as to not “worry” a parent is a manipulation, not a proper motivation for discipline. For example, conversations about abstaining from drug and alcohol use should be about their inherent value as a person and the brain science about the risk of harm associated with recreational or experimental use. Your worrying will likely inspire youth to hide the things that disturb your peace, and then it is more challenging to impart your wisdom and guidance when your child is in the throes of growing up.
  • Punishment is not the same thing as discipline. Discipline is instruction for behavior with clear consequences to teach self-control and experience behavior that builds trust in family and community relations. If we enforce consequences with anger in our hearts then the lesson the child learns is that to receive correction is about being “cast out” rather than as a blessing to learn and grow. What is punishing is not the consequence. What is punishing, and worse yet, discouraging,  is the perception of being separated or “cast out” of a loving relationship with the angry parent enforcing a consequence.
  • Your opinion is the same thing as wisdom. Be careful. They are not the same thing and it is so easy to deceive ourselves. Your opinion is just that; a judgement or assessment that belongs to you. Our opinions are always personal and involve limited understanding of a situation, a person or a circumstance. And opinions always involve a deep-seated desire to be in control of others and circumstances. Over the years, hopefully our opinions evolve as we are informed by wisdom in our life journey. Wisdom, on the other hand, are eternal thoughts that bring about peace, empower others, and transcend religious dogma. Our children do not need our opinion. What they need is for confident parents to impart wisdom through discipline.

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Insights about teaching discipline with confidence

Making a human connection. Remember, your child is a person who is in charge of himself; you are in charge of teaching civil behavior and modeling self-control. Your child possesses the same faculties of the soul as adults: memory, intellect and will. So while their brains may not be completely developed (the pre-frontal cortex is last to fully form), they have God-given power to choose their own thoughts and actions in response to what is happening in the world from the time they are born. This is how they learn and grow. They are emerging executives. (For more on this, see: The Role of a Parent in Healing a Suffering Child).

Respecting your child as an emerging executive. Your child’s behavior is not about you. It is about how they see themselves and they need your guidance to help them form their own sense of identity, world view and place in the world.

Signaling compassion in response to poor choices and behavior issues. When your child does something or experiences something that really disturbs the peace or causes you alarm (such as temper tantrums, arguing and using foul language, using drugs or alcohol, stealing, failing a test for lack of preparation or in general stops trying at school), it is critical that you do not take it personally. Rather put your trust into the wisdom thoughts that bring about peace and empower others.

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The core wisdom thought we teach at Core Connectivity is this mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: liberty already belongs to the soul, and it must be defended one heart and mind, one family, and one community at a time. In this way, let your child know that their behavior, and the behavior of others, does not define them. What defines them is how they use their own power of self-determination to learn how to become a better version of themselves based upon what they choose to learn from their blessings, adversities, mistakes, failures and successes. Learning from what happened in order to know and do better is the objective of the disciplinary consequences. Get them talking about the lessons they learn from the consequences and let them know you have confidence in their ability to know and do better. And then offer a clean slate (do not keep reminding them of what they did wrong) so they can get a fresh start in your presence.

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About:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).

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Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Photo by: Victoria Hatch

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.