Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Shame, Guilt, and Humiliation - Are They Effective Disciplinary Tools?

Today's Australian newspapers have been all over a story about a mum in Townsville who publicly shamed her ten year-old son for his stealing habit.

In a nutshell, the mother made her young son sit in public with a sign reading

"Do not trust me. I will steal from you as I am a thief"

pinned to his shirt. The boy, thought to be aged about 10, was also wearing Shrek ears and writing lines in what appeared to a form of public punishment. It all happened in a park, and some reports suggest that other kids at the park enjoyed mocking this young boy.

As you might expect, the talkback shows, current affairs programs, and parenting blogs and forums have been going crazy with opinion divided - strongly - as to whether or not this was appropriate.

Of course, if we all thought this was ok, it wouldn't be news would it?

So, is it fair enough to shame a child, to induce guilt, and to humiliate him or her? And will this approach work?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Influencing Young Children When They Don't Want to Listen

Last week one of my blog posts addressed the idea that we can influence our children by supporting their autonomy, rather than controlling them through coercion. (It was cross-posted at www.mamamia.com.au at this link here.)

One reader, Julie, asked the following:

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on what this type of "guidance" would look like with a younger child?

I love the example with your 11 year old, but clearly she has the cognitive skills, the relationship with you and the maturity to think through the issues herself. My children are 3, 2 and 8 months.

How would this type of guidance play out in a situation of say, encouraging a 3-year-old to get ready to go out, or stop "wrestling" her brother when he is clearly not enjoying it!?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Natural Reactions Can Ruin Relationships

In most challenging parenting situations (or relationship situations more generally), our initial response to the challenges we face is often the wrong one. Our automatic fight or flight reactions to difficulty, threat, or challenge may work well when facing a speeding car or an unwanted intruder, but when dealing with the fragile emotions of those people we value the most, fight and flight can be destructive.

Our natural reactions make us enemies to our children (and spouses). When your child challenges you with a "No!", it is natural to respond with a more powerful "YES, and you WILL do it NOW!" Such a response to a child's challenging behaviour may be justified. Your request may have been perfectly reasonable. But when this kind of response to our children becomes pervasive, we are at great risk of damaging our relationship, and our ability to influence our children.