When you hear “discipline” do you think “punishment?” Most people do…the meaning has been altered from its original form. The true meaning of discipline is “to learn” or “to teach” which came from the Latin disciplina. We know that for children to learn why behaving positively is important is better than teaching that if they don’t that something negative will occur.
The traditional view of discipline is that our children behave because they learn to be scared of us. This creates not only disruption in the parent-child relationship, but emotional pain. We don’t have to teach them to be scared of us in order to behave. One of the major problems with using punishment as discipline is that children learn extremal motivation (to behave through fear of being punished) instead of internal motivation (to behave because they are motivated to behave). You see, punishment robs children of critical thinking—they comply to our wishes out of fear instead of understanding the reasons why positive behavior is important. In my work with helping adults process their childhood, I’ve heard “My parents called it discipline, but I now know it was abuse” so many times. Traditional discipline risks our children feeling as though they have been abused. When we are overly tired and our children are afraid of us, our yelling out of exasperation can be interpreted as abusive. In many countries, spanking is illegal and considered abusive. Why risk our children experiencing discipline as abuse when there are better ways of promoting positive behavior.
The trouble is that punishment works (so does bribery) but only in the short-term. When children are raised with punishment, when they come of age to begin to question the behavior of their parents (often just before the teen years), they no longer will tolerate a threats and respond with extra rebellion and defiance. However, when children are raised with internal motivation and critical thinking, the teenage years are much less rocky for everyone and the parent-child relationship endures successfully.
Another issue with punishment is that when we are in a state of anger, we are likely to botch the discipline process, and punish more than we intended. This is often where yelling comes in. I’ve met with so many parents whose primary parenting goal is to stop yelling, yet when punishment continues to be used, this goal is almost impossible. The truth is that we can only respond to our children (or anyone for that matter) appropriately when we are in a neutral state. As parents, it is our obligation to not become triggered by our children no matter what they did to provoke us.
So, what should I do, you ask? I find that the simplest solutions are the most helpful: when deciding on discipline, ask yourself this: will what I say increase or decrease the connection with my child? If it lessens your connection with your child, don’t do it. The first rule of raising children consciously is to prioritize the relationship. Positive behavior is the result of a positive relationship.
Often, there is a misperception that relationship-based parenting means permissive parents who never say “no” to their kids. In fact, the kind of relationship we are going for is a balanced, honest, loving and safe relationship, not an unhealthy relationship. Funny enough, this parent-child relationship that psychologists have found to develop incredible children also happens to look a lot like the relationship that psychologists have found makes the best marriages. Ideally, the relationship we want to have with our children is much like the relashipships we want to have in our life in general. These relationships are based on authenticity, feel inherently safe, allow for mistakes and are mostly drama-free. These relationships have love at their core and don’t need manipulation. These relationships allow us to be our best selves. The same is true for parent-child relationships.
Generally, most parents fall into three parenting styles: Permissive, Democratic (also called Authoritative), or Punitive (also called Authoritarian). Permissive parents are very loving but have few rules or guidelines. Punitive parents are very “do it or else” and Democratic parents, which Jane Nelsen describes in her book on Positive Discipline, as “kind and firm.”
Again and again, Democratic parenting styles have been shown to be the best approach to raising children. Democratic parenting is related to higher self esteem and life satisfaction. The democratic approach has also been found to positively influence social competence and social and emotional skills.
Sounds great on paper, but if you were raised with a too permissive or overly punitive parenting style it can be hard to find the middle ground on your own. Most who know that the way they were raised was not ideal tend to sway too much in the opposite direction: children that were raised with too much fear, tend to be permissive parents, parents that were raised too permissive or neglected tend to be either too strict or overly involved. It can be hard to find the middle ground alone yet raising children isn’t something that has to be guessed at. We know what works and what doesn’t.
