Hi, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy the Daily Buddhism. I have recently taken my dedication to Buddhism seriously. But sadly, I am having a hard time bringing it to my parenting particularly with discipline. I can hug, hold, listen etc. with 100% of my being but I am still struggling with disciplining my children in a “KIND” way. I was wondering if you could help me with this?
Any info would be of great help.
First, let me point out that I am not a parent, so this is an entirely unqualified opinion on the subject– take all that follows with a skeptical grain of salt.
I’m not a parent, but do babysit my niece and nephew fairly often. My niece is calm and quiet and she hangs on my every word, eager to please. My nephew, however, lives in his own little world, quite often babbling so much that even he doesn’t know what he’s saying or doing; it’s very hard to get his attention sometimes without yelling. I often feel bad about yelling, even though I know full well that there’s no other way to get his attention. I’d never dream of hitting him, but I often feel bad about just raising my voice. I can certainly imagine what it must be like dealing with this kind of thing on a daily basis.
Discipline has its place, but you already know that. The problem is that with discipline of any kind, the child cries, pouts, or otherwise displays ‚Äúhurt.‚Äù We feel bad because we have ‚Äúhurt‚Äù the child. I don’t mean physical hurting, I mean displeasure at not getting their way or maybe shame/guilt at being reprimanded. Yet, even with something like a time-out, standing in the corner, or losing a toy for the day, the crying begins.
Is that a bad thing? You are in fact creating suffering for the child. Surely that cannot be a good thing. On the other hand, think of the alternative to proper discipline. We’ve all been in stores and seen someone else’s little monsters acting up while their parents ignore them; we comment that ‚Äúmy child would never act like that.‚Äù Why wouldn’t your children act like that? Discipline. Eventually, children learn social rules and will behave appropriately on their own, but is that the case for very young children? No. Children are in many ways, “primitive.” They understand fear. Fear of what disobeying means. Fear (and in a Buddhist sense, suffering) can be a valuable learning tool. We learn not to do those things which cause suffering.
Again, I am one of those pacifist people who absolutely advocates not hitting, beating, slapping, or anything like that, but I do believe that children need to fear discipline, or they have no reason to obey. I’m talking about young children, maybe ages 3-7. Beyond that point, they should be able to behave on their own, but even then, they are about to make the occasional mistake. Although terrorizing your children isn’t going to be productive, a bit of healthy fear (maybe respect is a better word) is going to help them learn, and is, in the long run, a good thing.
You state in your question that you want to do ‚Äúkind‚Äù discipline, which I am interpreting to be ‚Äúdiscipline without the tears.‚Äù I’m not sure that there is such a thing. Discipline is always going to go against the child’s wishes, and that’s always going to result in tears and “suffering.”
I hope that some kind reader who is also a parent will chime in here and offer some advice from experience!
Book: Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
Book: Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children