What do you think of when you hear the word “discipline”? When most people think about parenting and discipline they probably think of punitive discipline like time out, yelling, spanking, or taking away privileges.
I don’t want my daughter to be afraid of me or of the punishment I might hand down. So I’ve chosen the most peaceful parenting I can possibly muster. But if punitive discipline is out, does that mean I’m a total softie and my kids walk all over me? Definitely not.
In fact, setting clear and consistent boundaries is one of the best ways to help your child feel secure. In the Montessori schools in which I worked, we practiced a logical or natural consequences approach to setting boundaries with kids. And it really worked! Children understood why we did things a certain way and they were usually happy to cooperate.
Somehow setting boundaries was easier when it was my job to be completely respectful of the child. Now that I think about it, it was much easier not to swear when I was a preschool teacher and my job was on the line. But now that I’m a parent, I slip up sometimes. It’s a much different challenge to be respectful of a child 24 hours a day than it is for six or eight hours a day five times a week.
Today I’d like to explore a different kind of discipline, the kind of discipline that allows us to complete a difficult task or to master a new skill. Lately I’ve been thinking that by developing interests and practicing one or several disciplines myself as well as encouraging my child to do the same, the need for any other kind of discipline could simply melt away. Maybe I’m crazy and my daughter just hasn’t hit her “difficult” period yet, but this sure seems to be working for us so far.
By encouraging her to develop her own interests and explore them independently, my relationship with my daughter becomes more about facilitating and supporting her desires, rather than circumventing them or redirecting her. Oh, trust me, there are plenty of opportunities to redirect her. But the more I’m able to just go with her flow and allow her to explore what she’s interested in, the more confident she becomes and the more she enjoys learning.
We’re setting up a positive loop. She seeks out something interesting and explores it, she enjoys what she learns and then she seeks out something new and interesting again. And we’re also building our connection because she understands that I deeply care about her and want her to explore her interests and fulfill her purpose in life. So really, she’s developing self-discipline!
That way, in the times when I do need to set a firm boundary for safety or for some other reason, she knows that I’m not just trying to punish her. I’m actually making choices based on what will give her the most freedom she can safely have.
So what do you think? Can we reduce the need for “discipline” by supporting our children to develop their interests and practice self-discipline? I would love to hear your take on my idea. Please leave me a comment!
And have a fantastic week, Shelly