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Teaching Children Self-Discipline

Page history last edited by betty 14 years, 6 months ago

Teaching Children Self-Discipline

Thomas Gordon, Ph.D.


Part I: Understanding Discipline


1. Definitions

a. Everyone agrees that discipline the noun is desirable, but it is not clear that disciplining children is the best way to help them become disciplined.

i. Research indicates that punishing children increases aggression and violence in children.

b. You acquire more influence with children when you give up trying to use power to control them.

c. Rather than seeing an either-or choice between authoritarian control and permissiveness, adults should focus     on building self-discipline through influence.

d. Authority has multiple meanings

i. Authority based on expertise (“Authority E”)

ii. Authority based on position or title (“Authority J” J=Job)

1. Based on mutually understood and agreed upon job description

iii. Authority based on informal contracts (“Authority C”)

iv. Authority based on power (“Authority P”)

1. All other authority is based on mutual understanding; Authority P is involuntary.

2. Children don’t respect Authority P, even if they have to obey it.

3. There is no such thing as a benevolent dictator

2. The traditional reward-and-punish approach

a. Rewards and punishments are external controls; take away the control, and the behavior modification disappears

3. Why we can’t count on rewards working

a. Using rewards for behavior modification is difficult, given the need to reward consistently and almost instantaneously

b. If a reward seems too far removed in time, it will be less potent

c. You can’t prevent children from getting rewarded by others for unacceptable behavior

d. When children can acquire their own rewards, rewards no longer work for behavior modification

e. Rewards have to be felt as attainable, or children will give up and stop striving

f. When the desired behavior goes unrewarded, it takes much longer for it to be reinforced and firmly established.

g. Children may come to work just for the rewards, rather than for intrinsic motivations. Getting rewards, especially praise, can become addictive and undermine a child’s motivations.

h. Getting no rewards may feel like punishment, getting a lot or rewards may weaken their effect.

i. Praise doesn’t always work, especially if it is a “You-message.”

i. Gordon defines praise as “a verbal message that communicates a positive evaluation of a person, a person’s behavior, or a person’s accomplishment.”

ii. Praise often has a hidden agenda. If used constantly, praise does not come across as sincere or as really earned.

iii. If praise doesn’t match the child’s own evaluation, it comes acress as “simply not true,” and he’ll develop doubts about the parent’s integrity.

1. When someone is sharing a problem, praise acts as a roadblock. The response is likely to be, “You don’t really understand.”

iv. Praise heightens sibling rivalries and competitiveness

v. Praise can stunt decision-making ability and self-reliance—e.g. when people make career decisions to please their parents.

j. Effective alternatives to praise

i. The positive I-Message

1. I feel good when…

2. I was pleasantly surprised when…

3. I was relieved when…

4. I enjoyed it so much when…

5. I got excited when…

6. Still have to make it spontaneous, genuine, and free of hidden agendas (e.g. “I like the way you wore your hair tonight much better than the way you usually pin it up.”)

ii. Active listening

1. Listen, then reflect back to show that you understood

2. Often better than I-messages because it encourages the child to evaluate the issue and resolve it on his own

4. The deficiencies and dangers of punishment

a. Punishment (like rewards) is hard to administer effectively

b. Punishments have to be severe to have an effect…which makes them dangerous

c. Punishment is ineffective when the controller isn’t present (and less effective than other methods)

d. Punishment fosters aggression and violence

e. When your child grows up, the punishments you used when they were younger no longer work.

5. How children really react to control

a. Coping mechanisms

i. Fighting

ii. Flight

iii. Submit

b. Using power creates the very behaviors parents dislike

c. Studies show that using power on children has very negative consequences

i. Crime

ii. Neurosis

iii. Low self-esteem

iv. Drug use

d. Using power causes you to lose influence.

e. Giving up the use of power lets you gain influence.


