There are lots of challenges that parenthood brings. I’ve heard from many parents baffled about how best to discipline their child, but the biggest challenge for many parents isn’t figuring out how to properly discipline their kids but learning how to discipline themselves. This is some of the most important work in parenting because it determines how we show up each day, what we model, and what kind of relationships we are able to build.
Self-discipline is such a challenge because parenting uncovers all of our triggers and brings up fears, hurts, and feelings from our pasts that cause real emotional reactions that we may not understand or be able to control until we bring awareness to those reactions. Our children show us where we need to heal and how we need to grow ourselves to reach our own full potentials so that we can help guide them toward reaching theirs.
Before parents can effectively teach their child self-discipline (and this is end-goal of all discipline), they must learn to effectively discipline themselves. The most important discipline practice a parent can use is the practice of self-regulation, disarming emotional triggers, and learning effective self-calming methods. When you are disciplined, you are able to show up and be the parent your child needs – calm, centered, logical, and safe.
The first step to in this practice of self-discipline is to understand your story. This requires some serious self-reflection and it could be uncomfortable or even painful at times, but it’s a necessary part of growth. If we don’t face our stories head on, we can remain stuck in unhealthy or unhelpful patterns with our children. This could prevent us from connecting with our children or from providing the unconditional love, acceptance, and support they need to grow well. In The Positive Parenting Workbook, I guide you through this process and provide you plenty of space to write out your story and then to revise it to serve you better. This allows you to let go of your limiting beliefs.
To do this exercise today, think about what your child does that triggers you. What causes you to have big emotions and reactions? Now close your eyes and allow your mind to wander back to your childhood. Think of the times when you behaved in a way similar to what your child is doing that triggers you. How were you treated? What messages did you receive from your parents about this behavior? How did it make you feel? Is that the same feeling that rises in you now when your child behaves that way? See if you can pinpoint the origin of your big emotions around the trigger. By bringing awareness to this, you can begin to understand why your brain is coded to do what it has been doing and be empowered to change the narrative that runs through your mind when you’re triggered so that you can respond rather than react to your child. I’m currently taking a wonderful courseto become a certified parent coach, and addressing our generational patterns and bringing consciousness is what our first few lessons are about. This is life-changing!
The second step in self-discipline is to effectively reprogram your brain. This may sound daunting or even impossible, but it can be done. You do this both by taking a look at your thought patterns and working to change those which make you feel fear, panic, overwhelm – any that cause a negative mindset and negative reactions. Our thoughts create physical changes in our bodies, and what we think can either calm us or agitate us, and it really is in our control. Every time you replace a negative or self-limiting thought with a positive or empowering thought, you are making new neural connections in the brain – essentially rewiring yourself to be calmer, more empathetic, more positive – more like the parent you want to be! This is really the key to emotional intelligence – understanding your emotions and dealing with them in a constructive rather than destructive way.
The third step is to take charge of your everyday mindset. This means that you decide what kind of parent you want to be. You see the best in your child – even when the behavior their presenting isn’t their best behavior. You understand that all behavior is communication because when you see it that way, you don’t get triggered by the disrespect or frustration or whatever your child is exhibiting on the outside. You can see that what your child needs is connection, help, skills, and self-discipline, so you are no longer impulsively reacting to your child’s behavior but are thoughtfully responding to it.
The final step is to be an intentional parent. Have a plan for how you will handle certain behaviors. Have a plan for the environment and family culture you want to create. Be intentional about connecting with your child. Take charge of the legacy you are building and set very specific goals for yourself and your family. This will help you feel focused, purposeful, and ready to tackle challenges because you aren’t just making it up as you go along but you are disciplined and prepared.
What we model is the greatest teacher to our children, for better or worse. We can show them how to be self-disciplined by practicing it every day in our homes.
Join me on May 1st at the Positive Parenting Conference! I’ll be speaking about solution-oriented discipline along with 19 other speakers over the course of 10 days who will all help you take a step closer to becoming the parent you want to be.