Most discipline problems can be handled by just taking the time to assess the strength of your parent-child
connection, using commonsense techniques, and trying one approach after another
until you find what works. Yet there are times when you need outside help.
Consider two different types of counselors. Consult experienced, happy parents
whose advice you value. They can offer practical tips to make living with your
child easier. You may need to dig more deeply into disciplining yourself in
order to discipline your child. You may require the help of a therapist. Here
are some red flags that mean you are at risk for disciplining unwisely.
- Yelling . Do you go into frequent rages that are
out of control, calling your child names ("Brat," "Damn kid") and causing your
child to recoil and retreat? This means that you are letting your child punch
your anger buttons too easily, that you may not have control of your anger
buttons, or that there are simply too many anger buttons.
- Mirroring unhappiness. Do you walk around all day reflecting to your child that you are
unhappy as a person and as a parent? Kids take this personally. If they bring
you no joy, they must be no good. Life is a "downer."
- Parentifying . Are your children taking care
of you instead of vice versa? Are you crying and complaining a lot and showing
immature overreactions to accidents or misbehaviors? This scares children.
You're supposed to be the parent, the one in control protecting them.
- Blame shifting . Do you unload your
mistakes on your kids or your spouse? If so, children learn that the way you
deal with problems is to avoid taking personal responsibility for them, and that
somehow these problems are just too big for you to manage or that you don't know
how to ask for help.
- Modeling perfection . Are you
intolerant of even trivial mistakes made by yourself or your child? The child
gets the message that mistakes are horrible to make. This is particularly
difficult for the "sponge child," the one who soaks up your attitudes and
becomes too hard on himself.
- Spanking more. Are slaps and straps showing up in your corrections?
Are most of your interactions with your child on a negative note?
- A fearing family. Is your child afraid of you? Does she cringe when
you raise your voice and keep a "safe" distance from you? Is your child
becoming emotionally flat, fearing the consequences of expressing her emotions?
While even the most healthy parent may experience one of these red flags
occasionally, if you find they are becoming a routine way of life, for the sake
of yourself and your child, get professional help.