What is Discipline?

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, MFT

Sophie Levy, MFT

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.


Posted in Parent-child relationship | Leave a comment

Social Connection as a Preventive Measure

Research has shown that social connection is the best protective factor against perinatal depression and anxiety, marital strife, and childhood developmental issues, so why hasn’t the public health sector caught on?

ASK Dr. Deb PDF

Since research clearly shows that social connection is the best protective factor against perinatal depression and anxiety, marital strife, and childhood developmental issues, where can middle-income parents go for high quality services that are also affordable? Well Baby Center, founded in 2007 by parent, social enterprise entrepreneur, and infant-family mental health specialist Deborah Groening-Rother, PsyD, was at least part of the answer to this question. Convinced that public funding would not abide by the radical idea that “an ounce of preventative care is worth a pound of lifelong struggles,” she determined to financially support the non-profit center through her family foundation. Today Well Baby Center has served close to a hundred pre-licensed therapists seeking specialized training in infant-parent mental health, and thousands of new parents seeking the support and guidance that our Mindful Parenting Groups, counseling and parenting consultations, and community services provide to them.

How can this approach be considered preventative?

Since studies confirm that isolation is a key factor in PMAD (perinatal mood and anxiety disorder) — feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility to nurture a new life along with the stimulation of one’s own childhood wounds that parenthood brings up, many parents retreat from former (both childless and with children) friends and their FOOs (families of origin) for whom they are scared or ashamed to admit their struggle. The pressure to solely breastfeed your child, followed by the demand to feed your child homemade food, give your child homemade remedies, determine the best medical care for your child, and be sure to maintain the romance in the parental relationship, is often just too much to bear. And to add to this toxic mixture, many new mothers who plan to return to work must ward off the onslaught of traditional parenting practices and advice along with constant disapproval from in laws and family members for whom they must seek support in the form of childcare.

Well Baby offers an alternative “tribe” of like-minded parents and professionals to lean on who will support rather than criticize, wonder and learn along side them, and grow new reflective capacities for their own growth and development. In Mindful Parenting, for example, we look with curiosity at the ways in which we were parented along with the ways as parents we want to do things differently.

In yesterday’s group a member stated that when they went “back home” to family members who were telling their child “there will be no crying in our house” or “only bad boys cry,” (which, prior to coming to WBC, may not have struck them as incongruent to their goal of raising an emotionally intelligent child), they realized how different their basic parenting philosophies were from their own parents. Also, had they not gone back to their childhood hometown, they would not have been aware of the fact that this approach was probably the way they were raised and they wouldn’t have been as connected to the thoughts and feelings this realization elicited in them. This new family, however, has a good chance of repairing the multigenerational trauma and dysfunction that brought them into adulthood and into Well Baby Center, but even greater still is the fact that this process, motivated by the birth of their child, is a second order change – defined as changing the rules of the game rather than addressing the problem later on in the life cycle when emotional problems are much harder to treat. This is the definition of a preventative approach to mental health and wellness.

Do you have a parenting questions of your own? Post to “Askdrdeborah” in our Mama Tent Private Facebook Group and make sure to bookmark www.AskDrDeborah.com for when the parenting website and parenting advice chat room becomes available (this free service is currently in progress – but coming soon).

annabellesmallDeborah Groening is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist,  Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), and Certified Infant-Parent Mental Health Specialist. She is also the Clinic Director of Well Baby Center.


Posted in Children, Love, Parenting, Parenting Tips, Social Connection, Uncategorized, Value of Emotions | Leave a comment