Homeschooling Why and How

Discipline with Understanding — the Older Child

Discipline with Understanding — the Older Child

By this time, your child is more able to choose her behavior.  She has come to love you deeply and to appreciate your loving care and attention.  When you are unhappy, she wants to help.  When you are happy, he shares your happiness.  While the same methods that worked on the younger child will still work, now we have other methods at our disposal, too.
A very useful approach to discipline at this age is the “I-message”.  When the child’s behavior is having a negative impact on us, we share our feelings with her.  The child is making a racquet, which to her ears may be music, but we have an awful headache.  We tell her, “When you make so much noise, it makes my head hurt more.”  It can encourage problem-solving thinking on her part to not even suggest the behavior we wish.  If we wait for her response, we may find that she figures out that it would help to do something quiet now or to go outside to make noise.  If she isn’t up to this, we can suggest these.
Our child won’t leave the park as she wants to play longer but we have to get home to cook dinner.  We can tell her this.  It is immeasurably helpful to first show that we understand her feelings.  After all, we are the adult and are thus expected to be the more understanding of the two of us.  If we can’t bring ourselves to truly empathize with her desire to stay in the park, if we label her as 
“being bad” because of her desires, how can we expect her to empathize with our feelings?
A word about needs versus desires here.  Besides the obvious needs for food, air, water, etc., humans have other less obvious needs, such as the need to feel safe, to feel free to be true to ourselves, the need to grow in knowledge and influence, for examples.  We also have desires, things we want but can live without.  Knowing the difference between the two is sometimes tricky and it seems that children have an intuitive sense that tells them when we are saying we need something to happen when in actuality, we only desire it.
When we truly need to have a certain thing happen, we are likely to find our child completely cooperative.  We cut our finger and have no bandaide and need to go home for one.  Our child goes willingly.
We tell our child we need to get home to cook dinner, but in actual fact, we could stay at the park another half hour and still have a decent dinner on the table in a timely fashion.  But we are bored with playing at the park and want to go home, check the mail and maybe make a phone call or two.  Our child’s radar seems to pick up on this and she resists leaving even more.
One of the difficult but wondrous things about having a child is that they force us to be honest with them and thus with ourselves.  If we really don’t need to leave right now, then let’s don’t say we do.  Does this mean that our child’s desires must trump ours?   This issue will be the subject of the next column.

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