It wasn't the media hype about Tiger Mom that prompted this post. (I make a point of avoiding media hype. Besides, I went to a Catholic school run by Tiger Nuns, so I wasn't exactly shocked.) What incited the posting of these lists from our Compassionate Parenting program were the emails from readers wanting to know if I still believed in a compassionate approach to parenting.
You bet I do. What follows are the general skills of compassionate parenting and discipline.
Like all human beings, children need discipline to help them function at their best. They actually want it. Those who receive little discipline tend to feel unloved, isolated, and unprotected. Many adolescents from low-discipline homes lie to their peers, making up limits that they attribute to neglectful parents.
Compassionate parents set firm limits about important issues of safety, health, learning, education, money management, and morality. With everything else, they encourage cooperation. The key to cooperation for children and adults is showing value. The valued self cooperates; the devalued self resists.
Emotional discomfort caused by nervous energy and anxiety accounts for a great deal of misbehavior. Discipline that increases anxiety, such as yelling or shaming, will likely cause more emotional discomfort and produce more of the undesired behavior in the long run.
"The long run" is key. Discipline is never just about a specific behavior. It's a long-term project whose purpose is to establish general guides for behavior over time. The regulation of behavior must be established in the child, not in you as policeman.
General Rules of Effective Discipline
This last point needs explanation - I can hear disgruntled parents gasping as they read.
When forced to apologize, children perceive apology as submission or humiliation rather than reconciliation. Adults who have trouble apologizing were usually forced to apologize as children.
The most important social skill for children to acquire is sensitivity to the effects of their behavior on other people. When focused on their own shame and humiliation, they are less likely to understand and more likely to resent the offended child whose hurt has gotten them into trouble.
Have the offending child take a time out until he/she can describe what the behavior was like for the hurt child and what they could have done differently to avoid the mistake. After a few iterations of this process, most children get the importance of sensitivity and will begin to apologize on their own. They will learn that apology is not punishment but an effort to reinstate relationship bonds.
If some of these points seem strange to you, don't buy them. Rent them with an option to buy - try them for a minimum of three weeks.
Tiger Mom and her girls would have been pleasantly surprised, had she tried the techniques of Compassionate Parenting.