When it comes to child discipline, are you still using traditional approaches, or have you realized that tradition doesn’t always work?
Tradition is the means by which many people solve problems, cope with life, and transmit values. Realize that tradition extends everywhere: how we eat, where and when we sleep, what we wear, what we say to ourselves and others, etc. Tradition is the way many people make decisions and solve problems. However, the decisions only work if we inherit the same problems our ancestors did.
Unfortunately, traditional approaches to many problems too often do not work these days because we’re living in a world of new problems in a rapidly changing society. Peter Drucker, the famous management guru, once said, “People fail because they will not give up what has always worked—clearly after it has stopped working.”
Nowhere can see this more clearly than in our parenting and child discipline approaches. It is important to recognize that children today are exposed to different environments than those in earlier generations. This is one of many reasons that traditional child discipline approaches based on coercion (namely punishments and rewards) are not as successful as they once may have been. Here are just a few of the changes in society that are influencing today’s youth:
- Internet access to information
- Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
- Instant communications by smart phones
- Really Simple Syndication Internet feeds such as blogs
- Emphasis on children being the center of family life
- Advertising aimed at youth
- Substance abuse
- Mass media: violence, sex, and short sound bites
- Number and gender of parents
- Types of models and heroes
- Music and lyrics
- Protection of childhood innocence—or lack of it
- Social interaction and developmental play—or lack of it
- Sense of community—or lack of it
- Emphasis on rights rather than on responsibility
- Increased peer influence and pressure
- Lower levels of social skills and impulse control
A by-product of the ease of access to information and contact with others in our technological age is that many young people feel more control over their lives. Today’s young people know and exercise their rights and have an unprecedented level of independence.
As such, when a parent tries to change a youth’s behavior by forcing obedience—by using threats, punishments, bribes, or other coercive or manipulative tactic—the reaction is often resistance.
A typical parental response to this trend might be to blame the youngsters. But think about it for a moment: When we plant flower seeds and if the plant does not blossom, do we blame the flowers? Or does the planter have some responsibility for the growth? Let us remember that parents are the first contacts and models for children.
If you view young people’s misbehavior as a learning opportunity—a chance to help them grow and develop—then misbehavior can become a prompt for meaningful communications. Use such negative situations to help your children become more responsible. This mindset will result in less stress for you and improved relationships for all. For details on how to do this, please see the book Parenting Without Stress.
What are your thoughts on how society has changed and how it has influenced our child discipline approach? Please share your comments on the Without Stress Tips Facebook page.