It’s challenging to respond to a teacher’s negative report about your child. Yikes! Your feelings of embarrassment, that you should be able to control your child, could make you want to punish your child in some way. You may think, how can I make him suffer so he knows that I don’t want him acting that way at school?
A private coaching client of mine wrote me that he received the worst email ever about his son’s misbehavior at school.
Here is what he sent me:
We’re talking about whether to go ahead and institute indefinite removal of recreational iPad use as one thing that seems actionable and correlated with behavior issues. As a direct response to his terrible behavior at school today, I am inclined to let my son know that this loss of iPad use is related to what happened at school today. Could you offer any input on this point ahead of any other feedback related to this?
You can see that the dad is questioning his inclination to use punishment by linking removal of the iPad to school misbehavior. The goal of PUNISHMENT is to control children by making them suffer for what they have done in the past. The belief is that emotional and or physical hurt for their past misbehaviors will make them stop misbehaving in the future. The hope is that when they start to misbehave, they will remember the bad thing that will happen to them and then they will stop themselves.
For punishment to work, his son would have to have the maturity and emotional control to think, “I better not hit someone because I’ll get punished again.” Instead, he may think, “WAIT, I’ve already lost the iPad so what more can happen to me? I hate my parents!” Punishment hurts trust and the relationship between parents and children.
So, my advice is to first manage your emotions so you can respond logically and use discipline instead.
Let’s look at the definition of discipline.
The goal of DISCIPLINE is to TEACH children how to behave and cooperate positively in the future with others. This means understanding why they are acting in negative ways to meet their goals and to figure out ways to guide your child to find more positive ways to meet their goals. The focus is not on suffering for the past but figuring out with the child and other adults how to influence the child to make better choices in the future.
I explained this difference and suggested a disciplined approach to this problem. With discipline, parents can learn about their child and teach as well. Here is a portion of my guidance.
I think that it is worth stopping his being on video games, etc. for a while to see if he is being overstimulated or learning negative behaviors from what he is watching. Let’s take your son off of the iPad for a month and see if this helps him manage his impulse control or not. We won’t know unless this experiment is done. He is not experiencing enough good feelings about himself through being creative and building things or doing art or playing with puppets or dolls, playing house, etc.
When I checked in with the dad, he was positive and optimistic and said.
We did decide to go ahead and do a month away from iPad. I definitely appreciated your email. I referred to that and the suggested language there going into the conversation with my son I told him it was restricted for at least a month and that it doesn’t mean he necessarily gets it back right after that. I used the explanation you recommended about it being about what we believe is best for him and what we value as being important. He was initially really upset and yelled at me that he didn’t agree. We told him that this is what I and his mom thought was important, and we made our minds up about it already. After some amount of crying and hiding under tables, he eventually started calming down and just kept saying he wasn’t happy about it, but we finished the night up pretty normally.
Over the next couple of days, he started having better days and started telling me that he understood that he had trouble with his emotions when it came to the iPad. He told me about how the iPad is just really addictive and how he felt like it was designed to be that way. So, I tried to explain to him a little about how it is designed to make him happy, and it triggers brain chemicals that make him happy but then it makes him so happy that he can’t feel as happy afterward without it. It seemed like he processed that, and he talked to me a couple times proactively later about how he felt like giving up the iPad was good for him, and he feels better and stuff. He seems proud to talk about what he did instead of playing iPad. So, overall, I think we’re headed in the right direction!
What is so amazing about this dad’s experience of shifting from punishment to discipline is that his young son gained insight into his own behavior which is the premise of discipline. This internal knowledge will be much more likely to transform his negative behavior to positive behavior in the future.
When you receive negative reviews of your child, I encourage you to watch out for your emotional triggers that lead to punishment and shaming. Take time to reflect and create a discipline plan that will lead to future positive behavior.
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