The foundation of family values centers on the discipline we teach our children. However, discipline within itself is a difficult task for any parent to enact with their children. Lets face it, it’s hard enough to discipline ourselves, let alone try and force someone else into our value system. But this is the plight of parenting, and should be taken seriously, if you want your children to have a healthy foundation.

What kind of parent do you want to be. Every day, you are faced with choices. These can include being mean, understanding, showing empathy and patience, or feeling like a push-over. Lets face it, parenting is stressful, but in the end, we learn as much from our children as we teach them in the mutual journey of life. Many times, this is a catch 22 that any parent can get caught up in, especially when it comes to implementing positive discipline. Let us explore ways we can pass on our family values in a manner that assures optimal psychological development for both your child and you as a parent.

A few years ago, my oldest son was not focused in his Aikido class. He was going for his black belt in a few months, and I thought he had fully harnessed his skills of concentration and attention. That was wishful thinking. Tommy was six at the time, and found that talking with his friend about his newest Pokémon trading cards was a much more interesting topic than going over the moves he would have to test on in order to receive the black belt he had worked so hard to achieve. The sensei pulled him aside after the class, and informed him of the transgression of respect he had committed, and then, in an old-school disciplinary fashion, informed me as well, of his lack of attention. We were to promote together, and I knew I needed to reinforce the lesson the sensei was trying to instill. I thought to myself, “What can I do?”

  1. Console him – tell him that it was ok. It was only one mistake and he would definitely have to work harder to try and concentrate next. I mean, he is only six right.
  2. Ground him – assume the strict role, take away all his electronics and avenues for fun, making his life a miniature prison environment to instill the lesson the sensei wanted to instill.
  3. Payback – Make him learn the power of concentration by cleaning the mat, forcing servitude as a means of respect to pay the sensei back for his transgression.
  4. Redirect him – help him to learn a lesson by using both positive and negative aspects of reinforcement by punishing the wrong behavior through removing the elements of guilt from his possession, and then letting him earn them back when he showed positive behaviors.

Yound boy angry with his father

While my heart was in the right place, and I was leaning towards number 4, four months later, he asked for his Pokémon cards back. I asked him, “what?” He said, “papa, you still have my Pokémon cards in your closet. I asked, “are you sure?” I must have surely gave them back 4 months ago. He took me to my closet door pointed me to a space behind my hats, and said, they are up there. I looked, and voila, there were his tin boxes of Pokémon cards, right where I placed them 4 months earlier.

Wow, what kind of a monster was I? Four months of grounding for a small indiscretion of not paying attention at class. While the only punishment implemented was to give up his Pokémon cards, I had completely missed the boat with this one.

My original plan was to take the cards back for the week, and if he did well concentrating the next lesson he would “earn” them back. I had the best of intentions, but like him, I had a momentary lapse of attention. Intention, when dependent on attention, will in many circumstances fail you, until you develop habits around positive discipline and practical parenting.

What I should of done was simple. Redirection was by far the best choice listed above. I should have taken away the cards that distracted, and then once he showed that the lesson was learned, he would be given back the cards. The punishment would have been a day, or two at the most. He would be reunited with his cards, having learned that when it is time to work, it is time to work, and when it is time to play, it is time to play. But he was not afforded this. He received the equivalent of a life sentence for one act of attention loss. Wow, what kind of a judge, jury, and executioner he must have thought his father was. Reflecting on what was, I looked him in the eye, and said the one thing I could say.

“I am so sorry. You should have gotten these back months ago.”

Parenting is hard. We have to encourage, punish, reward, redirect, ground, teach lessons, empower, and help them come into their own being. We do this is in the name of love. In doing so, we teach our children how to be loving, productive, and caring individuals who will in turn pass the very values we have taught them to the next generation of our family tree. From a practical parenting perspective, how should we discipline our children to create the most effective outcome for all parties.

Parenting 101 Letterpress

  1. Negative Reinforcement – As a parent, you can use punishment effectively as a means to correct negative behaviors. However, it is imperative that you associate the negative behavior to the punishment given. In the example above, I took the Pokémon cards that distracted my son away from him. This negatively reinforces the negative behavior, which if implemented correctly, should lead to a positive outcome.
  2. Positive Reinforcement – When your child does something good, take notice of it. They crave your attention. Positive reinforcement of positive behaviors should lead to positive outcomes if implemented correctly. In the example above, if I had engaged in positive discipline with my son, he would have received the cards back as soon as he got a positive report from his sensei. Because I forgot about the cards, the lesson was not reinforced in a manner that could have lead to a positive outcome. In a perfect scenario, I would have linked his ability to play with the higher value I wish to teach him about hard work, which would lead to a positive outcome for both of us. He gets to play and I teach him the value of hard work.
  3. Intermix Positive and Negative Reinforcement Schedules – The most effective use of positive discipline is to combine the use of punishment and positive reinforcement. Lets say your child had poor grades. As a parent, you suspect that video game time interfered with study time. A negative reinforcement schedule for this would include taking away the video game system. By limiting their time, you can then re-engage their attention to the work at hand. However, in this example, it is imperative to give them their reward after they completed the work needed. This would look something like trading one hour of play time for one hour of work time to be earned by your child or heather time equivalent you feel is appropriate.

Positive Discipline is an integral exercise for Practical Parenting. Its foundation is built upon the belief of being firm, fair, and consistent. As people, we will make mistakes in parenting. When we do, it is good enough to accept accountability, apologize, and learn from those mistakes. Remember, you are learning experientially how to be a parent with each lesson you teach your child. In Fatherhood Mishaps of Positive Discipline, I shared a story of a major mishap I engaged in when I took my son’s Pokémon Cards from him. However, since that time, I have been able to redirect my parenting efforts in a manner that is more holistic, and not so one sided in the punishment aspect. What are your Fatherhood or Motherhood mishaps in practical parenting? Until next time Advance Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams!

Dr. Tom

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