What’s The Point? (Of Discipline)

What’s The Point? (Of Discipline)

Mom Yelling

Joan just wanted to relax. She picked up her favorite book and got into bed. She had just told her 12 year old daughter Brittany to clean her room. Five minutes later her daughter starts a huge drama scene. Brittany started slamming doors and went into Joan’s room and started screaming,

“You hate me. You want to ruin my life. You are so mean”.

Joan tried to calm her down but Brittany cranked up the drama. She took Joan’s antique vase and threw it at her mirror, which shattered both the vase and the mirror. This level of drama went on for hours.

Joan, pushed to the edge, lost it. She screamed louder than Brittany and literally dragged her kicking and screaming into her room. (We’ve all been there.)

The next week Joan came in to my office. I asked her what was Brittany’s consequence and she just stared at me.

After some silence she told me that she forgot to give Brittany a consequence.

Here’s the deal. Yelling at your daughter feels like a consequence but it isn’t. In fact, Joan admitted that later that weekend she agreed to let Brittany have a friend over to spend the night and they went shopping the next day.

What did Brittany learn from all of this?

She learned that if she has a big enough fit, she doesn’t have to clean her room, she can have a friend spend the night, and go shopping.

In other words Joan ended up rewarding Brittany for her bad behavior.

1. What’s the point?

Years ago, when I was a rookie therapist, I saw a young frustrated mother who had four small children. I was horrified at how she disciplined her kids. She would go into a rage and was out of control when she spanked her kids. Child Protective Services had been called in and she was required to go to therapy.

During one of our sessions I told her that she should not spank her kids when she was angry. (Now I thought this was common sense, again I was a rookie.) I will never forget her reply.

She said, “Then what’s the point?” (Wow, she was serious.) But actually this is a great question.

What’s the point of discipline?

It’s not about…

  • Punishing for punishing’s sake. I’m going to make her pay.
  • Getting your anger out so you can feel better. I’m going to take her down.
  • Making your daughter suffer. She’ll be sorry when I’m finished with her.
  • Giving up on her. I’m done with her. I don’t care what happens to her.
    She’s made her bed now she has to lie in it.
  • Letting her know how much she hurt you or stresses you out. Don’t you know what you are putting me through? You are driving me crazy.
  • Telling her everything you have ever done for her. You do this to me after I cook for you, take you shopping, and help you study.

These mindsets disempower both you and your daughter.

Here’s the point.

When your daughter makes a mistake, instead of asking, “How could she do this to me?” ask yourself, “What does my daughter need?” Though it looks different, your daughter needs you just as much as when she was a toddler.

It gets confusing because she looks like an adult. But despite her great cognitive ability and developed body, she is very much a work in progress with her undeveloped prefrontal cortex, concrete thinking and unstable hormones. YES, your daughter needs your guidance, love, and protection, especially when you consider the dangerous combo of a developed body with the faulty brakes of the undeveloped prefrontal cortex.

When your daughter makes mistakes, poor decisions, and demonstrates negative behavior, your daughter needs you to step in.

Your daughter’s mistake or negative behavior tells you what she needs.

For example:

  • If your daughter is makes C’s and D’s in school, she needs more structure and accountability to get her work done.
  • If she loses control and curses at you, she needs to learn how to calm down, take personal responsibility and make amends.
  • If she throws her phone across the room and it breaks, she needs to earn money and replace her phone.
  • If your daughter gets drunk at a party and drives home, the car gets taken away. She needs more constraints and accountability.

When your daughter makes a mistake, ask yourself this question.

Does my daughter need–

  • more structure
  • stricter boundaries
  • more accountability
  • extra help
  • to take personal responsibility and make amends
  • to experience the natural or logical consequence of her behavior
  • to slow down
  • to learn how to calm down

The point of your “discipline” is to empower her with the life skills needed to live a successful life.

Here’s another way to say it.

You are giving your daughter the missing puzzle pieces for her to have healthy relationships and live her destiny.

If this feels overwhelming, don’t worry I can help. I decided that I am going to offer my Power Your Parenting Program this summer starting June 10th. Interested– let me know and I’ll send you info.

  • Jackie Jones

    Will Power Your Parenting Program be online or a seminar somewhere?

    May 28, 2013 at 12:29 pm
  • Colleen,

    This is a great article, thank you. I’ve heard of “let the punishment fit the crime”, but the notion of identifying our kids’ needs through their behavior is a great idea. I think sometimes in our frustration and even anger over our kids’ behavior we are so focused on making sure they are disciplined that we lose sight of why they are acting out, and just ground them from their phones and Facebook.

    I plan to share this at some point on my Whatever Girls web site, and I’ll be sure to include the blurb from your newsletter. Thank you for making that an available resource.

    May 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

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