The Myth of Punishment
When we punish our children, yell at them, spank them, scold them, shame them, or lecture them, it creates fear, not learning. The brain gets flooded with stress hormones and cannot process our attempts at teaching. Best to wait at least a few hours after. When humans are scared, they cannot learn! “Tough love” creates fear, distance and resentment. In teens, parents often use the idea of “tough love” thinking that they should “know better” by now. But teens, need our connection more than ever. It’s hard enough to connect with teens but when we use “tough love” with them it creates isolation from who they need to rely on the most : their parents.
But What About Rewards?
The problem with rewards is they don’t help children learn to be responsible because the parent is the one monitoring. Rewards take away a child’s potential for feeling good about their accomplishments and their ability to feel capable. Instead of teaching children how good it feels to behave considerately to others and to achieve on their own, rewards teach children focus on “what’s in it for me.” Rewards rarely produce lasting changes in behavior. When the rewards stop, children often go back to behaving the same way they did before the reward. Research has also shown that children whose parents make frequent use of rewards tend to be less generous than their peers
Rewards also produce less quality work. People expecting to receive a reward for completing a task (or for doing it successfully) simply do not perform as well as those who expect nothing
Alfie Kohn has been researching this predicament for decades. His essay “The Risks of Rewards” explains “There are several plausible explanations for this puzzling but remarkably consistent finding. The most compelling of these is that rewards cause people to lose interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing. This phenomenon, has been demonstrated in scores of studies.”
One of the reasons why I feel that the most connected parents and teachers end up rewarding their children and students is because rewards make us feel good. It’s kind of like giving ice cream to a child. It makes you feel good to share it with them but you know it’s bad for them.
The Myth of Being Permissive
Just as parenting with threats and punishments can be harmful, likewise, parenting with few rules or guidelines can also be scarring. A child is taught that relationships have no boundaries and that love means you can do what you want to do without regard for others. I began my parenting journey on the too permissive side. Just like every parent cliche, the pendulum was swinging far on the opposite for me. In the beginning, I avoided saying “no” when my daughter was a small child at all costs. When she would ask for more candy I would offer her a fruit. When she would ask for a toy, I would distract her with a bird outside the toy store. Looking back, I can see this was just a form of fear of conflict that was completely unconscious. I was teaching the balanced kind and firm way of discipline but my subconscious fears kept arising. In my childhood, it was not safe to disagree and so my permissiveness with her was a form of avoiding a feeling I had not yet learned to resolve. What a gift she gave me. I was able to see that my fear of conflict was teaching her to avoid conflict. By the time her brother came around four years later she had taught me to be comfortable saying “no” and I finally was able to update my programming away from what worked for me as a child (to avoid conflict) to a healthier relationship (to be direct in communication). If I hadn’t been open to that lesson, my daughter may have grown up in a passive state, accepting what was given to her instead of communicating her needs directly. So you see that being too permissive can create future suffering.
Bill Gates is surprisingly strict about his kids' tech use — and it should be a red flag for the rest of us (from Business Insider)
For all his success in designing world-changing technology, Bill Gates has set surprisingly strict rules for how his kids can use that technology, the billionaire philanthropist has said in multiple interviews.
"You're always looking at how it can be used in a great way — homework and staying in touch with friends — and also where it has gotten to excess," Gates told the Mirror in April 2017.
Each of Gates' three kids — ages 15, 18, and 21 — has grown up in a home that forbade cell phones until age 14, banned cell-phone use at the dinner table, and set limits on how close to bedtime kids could use their phones.
Gates told the Mirror his kids routinely complained that other kids were getting phones much earlier, but the pleas did nothing to change the policy. In a separate interview with Matt Lauer, then at the Today Show, Gates said he doesn't go as far as keeping the passwords to his kids' Facebook accounts, but that online safety is "a very tricky issue for parents now."
Smartphone overuse — or "addiction," according to some psychology experts — is becoming a growing concern for parents, academics, and even workers in Silicon Valley. Gates has some company in his old-school approaches to smartphone regulation: Steve Jobs, the famed Apple CEO and inventor of the iPad in 2011, didn't let his kids use the product at home.
"We limit how much technology our kids use at home," Jobs told New York Times reporter Nick Bilton shortly after the iPad's release.
