Is Positive Discipline Even Possible?

Is Positive Discipline Even Possible?

If you have been struggling with positive discipline, this may be why: the word "discipline" is loaded!

It's loaded with childhood associations like punishment and force. Those associations can make positive discipline the proverbial "square peg" that you have been trying to fit into the "round hole" of discipline — the receptor in your brain has already decided what discipline is, and positive just doesn't fit! So you end up swinging back and forth or choosing between.

Here's a humorous clip about the phrase "Positive Discipline" from a talk I gave at La Tribu Spanish Immersion Preschool.

If the word "discipline" is loaded with negative meanings for you, too, calling discipline "positive" will not be enough to shave off those square corners and make it fit, especially when you are angry or afraid for your child. In states of high emotion, you will automatically revert back to your childhood associations. And if those are punishment and force like they were for the parents and teachers at my talk, despite what your intellect tells you, this will be your hidden truth: "discipline = punishment + force."

Childhood beliefs like that are necessary for kids to adapt to an environment of external control. And like all communications, your adaptive beliefs will persist until they are heard, understood and validated by you. Then you can let them go and replace them with something that fits your life better now. That's the work of personal growth.

The simple replacement I suggested in the audio clip was "self-discipline." If self-discipline is something you admire in others and yourself, then maybe "Positive Self-Discipline" would work better for you as an interim name. After all, self-discipline might be something you want to bring out in your child, and the kind of parenting that nurtures internal control would make more sense in that context.

But to truly shift your interactions with your child so they come from an entirely different place in your brain, try this: 

Call what you are trying to do for your children LIFE COACHING, because that's exactly what it is. 

When the Life Coaching light bulb went on for me, everything suddenly clicked into place. Coaching is a way to "transport people from where they are to where they want to be."* It is also a way to help people get in touch with their inner greatness and keep possibilities open so they can accomplish their dreams in life. In a flash I realized that's what I've been teaching parents and teachers to do for children since 2005 when the simple three-step Heart Model popped into my head, and even before that in the 1990's when I was teaching parents the play therapy skills I had learned from Dr. Garry Landreth.

If what we've been doing here at Language of Listening has been confusing to you, no wonder! We've been teaching life coaching skills and calling it parenting!

Since "parenting" is associated with "discipline" and all of it's baggage, too, there's no way life coaching would fit in that "round hole" of "discipline" either! That's why even if you love what we write, you might sometimes have to read it over and over to let it sink in. Rather than trying to change an existing brain receptor called "parenting" or "discipline," that's you trying to create a new one called "life coaching" so you can start fresh from there. It really is that different, and it's exactly what you've been trying to do for your children all along!

You can hear more about this shift in my podcast interview on Joyful Courage hosted by Casey O'Roarty.

* "Coaching.", retrieved 13 May 2016.


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