Honesty and Discipline

My late mother-in-law used always to say, “Be careful of asking for someone’s opinion. The person may give it to you.”

Realize that if someone asks you for your opinion and if the person perceives that your comments are derogatory, there is a problem. It doesn’t matter if your opinion is based on fact and logic; all that matters is the other person’s perception of what you said. This is true whether interacting with an adult or a child.

Cognition and emotion go hand in hand, with the latter preceding the former. In other words, what we hear may prompt a negative feeling. Once a negative feeling has erupted, it doesn’t do any good to try to convince the person that the way he or she feels is wrong. You have to deal with the way the person feels first. This is one important reason why keeping your discipline approach positive (as outlined in my books Discipline Without Stress and Parenting Without Stress) is so important.

An approach to resolving the situation—even in a discipline situation—is to ask the person whether he or she is angry with you or what you said. This will prompt the person to reflect. It will also diffuse the negative feelings because you have redirected the focus. Once that occurs, discipline becomes much easier.

Of course, you want to be honest with others but need to realize your honesty can be interpreted as derogatory or negative. Having a good question to ask—if needed—when you give your opinion is simply good preparation.