Part II: Alternatives to Disciplining Children


6. Non-controlling methods to get children to change their behavior

a. Children don’t misbehave. They aren’t trying to do something to an adult, they’re trying to do something for themselves. The “badness” is in the mind of the adult, not the child.

b. Who owns the problem?

i. Child owns problem: Child’s behaviors cause problem for child, but not adult (adult considers the behavior acceptable)

ii. No-problem area: Child’s behaviors not causing problems for child or adult (adult considers the behavior acceptable)

iii. Adult owns problem: Child’s behaviors cause problem for adult (adult considers this behavior unacceptable)

c. Alternative 1: Find out what the child needs.

d. Alternative 2: Let’s make a trade. Substitute an acceptable behavior for an unacceptable behavior.

e. Alternative 3: Modify the environment. Know when to enrich the environment to prevent boredom, and when to impoverish the environment to calm them down (e.g. for bedtime).

f. Alternative 4: The confrontative I-message

i. A nonblameful, nonevaluative message that tells the child what the adult is experiencing in response to an unacceptable behavior

1. “When the TV is so loud, I can’t carry on a conversation with your mother.”

ii. Keeps the responsibility for the adult’s inner condition with the adult

iii. Leave the responsibility for changing the unacceptable behavior with the child

iv. Three important characteristics

1. Likely to promote a willingness to change

2. Contain minimal negative evaluation

3. Do not injure the relationship

a. Example: Teacher sends an I message about being tired of cleaning up paint messes.

b. Make you seem human and likeable

4. Good I-messages do not include giving solutions.

g. Alternative 5: The preventative I-message

i. Influence the child’s future behavior to avoid unacceptable behavior

ii. Express your need before it becomes an issue

iii. Children’s common responses

1. “We didn’t know.”

2. “You never asked.”

3. “I’m glad you told me.”

iv. Be sure to include the reasons for your need

v. Benefits

1. Maintain awareness, responsibility, and control of your needs and feelings

2. Others learn your needs and the strength of your feelings about them

3. You model openness, directness, and honesty, encouraging similar behavior

4. Reduce the chances of future conflicts and tensions from unknown or uncommunicated needs, decreasing the element of surprise

5. You take full responsibility for the plans you’ve made, and prepare for future needs

6. Relationships stay healthy because they are based on openness, honesty, and mutual need-satisfaction

7. Kids learn that their parents are human, and have the chance to come up with something that will please their parents.

vi. Gets feelings out rather than bottling them up

vii. Leaves the responsibility with the child for self-control

h. Alternative 6: Shifting gears to reduce resistance

i. If you hear resistance, shift from sending/assertive posture to listening/understanding posture

1. Shows empathy and understanding

ii. Children find it easier to change if they feel the adult understands how hard it might be

i. Alternative 7: Problem Solving

i. See Point 7 for details

j. Alternative 8: When angry, find the primary feeling

i. E.g. You become angry when embarrassed, frightened, etc.

ii. Ask yourself:

1. What is going on inside me?

2. What needs of mine are being threatened?

3. What are the primary feelings I don’t like?

7. New ways of governing families and classrooms

a. Participative Management

i. Corsini 4-R System (C4R)

1. Children are treated as equals with rights and obligations established by a constitution. Four goals:

a. Responsibility

b. Respect

c. Resourcefulness

d. Respnsiveness

2. The rules are:

a. Do nothing that could be dangerous or damaging

b. Always be in a supervised place, or en route to one

c. If a teacher signals you to leave the classroom, do so immediately and in silence

ii. Groups need rules, but should participate in setting those rules

1. Who can make wiser decisions—a group leader without the resources of the group members, or the total group, including the leader?

a. Rather than “Father knows best,” “Does father know better than father AND children?”

b. The 6-Step Problem Solving Process

i. Identify and define the problem

ii. Generate alternative solutions

iii. Evaluate the alternative solutions

iv. Decision making

v. Implement the decision

vi. Follow-up evaluation

c. The no-lose method to conflict resolution

i. When a conflict between an adult and a child occurs, the adult asks the child to participate in a mutual search for some solution acceptable to both

1. Either may suggest possible solutions

2. A mutually acceptable decision is made as to the best solution

3. They decide together how it is to be carried out

4. “A cooperative process leads to the definition of conflicting interests as a mutual problem to be solved by collaborative effort.”

d. Dealing with values collisions

i. You can model the desired values, or act as an impartial consultant, but sometimes you have to accept that you won’t change your child.

8. Helping children solve problems themselves

a. Children won’t want to be helpful to you when you tell them you have a problem with their behavior, unless they feel that you’ve generally tried to help them when they have had problems.

b. Keep the amount of your direct involvement of the child’s problem solving to a minimum so that he becomes less dependent on adults.

i. Act as a “process guide,” facilitating the 6 steps of the problem-solving process.

