Mindful Discipline

Research shows an authoritarian style of raising your child can obtain short term compliance but doesn’t lead to healthy, sustainable self-discipline. It is suggested authoritative styles need to be limited for the sake of the youngster’s long-term growth and self-sufficiency. It is also suggested, in a book entitled, “Mindful Discipline”, by Shauna Shapiro, PhD, and Chris White, MD, that authoritative styles may have children experiencing life as a threat, or that the child may learn to respond to situations only through rigid application of the rules. And, finally the authors tell us this style “may interfere with your child’s internal guidance system and emotional intelligence.”

As parent or mentor, we face the undeniable struggle between fear and love. Do we surrender to judgment and reactivity, or do we trust our intuitive self to guide our children? Certainly, deep inside every parent’s heart, is the wisdom and compassion needed to nourish a child. But, sometimes the circumstances can be so uncomfortable that strategies are necessary.

Shapiro and White suggest many mindfulness activities you can do to support the development of self-discipline in your child. It’s a conscious discipline the parent can do, and a way of training the mind, heart, and body to be fully present with life. “A mindful parent is one who is committed to practicing being present and awake, and to listening deeply to the child, moment by moment, noticing things without reacting.” The authors suggest 10 to 15 minutes of mindfulness exercises per day, which would help you to discipline your child with authority, consistency, love, and skill because doing the exercise helps you to see clearly where guidance, limit setting and boundaries are appropriate in any given moment. It also helps you to clarity your values and intentions as well as increases your capacity for attunement and empathy.

One exercise they suggest is what’s called informal mindfulness. You start by making a conscious intention to wash the dishes, as an example. You do this with curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love as you perform the task. You feel the soap and water on your hands, the weight of the plate you are holding, hear the sounds as the water splashes about. Notice how your body feels, and ask yourself if you are in the present moment. How does your mind feel? What emotions and thoughts are running through your head? Be aware of your breath. By washing dishes in this way, with this type of awareness or by engaging in any activity in this way, you are actually training the mind and body in mindfulness. You are strengthening your capacity to be present for yourself, for your children and for life.

Check out the book, “How To Raise Kids you Want to Keep: Proven Discipline Program Your Kids Will Love” by Jerry R. Day, EdD, as another good reference.


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