Before You Discipline, Check Your Mental Position

When disciplining a child, only a noncoercive approach is effective. And the first step to being noncoercive is mental positioning.

When practicing any skill, putting yourself in position always precedes the action. This is as true when disciplining as it is when holding a golf club before the swing, holding a baseball bat before the pitch arrives, shooting a basketball, holding a tennis racquet, or playing any musical instrument. Therefore, the first step is placing yourself in a mental stance to employ noncoercion.

The mental stance should be one of curiosity, helpfulness, and kindness. Why? Because you do not shout to be noncoercive. Your tone of voice communicates at least as much as your words. Even a horse understands this, as was reported by the trainer of Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown Winner. “Slew’s a show horse. Thousands of people visit him each year. He’s tough but kind, and he will do anything you ask him to do as long as you pose it as a question. If you give him an order, you are going to have a fight on your hands. And you’re going to lose.” (Time, April 28, 1997, p. 27)

So before you interact and employ discipline, check your mental positioning. Practicing this first crucial step will make the remainder of your interaction much easier.