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.