How to Parent With Discipline – Not Punishment

Val Mullally

August 28, 2018

parenting without punishment

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Are you wondering how to raise a child without resorting to coercing, manipulating or punishing? I have a key insight for you on why it’s important to parent without punishment. Read on to discover why child discipline and punishment are NOT the same thing.

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“Do as you’re told.”

“Don’t be bold.”

“Go to the naughty step!”

As parents, we can sometimes feel like tearing our hair out with our kids. We get wound up with what we see as our kids’ “bad behaviour”. If only our kids would just LISTEN to what they are told!

But wait! Pause. Take a moment.

How did YOU feel when you were a child and adults talked to you like that?

“Do as you’re told.” “Don’t be bold.” “Go to the naughty step!”

When you were a child, did adult comments like that ever make you sweetly think:

“Oh yes. I must be good! I must do as I’m told.”

I doubt it.

When I was a child “Do as you’re told,” made me fume inside. I didn’t dare say it, but inside I was screaming, “Why won’t you listen to how it is for ME!”

Children can feel angry and frustrated when we forcefully or manipulatively make demands. But children might also feel fearful, anxious, insecure or even unloved when we impose our rules on them.

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Outside-In Punishment

how to discipline your child

Here is the key to why it’s important to parent without punishment. When we punish our kids it’s like trying to keep them encased in an exoskeleton of rules. What’s an exoskeleton? That’s the hard shell of a creature like a lobster.

Yes, the exoskeleton keeps the lobster safe but it also seriously limits its growth and its ability to move around freely. The lobster is trapped in the armour of its exoskeleton. In the same way, if we use threats, demands and put-downs in an attempt to control our children, we constrict our children from growing to be all they are intended to be. This outside-in control relies on fear. It’s punishment. We may have the best intentions for our children:

“I need to keep them safe.”

“I want them to grow up right.”

But the limitation that the exoskeleton of punishment puts on their emotional well-being, their self-esteem and their potential is too high a price to pay.

We cannot afford to trap our children, in a ‘lobster-shell’ of what we think they should be.

Inside-Out Discipline

So what’s the alternative? The answer lies in reflecting on the type of skeleton we humans have. Our endoskeleton is on the inside. Yes, that does leave our bodies vulnerable; but it also means we can run, dance, climb, swing and move our bodies in so many awesome ways because we are free.

It’s the same with Mindful Parenting. When we use an inside-out discipline approach this gives the child a strong inner core AND the ability to move and grow in an incredible number of ways.

We can parent in a way that supports each child to grow to be the wonderful, unique person they were intended to be.

“Yes, but I need to keep my child safe!” you may be questioning.

Think about it. Who is actually doing better in life? The lobster with its exoskeleton? Or us humans with our vulnerable exteriors and amazing endoskeletons? Ironically, the lobster is ultimately much more vulnerable!

In a similar way, the “exoskeleton” of rules and punishment that some parents impose actually leaves their children less prepared to thrive in the world they will face.

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But Don’t Children Need Limits?

go outside and play

“Okay, I get that.” You might be saying? “But I don’t want my children running wild.”

Yes. I agree with you entirely. Children still need limits to keep them physically and emotionally safe. It’s HOW we do it that makes the difference. This is why it’s important to parent without punishment.

We can use punishment or manipulation to try to control our children from the outside-in (à la lobster style!) or we can develop our skill in Mindful Discipline, that supports our children to develop their flexibility, creativity and ultimately their freedom to live fully in this world.

So What’s The Way Forward?

Here are three key inside-out principles of Mindful Discipline:

#1. The only person you can control is yourself.

#2. Treat your child with the same kindness and respect that you desire for yourself.

#3. Only set limits that are essential and ensure these as fair, consistent and age-appropriate.

Stick to these three principles for Mindful Discipline for your parenting.

“Yes,” you may be asking. “I see why it’s important to parent without punishment. But HOW do I discipline in a way that helps my children to develop to their full potential?”

If you want to discover the practical tools and key insights of Mindful Discipline then sign up now so you can start my self-paced “Mindful Discipline” course today (or as soon as you wish) and join my next “Stop Yelling” live online course when it begins.

How to Parent With Discipline Not Punishment - Mykidstime

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Published On: August 28th, 2018 / Categories: For Parents / Last Updated: July 18th, 2021 / Tags: , , /

About the Author: Val Mullally

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Val Mullally focuses on activating your inner wisdom in work, parenthood and life. She is an accredited Parenting Coach, Professional Reflective Practice Facilitator and founder of Koemba Parenting. She offers Parenting courses (both face-to-face and online), and is available as a workshop facilitator and a keynote speaker. Val is author of: 'BEHAVE - What to Do When Your Child Won’t’, ‘Stop Yelling – 9 Steps to Calmer, Happier Parenting’ ‘Baby and Toddler on Board – Mindful Parenting When a New Baby Joins the Family’ and ‘Ancient Wisdom for Business Success – How to Lead with Courage, Clarity and Confidence’ She is currently co-authoring ‘In Defence of the Naughty Child - Understanding Sensory Sensitivity’ and will be speaking on this topic at TEDx Wexford on 11 August 2022. Val spent many years in Southern Africa, where she worked as a teacher, principal and trainer in Education. She and her husband now live in the place her heart calls home, in their traditional Irish cottage in North County Cork, Ireland.

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