According to educators Joe Clement and Matt Miles, coauthors of the recent book "Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse is Making Our Kids Dumber," it should be telling that people like Gates set strict rules on tech use.
"What is it these wealthy tech executives know about their own products that their consumers don't?" the authors wrote.
The answer, according to a growing body of evidence, is the addictive power of digital technology. In the past several months, a slew of Silicon Valley executives have denounced the all-consuming power of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter in capturing users' attention through their products and platforms.
"It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other," Napster founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker told Axios in November. "It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways."
The most recent sign people are turning against the Silicon Valley giants: Two of Apple's largest shareholders, who collectively hold a $2 billion stake in the company, wrote an open letterexpressing concern for what Apple products are doing to kids' brains.
"We have reviewed the evidence," wrote the shareholders, Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, "and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner."
by Jennifer Johnston-Jones, Ph.D.
Do you hear yourself say "I have to…" or " If I had/did this, then I would…." ?
If you responded yes, it's a sign that you may be suffering from "Unaware of Your True Power Disorder." It’s a kind of mental disease that is contagious and often starts when we are young. We are told “you have to….” We are brainwashed that we have no choices, no power, that life “happens to us” instead of seeing the truth: that we create life.
Fortunately, creating a life you love is simpler than one would imagine. with highly effective results which will transform your subconscious mind so that, with little effort, your life will begin to transform, like a flower blooming in spring, slowly, one petal at a time, just as nature intended.
The cure for "Unaware of Your True Power Disorder” is a special kind of homemade soup, taken daily, made with these three ingredients:
1. Measured doses of Intentional Decisions
Every day you make thousands of micro decisions and a few macro ones. The micro decisions, while often overlooked, become the foundation for your subconscious mind’s understanding of choice. Herein lies great power. Here is what I want you to do: think about your day from start to finish, from the time you decide to wake, to what you decide to think about first thing in the morning, to what you decide to think when you look in the mirror, to what you decide to wear, to what time you decide to break your fast, to what kind of food you decide to nourish your body with, to whom you decide to speak to, to what you decide to think of them, to what you decide to speak aboout, and so on…. As you can see, the emphasis is on the verb decide. The point is, in making these often habitual and unaware decisions intentional, great change will begin to take place. Every micro decision you make accumulates into your daily life. This requires subtle and minimal effort, but measured doses throughout the day.
Yet, the most important and most powerful micro decision you can make is choosing how you feel. To be honest, this is my absolutely favorite teaching that the field of psychology has given us: that feelings are a choice. No one is forcing you to be low energy, disconnected, or irritated--it is a choice you are making. Obviously, no one wishes to feel this way and often the choice to feel this way comes unconsciously as a result of feeling unloved, like you are lacking, and most importantly, that people and life have power over you. To transform these unconscious beliefs doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple practices such as what you think when you are falling asleep and when you first wake can create dramatic shifts in consciousness.
We process stress when we sleep, therefore, if you go to bed thinking about the things in your day that brought you simple joy--even something as simple as the great relief and comfort of laying on a soft bed, your brain will shift and patterns of positive thinking will emerge.
2. A Sprinkle of Possibility Mindset
A Possibility Mindset is a way of thinking that allows freedom--the essential block for creating a life you love. Like a cake without baking powder, your life will not rise up unless you add a sprinkle of possibility and freedom. The Possibility Mindset releases you from your unintended self-built prision to take you to a land of magic.
Your Possibility Mindset will naturally grow as you cook your Intentional Decisions (above). But there is something else you can do that is essential in relesing you from your prision. I call it A plus A and it’s my favorite equation. You take a possitive affirmation (e.g., I am getting healthier every day) and add an action to prove that this is true (you drink one green juice a day). It’s important that your action is an easily achievable one and that your affirmation is precise. For example, if your affirmation was “I am healthy,” your mind would argue with you about a generic globilization and it will lose its efficacy. Or worse, if you have an affirmation with no action to back it up, your mind will certainly not be fooled. We’ve learned since the 80s and 90s that transformations rely on data. Affirmations without actions are simply bad math. So, what does A + A=? A Possibility Mindset. And the best part is, once you begin to see the effects of A + A, you will see the sky is the limit.
