The latest Supreme Court decision appears to reaffirm the rites of adults (parents and teachers) and to ignore the right of children to be protected from bodily injury. As we indicated in Pediatric Annals last month, discipline and punishment are not synonymous, and there are viable disciplinary alternatives to corporal and other negative forms of punishment. They all involve the enhancement of inner discipline by:
1. Structuring the environment.
2. Dividing chores.
3. Setting up cooperative activities.
4. Providing age- and situation-appropriate activities.
5. Providing face-saving outlets.
6. Listening and watching for cues to feelings, needs, and values.
7. Setting appropriate limits and "no's" (limiting action but not feelings).
8. Providing models for inner discipline (self-discipline) by offering viable, realistic alternatives.
9. Reinforcing desirable behavior and activity (ignoring or discouraging the undesirable).
10. Involving the child in healthy family dynamics - minimizing double-bind situations, hidden agenda, scapegoating, acting out, and unconscious control - by encouraging "active listening" and "I'm okay, you're okay" methods as taught in current parent education programs.
The themes behind this approach are:
1. Separate feelings from actions in limit-setting.
2. Encourage comfortable controls from within.
3. Build self-esteem in child and parent.
4. Keep in mind that how parents feel about themselves is probably the most important determinant of their child's behavior and development.
In the following article, Dr. Foster describes an important technique and strategy for helping parents enhance discipline.