The best opportunity to communicate often occurs after punishment.
Nothing brings a parent and child closer together than for the mother or father to win decisively after being defiantly challenged. This is particularly true if the child was "asking for it," knowing full well that he deserved what he got. The parent's demonstration of his authority builds respect like no other process, and the child will often reveal his affection when the emotion has passed. For this reason, the parent should not dread or shrink back from these confrontations with the child. These occasions should be anticipated as important events, because they provide the opportunity to say something to the child that cannot be said at other times. It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely. After the emotional ventilation, the child will often want to crumple to the breast of his parent, and he should be welcomed with open, warm, loving arms. At that moment you can talk heart to heart. You can tell him how much you love him, and how important he is to you. You can explain why he was punished and how he can avoid the difficulty next time. This kind of communication is not made possible by other disciplinary measures, including standing the child in the corner or taking away his firetruck.
I was attempting to teach the art of good discipline to the mother of a fifteen-month-old girl, and she related an incident to me which illustrates the desired outcome. Suzie decided she didn't want to mind her mother, Mrs. Butler, when told not to run out the back door. It was sprinkling and Mrs. Butler did not want her to go outside because she was barefoot. Suzie's mother went out to get some firewood and told her to wait in the doorway. The child knew the meaning of the command because she learned to talk quite early; nevertheless, she came toddling across the patio. Mrs. Butler caught her and took her back, giving the same order more sternly. As soon as her back was turned, Suzie ran out again. On the third trip, her mother stung her little legs a few times with a switch. After the tears had subsided, Mrs. Butler was putting the firewood in the fireplace when Suzie came to her and reached out her arms, saying "Love, mommie." She gathered her child tenderly in her arms, of course, and rocked her for fifteen minutes, talking softly about the importance of obedience.
Parental warmth after punishment is essential to demonstrate to the child that it was his behavior, and not the child himself, that the parent rejected. William Glasser, the father of Reality Therapy, made this distinction very clear when he described the difference between discipline and punishment. "Discipline" is directed at the objectionable behavior, and the child will accept its consequences without resentment. By contrast, he defined punishment as a response that is directed at the individual. As such it is deeply resented by the child; punishment is the parent's personal thrust at the child; it is a desire of one person to hurt another; it is an expression of hostility rather than corrective love. When authorities talk about the emotional dangers of corporal punishment (spanking), they fail to discriminate between these two important approaches. Although Glasser's definition of the term punishment has not been applied throughout this book, the concept he has conveyed is of the greatest importance. Unquestionably, there is a wrong way to correct a child, and a major recurring error at this point can make a youngster feel unloved, unwanted, and insecure. One of the best guarantees against these misinterpretations is a loving conclusion to the disciplinary session.
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