More on Disciplining Our Children

This "law of human behavior" - force causes resistance - is demonstrable in human beings in virtually every culture and at almost every age, as we have seen in many workshops. Furthermore, the most well-researched and basic human need, secure belonging (the sense of being loved unconditionally and supported by parents), runs head-on into another innate drive, self-determination (autonomy, in psychology). This leaves us having to choose to validate one and interfere with the other, and this is the dilemma we face.

Self-Determination, Autonomy, and Belonging

Parenting philosophies and methodologies may talk about authoritarian vs. permissive "styles," and most settle on a third offering, "authoritative parenting," described as more child-centered, less controlling with more permissions. This does not fully solve the problem, however, as few parents would actually be able to figure out how much permission or control is too much or too little in those moments, and then, even if they individually can determine how much choice to grant, they may not agree. And that still does not solve the other half of the problem - your child's ongoing and important autonomy issue.

In addition, a belonging issue is exacerbated when we are upset with our child's behavior, as that is seen in those moments by our child as our being upset with them (even when we think we are hiding our being upset!). We misunderstand our reasons for getting upset and well as our children’s.

Ordinarily, getting upset is something we think we should try to avoid, and likely we feel like we're doing bad parenting - or we think we're living with jerks!!  But none of that is true. Consider that we, and every other healthy human being, gets upset when we don't get what we want or what we expect. That is true for us, our parents, and our children too. In that sense, it is normal and sensible for any of us to get upset whenever we didn't get something (or got something we didn’t want) that we expected at the time. That is, our getting upset only means that we are a healthy functioning human being. Think about it. Recall the last time you got upset with someone. Did you - in the moment - think, "Oh, I think I'll get upset now"?  The second most important thing about knowing this meaning of getting upset is to share it with your family - your children, your partner(s). I underline: there is nothing wrong with getting upset, and trying to not be upset when you are takes away your energy, your time, and your sense of self-efficacy. And trying to get others to stop being upset interrupts and can undo your relationships.

What to do? Allow yourself and others be upset. Make a safe environment around you for others to be upset. Listen. This takes practice and coaching: we are wired to resist being upset and being around others who are upset.

Without seeing it happen in front of you, you are not likely to be able to use it, as it is not knowledge-based learning but experiential learning. Then you will see how upsets naturally dissipate when allowed to be expressed and run their course, and how they can hang on forever when they are not accepted or are resisted.

This begins to be seen in A Path to Partnership session, and skills in dealing with upsets are explored and practiced in The Curriculum.