What Do You Do if Your Discipline Isn’t Working?
If you’re like about one in three parents, you often don’t think your discipline is working very well.
That’s the results of a recent study of more than 2100 parents in the U.S. and Canada. The study, reported in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, asked parents of children ages two to 11 a number of questions including what discipline strategies they used and how their discipline was working.
For two-thirds of the parents in this study, their discipline approaches were working just fine. Not so, however, for the other third.
You may be interested to know what parents reported they were doing when discipline was called for – just to compare what you do. What the researchers found was that time-outs were used 42 percent of the time, removing privileges was used 41 percent of the time, sending a child to their bedroom was used 27 percent of the time, and then things sort of broke down. Thirteen percent of them said they yelled and nine percent admitted they spanked their kids.
But it becomes more interesting to look at some of the details of the results. More than a third of the parents said they used the same discipline methods with their children as their own parents used with them. This is true despite the fact that there was that one-third of parents who confessed that what they were doing wasn’t working very well.
Furthermore, if a parent experienced yelling or spanking from their parents when they were growing up, they were more likely to use those same approaches with their children, regardless of whether they thought it actually worked. As it turns out, parents who said they yelled at their children were most apt to say their discipline wasn’t effective.
“There was actually an inverse relationship between self-reports of yelling ay children and perceived effectiveness of discipline,” says Shari Barkin, M.D., chief of pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, in Nashville, Tennessee and an author of the study.
Barkin has also said that she believes that yelling and spanking were under reported because when discipline isn’t producing desired results generally emotions escalate.
Most parents certainly realize this. When you aren’t being effective, you usually feel inadequate, angry, powerless, and maybe guilty. But those emotions don’t lead to rational thought or decision-making. So, as Dr. Barkin suggests, you tend to intensify your emotional reactions, and we know what that leads to – yelling and sometimes hitting kids.
My thought in also reading this study is that parents, despite a plethora of parenting materials readily available in the last two decades, aren’t really taking advantage of it. There are many wonderful books that describe a full range of discipline strategies, but apparently many parents are unaware of these books or forget about them when they need them. In addition to parenting books, there are parenting magazines, videos, newspaper columns, and blogs. In other words, the information is available if you believe your current methods of discipline aren’t working very well.
Then, I had another thought and that is that we know from research that the organization Zero to Three (http://www.zerotothree.org/) has done that a great many parents of young children really don’t understand child development. If you are a bit vague about normal behavioral and developmental expectations for children, then you are likely to view certain behaviors as problems when in fact they could be perfectly normal behavior. Trying to use a discipline strategy for a behavior which is age-appropriate will, of course, be totally ineffective.
If you’re reading this blog, then you have some interest in being a better, more effective parent, or you can pass along information to other parents who need to fine-tune their skills. The information is readily available; we all need to continually promote the best ways to discipline children to help deter the negative results that yelling and spanking bring about in children.