Broth of Everyday Joy mixed with a Practice of Loving Everyone
Everyday joy mixed with a practice of loving everyone is the most fun skill to practice. It requires you to see the world as a happy child and find connection in people. It is incredibly rewarding and leads to my next favorite teaching in interpersonal psychology and neurology: what we feel about others is what we feel about ourself. Simple as that!
So, you can see the importance of finding love for everyone--from the grocery clerk to that person who absolutely rubs you the wrong way. Mirror neurons, the powerful forces of projection, repression, and denial are some of the forces that come into play here.
Relationships are a mirror. Everytime we have a negative feeling about someone, it infiltrates into our psyche and creates poison. One effective tool for releasing the power that negative behavior from others can have on you is to use the “Empathic Hook.” It’s a tool that was taught to me in graduate school when I was working with someone who sexually abused children. I was told that I had to create a positive relationship with this man and I thought it would be impossible based on his past behavior.
The “Empathic Hook” pulls you into people through empathy--that is, finding areas where you relate, connect and understanding the person’s pain. After about a month working with this man, his stories helped me to release my judgement and love him despite his behavior--and this became the basis for his healing. I now use this with everyone in my life. Whenever I feel negatively about someone, I imagine what they must have gone through to have such behavior and I look deeply into them to see them as a wounded child. With closer relationships, I will inquire more about their history or how they view the world. I also remind myself tht trauma is relative. Just because someone grew up priviledged doesn’t mean that they didn’t expereince pain.
Finally, there’s everyday joy. Can you remember when you were a child and how the simple forces of nature amazed you? Bring that thinking back...life is magical, amazing, and overwhelminglt beautiful when we really see it as it is.
Cook these ingredients every day, in warm and comfortable temperatures and you will be astonished at the miracles that happen.
I would love to hear all about how this recipe works for you! Let me know via Twitter: @DrJenniferJones
Parenting From The Inside Out by Dan Siegel
My absolute favorite all-time read and definitely the most influential book for me as a mother. I interviewed Dan Siegel last year (see "Videos with Psychology Rock Stars" under Categories on this page). He is a hero of mine and I was gushing a bit. He is brilliant and has helped marry the fields of psychology and neurology to help us all gain wider wisdom.
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
An in-your-face informational and research-based book about the hidden consequences of traditional discipline and absolutely a must-read for every parent wishing not to psychologically scar their children!
Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Po and Ashley did an excellent job of taking some of the best psychological research that applies to parenting and summing it up here for you.
by Dr. Jennifer Jones www.DrJennifer.com
It’s the morning of the election. I just cast my ballot. I rarely cry but find myself in tears this morning. My tears are joyful and full of hope for possibility and yet sorrowful for the separation and anger that has surfaced. I use the word “surfaced” when describing the divisiveness of our country where others use the word “created” because these feelings weren’t created, they were in us all along. These powerful feelings of anger, hate, apathy, judgment, and fear, didn’t just appear out of nowhere. They have been with us for a while, possibly since our childhoods. It is unresolved trauma that we are unaware of.
I’m thrilled the election is heated and that it’s divisive. It means things are changing, progress is being made, and most importantly, that people are done being victimized. Anger is a great tool to move out of depression, sadness, and apathy.
We are an angry country who are un-friending each other or much worse (on Facebook and in real relationships), won’t consider an alternative view and hold onto our anger because it gives us a sense of possibility.
But what now? How do we heal, how do we move on in a productive, peaceful and conscious way so we don’t add to the unconscious trauma that brought this about in the first place?
As approximately 89% of adults in the world are parents, we have an incredible opportunity to heal through our relationship with our child. Two important pieces of psychological knowledge that will help us heal:
1. We unconsciously project ourselves onto our children more than any other relationship.
2. We are most annoyed in others that which is not healed in ourselves.
Therefore, our children become like a mirror to us. If you find yourself angry, annoyed, yelling, or being sarcastic with your child, it is a sign that you have not healed yourself.
