What is discipline? Many of us have strong feelings about the meaning of this word that stem largely from what we know and remember from our own childhoods. Interestingly, the origin of the word in Latin means ‘pupil’ or ‘disciple’ and has its roots in the idea of education. During the Middle Ages the word entered the English language where it was defined as punishment.
For some of us when we think of discipline we think of this later meaning. When our children are not listening, or ignoring a limit we have set multiple times, or “talking back”, this is when the urge to punish can surface. Yet when our children are struggling with their emotions or feelings around a limit, that is precisely when they need our help the most to feel stable in the midst of their emotional instability. These are also the times when they need us to love them, a word we do not associate with punishment. Knowing this doesn’t mean it’s easy as a parent to remain calm and willing to teach, especially as emotions begin to run high between both parent and child.
So how do we manage to return to a state of equilibrium when our own emotions are activated? We press pause and we ask ourselves, “What am I teaching my child in this moment? What kind of relationship do I really want?”
Self-regulation is a valuable tool of this type of discipline and sometimes a simple few deep breaths, or stepping away for a moment can help us regain our sense of direction and get back on track.
Dan Siegel., M.D., in his book “No Drama Discipline” highlights the moments of conflict in the parent/child relationship as opportunities for the child to learn and understand what is happening. Because Loving Discipline is a relational model we also include the parent in this notion. What is the parent learning about themselves and their role during conflict?
Thus, in the Loving Discipline workshop we attempt to reframe the difficult moments in childrearing by embracing the idea that we are in a process of gaining knowledge: about our child, ourselves and the ever-evolving relationship.
Sophie Levy is a Marriage and Family Therapist, and Mindful Parenting Group facilitator. She also leads the one-day Loving Discipline parenting workshops at Well Baby Center.