If you have watched my video on How to Discipline and Correct Others, you know that effective discipline relies on a bottom-line principle: Use Your Language Disinterestedly!
Disinterest means ‘without bias, open, flexible and neutral in tone or attitude.’
When you are angry at what your child did and you wish to discipline s/he in some manner, your language must show no anger, no dislike nor prejudice. It is so hard to give direction (time out, go to your room, whatever) without showing how upset you are, but when you do show these negative feelings, several bad things happen, none good for you!
One, your harsh words will permanently scar your child. Children never forget what you say. It becomes part of their sub-structure upon which they will build an identity and you have just marred it! Phrases that too often gush from a parent’s lips —‘we’re sick of you!’, ‘are you stupid?’ and ‘what’s the matter with you?’— permanently lodge in the consciousness of the child. Your language is perverting and twisting positive identity growth!
Here’s the problem:when you get upset, unless you are tactically trained, you allow ‘Natural Language’ to flow, revealing your negative feelings. We know from experience that Natural Language is Disastrous!
I define it as saying whatever comes to mind, letting words flow readily and easily from your lips, showing your inner feelings which are always negative in situations of correction.
The opposite use of language is to employ Tactical Language, language tailored and shaped to achieve the goal at hand.Remember, the GOAL of discipline, corrective action, is to make people better! If the goal is positive, the language cannot be negative! Negative, put-down words make positive correction impossible, so your language works against your purpose.No good!
Two, harsh words allow the child to focus on your attitude and escape responsibility for what s/he did.When you show negative feelings, people react by saying, ‘you just don’t like me,’ or ‘you’re unfair,’ in all cases putting the onus back on you because of your failed performance!
The new focus is on how you put it rather than on h/she did! No good!
Three, using harsh words to your child usually ends up with you later apologizing for how or what you said! How many of us have said later, “hey, sorry I yelled or sorry I said X, Y and Z’?Too often.In this example the parent has lost the ‘high road’ of conduct in front of the children. Of course some parents are too proud or blind, or both, to apologize when they should, and the damage is severe and continuing. No good!
Four, using harsh words with your children ruins any chance of you being a good model for them to follow as they grow into adults.Children often ‘become their parents’ and if you have raised them with verbal abuse, they will also become verbal abusers!Perhaps this is one reason Verbal Abuse is the number abuse in the world! No good!
AND, five. When you verbally abuse your children, when you use harsh cutting language to address their occasional errors of behavior, you destroy the greatest advantage of a “Home,” a SAFE PLACE TO FALL!
My wife taught me this lesson. Home should be a safe place to fall, a place where when our children fail, and they will, they fail forward!I so wish someone had told me this years ago!
Lesson? When you discipline, be calm, clear and direct.Address the issue, deliver the correction in unbiased focused language, and when the disciplinary action is over, be sure to sit with your child and go through a REVIEW and REFLECT debrief session. Review with them what happened and why they were disciplined, and allow them reflect on that with you.In this way, even the most difficult behavior problems can become opportunities for you to forge a lasting and deep relationship with your children.A “Caring Watch” must involve skillful parents—be one!
Dr. George Thompson is the founder of the Verbal Judo Institute. He is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Tactical Communication. Although Dr. Thompson has send most of his career training police, he has developed specialized programs for business, educators, parents, and children. Dr. Thompson can be reached at www.VerbalJudo.com