During my on-going journey of parenting, I've necessarily been wrestling with my ideas on discipline. It's easy to come up with a plan when they're really little, but a bit different when it comes to putting it into action as they grow, in my opinion. As I've been examining this, the phrase that keeps coming back to me is the “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In fact, this phrase comes back to me with a lot of my parenting decisions, not just discipline. I try to stop and think about whether I would want to be treated in that way. Yes, we need to direct our children, as they don't understand some of the dangers and need to learn how to listen to and respect others, but there are different ways to accomplish that. I also remember wanting that respect as a child. I was much more likely to do something without complaint if I were asked instead of told, for I then felt that my parents respected me enough to ask. That doesn't mean that all those things were optional (they weren't), but that respect was still there, and I appreciated, and still appreciate, that.
So how does this work in practise? Well, for one it means that I try to look at the “why” behind the “what” when it comes to my children's behaviour. Why is my son screaming? Is it just because he's tired and hungry? Well, I can fix that easily enough and then talk to him about it. Why is my daughter getting into things she shouldn't? Is it because she needs my attention but wasn't getting it? I can fix that. Why isn't my son picking up his toys? Does he just not want to do so? Then I can talk to him and explain that it's important to pick up toys before moving on to the next task and tell him that I need his help to do it. If that doesn't work, I can explain that we can't go outside or do whatever activity he wanted until we've picked up the toys, which will usually motivate him. Now, I'm not talking about coercion or bribing, but explaining that our actions have consequences and that we are in charge of how we act, but we also have to accept the consequences. I see a lot of myself in my kids' stubbornness, so perhaps that helps me a bit.
Following the Golden Rule also means that I apologise to them when I've done something wrong. If I've raised my voice or have gotten cross with them over a trifling matter, then I admit that I was wrong and ask their forgiveness. I'm trying to teach them that this respect goes both ways, and also modelling how I want them to act.
Now, I'm not perfect, and I don't have all the answers. I'm still learning every day, for each day is a step into the unknown. That being said, I think it important to continue to strive to parent with respect, to parent by following the Golden Rule.