Setting boundaries is an essential part of establishing healthy relationships, fostering personal growth, and for the development of emotional maturity. However, a common misconception is that boundaries must be enforced through anger, lectures, threats, or shame. Or that setting boundaries around behavior is mean or uncaring. Then after a while, the adult loses their @#$%&! because they can’t take the misbehavior anymore. In this Healing Children Tidbit, we will explore the concept of healing discipline, where boundaries are set without coercion or shame, promoting understanding and personal responsibility. By adopting a calm and matter-of-fact approach, we can effectively establish boundaries while maintaining respect and nurturing growth in others.
The Pitfalls of Lectures, Anger, and Shame:
When we resort to lectures, anger, or shame to enforce boundaries, we inadvertently create an atmosphere of blame and defensiveness. Adults tend to externalize blame when scolded, thinking things such as: “It’s not me. My spouse is in a bad mood.”, “My principal is unreasonable.”, “That cop was rude; I wasn’t speeding.” When children or students are scolded or shamed, they follow a similar pattern. Instead of internalizing their mistakes and making appropriate changes, they may direct their anger toward the authority figure. Externalizing our choices and blaming others undermines the desired outcome of promoting personal responsibility, growth, and connection.
When adults assume responsibility for the child’s behavior, they are more likely to lash out with anger and frustration and use lectures, threats, and shame to change the child’s behavior. Only to later experience a sense of remorse because we inadvertently shouldered the burden of their conduct and harmed the relationship.
So what do we do? Healing Discipline
We all have a responsibility for our behavior, including children. When we make a mistake, it is our job to recognize and fix it–this is how we learn and grow. It is crucial to approach boundary-setting with firmness, kindness, respect, and consistency to establish healing discipline and promote healthy compliance. The fewer words used possible when disciplining is the safest bet.
Here are some key strategies:
- Realistic Expectations: Children are going to make mistakes and do “dumb things” because they don’t know and they are in the process of growing up. It is not our job to stop them from making mistakes, it is our job to help them learn for the future. The younger they learn, the better. Realistic expectations that our children are “in process” keep us from internalizing their behavior and helps us follow through.
- Calm and Matter-of-Fact Attitude: When giving consequences, maintain a composed demeanor and communicate in a matter-of-fact tone. This approach helps create a safe environment and encourages open dialogue.
- Reducing Eye Contact: Intense eye contact can sometimes trigger a defensive response or escalate the situation. By reducing eye contact, we reduce the likelihood of confrontation when we are providing discipline.
- Understanding the Impact of Anger: Anger activates the “fight, flight, or freeze response” in the brain, inhibiting rational thinking and problem-solving abilities. In this state of mind, the child will struggle to respond appropriately.
- Keeping Communication Simple: In moments when you or the child are not in a thinking state, it is advisable to keep words to a minimum. Overwhelming the individual with excessive information or complex explanations can hinder their ability to process and internalize the message.
- Having a plan: Knowing what you will do when the behavior occurs helps the adult be consistent and relaxed. Being consistent helps the child know you mean business, and they are more likely to work towards behavior change.
By approaching consequences with matter-of-factness, we can help children and students internalize their mistakes and foster personal growth. When consequences are delivered in a respectful manner, devoid of anger or shame, individuals are more likely to accept responsibility and make positive changes.
Providing healthy boundaries and structure is as much a basic need as nurturing relationships. We understand the child will not always be happy with our decisions or choices, we recognize why the child responds the way they do, and we do not take the behavior personally. Most importantly, we believe the child can heal through our supportive, nurturing relationship, healthy boundaries, and consistent follow-through. When healthy adults provide discipline without shame, children have the opportunity to mature, grow, develop, and have a better life, and we will have a better society for all!
To learn more, watch our podcast Boundaries without Using Shame and Anger. Take a live course or an on demand course or purchase our book “Healing Discipline: Bringing Hope to Shattered Lives, A Guide for Educators.” We are also happy to discuss any questions or concerns you might have via phone or email. You can contact us at 1-888-311-1883 or email us at email@example.com.