1. Step 1 to 2: Identifying and Defining the Problem  Generating Alternative Solutions

a. Do you feel you understand clearly enough what the problem is to start thinking now about possible solutions?

b. Are you ready to think about things you might do to solve this problem?

2. Step 2 to 3: Evaluating the Alternative Solutions

a. Have you reached the bottom of the barrel of possible solutions?

b. Do you feel you have enough ideas to begin evaluating them?

3. Step 3 to 4: Decision Making

a. Sounds like maybe you know which solution sounds best

b. Does any one of the solutions stand out as your choice?

4. Step 4 to 5: Implementing the Decision

a. Now that you’ve decided on the best solution, what do you need to do to put it into action?

b. Are you ready to plan who does what by when?

5. Step 5 to 6: Follow-up Evaluation

a. Maybe you could think now about how you’ll know if your solution really works out.

b. It might be good now to set a time to evaluate how good your decision turns out to be.

6. Remember, a child might move through all the steps without any assistance.

ii. But if you’re fairly sure the child doesn’t have the resources to solve the problem, you can take more active involvement

c. Most parents rely on “correcting messages” that convey nonacceptance of the child. These roadblocks make children think, “My parents don’t really listen to me.”

d. Acceptance of a person as he is is the critical factor in fostering constructive change.

i. Paradoxically, it is only if people feel genuinely accepted that they become free to think about how they might want to change.

e. How to demonstrate acceptance

i. Nonintervention. When you intervene, no matter what your intentions, you indicate that what the child is doing is wrong, or isn’t good enough.

ii. Attentive and Passive Listening. Use silence and neutral statements (e.g. “I see.”).

iii. Active Listening. Reflecting feelings

1. Focus on understanding the message being sent and what it means

a. You may need to decode the message. When a child cuts his finger and says, “Look at all that blood,” he may actually be saying, “I am scared.”

2. Paraphrase/give feedback to get verification or correction of you understanding

a. Without feeling understood, people will seldom feel accepted.

b. Here, it’s okay to use “You” messages to show that you are attending to their feelings, not your own.

c. If your first assumption is incorrect, you may need to try some alternatives.

9. Active Listening: the all-purpose people skill

a. Communicating warm, empathic understanding and acceptance can help with just about any situation (as has been proven by research)

i. Mediating child-child conflicts

ii. Ensuring good group discussions

iii. Toward warmer relationships between adult and child

1. Children who are understood and respected by adults invariably experience a sense of greater self-worth and importance.

b. A 600 teacher, 10,000 student study showed that students whose teachers received training in facilitative skills missed 4 fewer days of school per year, made greater gains on math and reading scores, increased their IQ scores, were more creative, had higher self-esteem, and presented fewer disciplinary problems.

10. Why adults don’t give up disciplining children

a. Many people believe that permissiveness is the cause of everything that is wrong with kids today. However, all the hard evidence shows that authoritarian, punitive treatment is what causes children to go wrong.

b. Many people have a distrust of democratic decision making.

11. How democratic relationships foster health and well-being

a. Companies that use participative leadership have higher productivity, lower turnover, higher morale, fewer grievances, less absenteeism, and better physical health. Employees also feel better about themselves, like to go to work, and have more self-esteem and self-confidence.

b. A study of 5th and 6th grade boys showed that those with high self-esteem tended to have parents that favored reasoning over coercive discipline, and fostered a democratic style of family decision making where children were allowed to question parental viewpoints.

c. “The weight of the evidence would appear to be that neither authoritarian control nor unalloyed freedom and permissiveness is the key to the development of high self-esteem in children. Rather, a pattern of interaction in which parents make reasonable and firm demands that are accepted as legitimate by the children, but in which parents do not impose restrictions, but make demands and give directions in ways that leave a degree of choice and control in the hands of the children, is the control pattern most likely to foster high self-esteem.

d. The mean IQ of children with democratic parents increased 8 points over the longitudinal study, while the IQ of children with permissive parents stayed the same, and the IQ of children with autocratic parents decreased slightly.

e. What are the characteristics of democratic families?

i. Less deprivation and humiliation

ii. Less stress, less illness

iii. More problem-solving competence

iv. Less anger and hostility

v. Freedom from fear

vi. More responsibility, more “fate control”

1. Milgram: “The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.”

vii. Fewer self-harming behaviors

viii. Better social skills


Comments (1)

betty said

at 2:52 am on Dec 26, 2009

thanks for posting this. really interesting...

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