We can use our relationship with our children to help us to practice tolerance, patience, acceptance, and non-violence. When we feel the need to punish, control or manipulate our children, it is often out of unconscious, or often conscious fear. Instead of feeding the fear by distancing the relationship, the task is to connect to the child and do our best to investigate the potential source of the behavior.
We can apply this practice to those who voted for the opposite political party. Instead of judging them and seeing them as different, less than, arrogant, ignorant, or worse, we can look for the potential source of their behavior, be mindful of our anger and fear and look to connect rather than punish.
And also, just like the relationship with our children, there is a window for healing. If we wait until they are adults to try to connect, the chances are much lower of obtaining an authentic connection.
In our relationships with others from the opposite political party, since the wounds are still fresh, we have a unique opportunity at this very moment in time to heal trauma, heal division and see that we have more in common than we realize.
So, the next time you are in a conversation with someone from the opposite political party, instead of falling for the more primitive, reptilian trap of looking for differences between you, go toward the executive functioning part of your brain and think about why that person is feeling the way they are.
If you are a Clinton supporter and the person you are talking to is a Trump supporter, think about the psychology behind why that person is voting for Trump—perhaps they have fear of immigrants, fear of losing/missing out. Perhaps they have felt bullied at some point in their lives and prefer to ally themselves with someone who they feel can protect them. Perhaps they have experienced poverty and have fear of returning to poverty or wish to become wealthy.
Likewise, If you are a Trump supporter and the person you are talking to is a Clinton supporter, think about the psychology behind why that person is voting for Clinton—are they a woman or a minority? Perhaps they have experienced sexism or discrimination. Perhaps Clinton represents an opportunity for them or their daughters that they didn’t think was possible before.
And there are, of course, a thousand other legitimate reasons why good people vote for candidates from the opposite party. The bottom message is: look into their suffering before you judge. Just as you would benefit from with your children—look into their suffering, their reasons for acting out before you punish or judge.
Because ultimately, relationships are the key to healing and compassion is at the core. Practicing deeper viewing and compassion with our children and applying it to our relationships with the other adults we meet in our life can have ripple-like effects in healing the trauma of the election and the state of our world in general.
Dr. Jennifer Johnston-Jones is a renowned psychologist and expert in Transformational Parenting and the Science of Success. Read more about the magic of Transformational Parenting at www.DrJennifer.com
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Way before Eckhart Tolle, there was Ram Dass, a Harvard Psychologist who went to India, became enlightened and is credited for bringing Eastern perspective into Western thinking. I interviewed him in his home on Maui, Hawaii last year and was in awe of his ability to connect, and just be loving kindness. Check out the interview, in the "Videos With Psychology Rock-Stars" category on this page and more importantly, read the book!
Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine
Trauma is everywhere, whether you were abused or not, we all have experienced trauma. It manifests though obesity, heart conditions, cancer, anxiety, mental illness, and has us working in survival mode, from the reptilian part of our brain instead of from an enlightened and conscious place. This book sums up some of what psychologists are taught and should be essential reading for everyone.
The Law of Attraction by Ester and Jerry Hicks
Hear me out, it comes off as a bit airy-fairy-like as the whole introduction is about the author channeling a being from another dimension. But regardless of your spiritual beliefs, the information is spot-on and the messaging now proving to be scientifically accurate. My favorite quote from the book "You are a creator, and the subject of your creation is your joyful experience. That is your mission. That is your quest. That is why you are here."
Jennifer Johnston-Jones, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and executive director of Roots & Wings Institute for Personal Growth and Family Excellence. In addition, she keynotes conferences and conducts workshops for parents, educators and clinicians. Dr. Johnston-Jones lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two children whom she adores.
Dr. Jennifer Jones, renowned psychologist, shares her thoughts, favorite articles, and favorite resources here