When you educate with connection, you may find a stark contrast between your approach to discipline and the expectations of those around you.
It’s difficult when well-meaning family members, friends, or members of your community step in on disciplinary issues and set hard boundaries on behavior that they find disrespectful.
If this is your experience, you are not alone. In this article, we share seven ideas that can help.
- why Listening is important in becoming an ally for our children
- Hold on to the goodness of others
- Planning ahead makes the journey easier
- Borders and warm borders are important
- Unannounced listening time to others can build relationships and relieve tension
- Getting playful is the quickest way through tough moments
- The goal is loving leadership in difficult moments
Discipline Difficulties: These ideas will help you react when others intervene and set hard boundaries for your child
Listening is important in becoming an ally for our children
When we are faced with criticism in any area, it can be difficult to respond in a way that makes us comfortable – and parenting is an area where it is particularly difficult.
Listening partnerships provide the perfect space for our feelings and allow us to deal more gracefully with the great feelings of our surroundings (both adults and children!).
Bring your thoughts about discipline and misconduct into your listening time.
Working through what it was like for us as children when we “misbehaved” with a good helping of warm attention from a listener can help us become less responsive to our children’s behavior.
It can also help us stand firm in our values in front of others.
It can be difficult to express ourselves when we see “adulthood” or toughness – listening partnerships can give us the confidence to do so.
A great way to process these old feelings is to use the listening time to stand up against the adults who disregarded us as children. For example, you could try saying, ‘How dare you?’ or ‘You will respect me!’ or ‘I don’t deserve to be treated like that!’
Repeating these sentences gives us the opportunity to put aside our difficult feelings by crying, laughing, trembling, sweating, or romping about. In this way, we can grow in our ability to overcome difficult moments while remaining solid allies for our children.
Bring these questions into your listening time and see where they take you:
- If I had acted the way my child did, what would have happened to me?
- How do I wish that my fellow human beings would be / think / act if my child is not on track?
- What does my body do when I have an audience and my child goes off track? Where do I feel the tension?
Hold on to the goodness of others
If we observe negative behavior in our family or community towards children, it hurts! Yet we do what is best for everyone when we can hold on to her goodness and love for our children.
For example, if there are difficult moments related to discipline, we could explain to our children that that person was hurt and that is why they behaved as they did. “I’m sorry Auntie got angry and told you to stop crying. When aunt was young, maybe no one listened to her big feelings, so she’s having a hard time hearing yours.
Providing a fair amount of staylisting for our children is also important – an adequate amount of listening when they have had any bumpy moments with other adults builds resilience and a child’s ability to reconnect.
Plan when and how you want to spend time
You might need to think carefully about how to limit your time with those whose disciplining style is particularly harsh or judgmental.
If you are visiting overnight you may be able to stay in a hotel rather than your home. Or you can arrange a breakfast meeting when your children are at their best in the morning, rather than an evening meeting when everyone is tired.
If you minimize the time you spend together and allow a fair amount of listening time before you are with them, you can show up with clarity, boundaries, and warm acceptance of their good qualities.
Such planning can really help things go more smoothly.
Eliminate discipline issues by showing adults the best of their children
It is also very important that you are clear about how your child is being talked to or treated.
For example, you may need to say something warmly and firmly like:
- Never hit my kids
- ‘Please don’t call him by name, that’s not ok’
This is a hard dance because often these are people who love our children for the rest of the world but may be very rigid in their views on discipline and appropriate behavior by children. Sometimes they can inadvertently be thoughtless about how they treat children.
A simple strategy might be to arrange the logistics so that these adults get the best out of our children. If your little ones fight a lot when they are together, allow them to spend more time with Grandma.
If your child prefers to be outside than in a café where they should sit still for a long time, look for a café with an attached playground.
Fewer opportunities for things to go cloudy, combined with more listening time, means that we can become clear about our limits and set them with warmth.
Unannounced listening time creates warmth and relieves tension
Our family and friends are often full of their own feelings, and your heartfelt listening can help them, even if they are not aware of it at the moment.
Try to start by asking how the week went, then just listen carefully. Or report an urgent problem and give them the time and space to unload. Maintain the feeling that they are doing their best with what they have, even (especially!) When your point of view differs from theirs.
This will go a long way in warming up the clay during your time together.
They can still be harsh when they see our children behaving in what they would call defiant or disrespectful. It can be helpful in these moments to remember that they are bringing their own emotional backpack and early experiences. It also helps to remember how much they love our children and want the best for them.
Respond directly to their doubts as you discipline
Responding to their fears and worries can help alleviate the rigid or stressed feelings that drive their harsh reactions.
Acknowledging difficulties openly and honestly gives the friend or family member an opportunity to relieve their own worries and tensions. After a brief bit of scolding, crying, or just the chance to be heard, it is likely that that person will be more accepted.
For example, if they see your child beating you, you can try saying one of the following:
- “I’m sorry I know that was hard to see”
- “I appreciate your allowing me to deal with this situation”
- “I know that it is hard when they fight physically” “
- “I know you think I should draw my own conclusions in this situation. I understand that it might be difficult to deal with it any other way.”
Read more: What to do if your child has tantrums in public This post shares strategies to help.
With enough time, they may even become an ally to you, but at least your relationship will grow closer if you listen carefully to them.
Getting playful is the quickest way through tough moments
Play and an easy approach effectively signal to others that we are in control. Being playful when our children have lost their way sends a clear message that we are dealing with the situation. It can also be a wonderful way to connect.
“Oh God, Grandma, did you hear that shocking word! I think Polly has a curse bug attack! I’ll get her! ”As we move in for a good cuddle.
“Don’t worry, I know exactly what to do with a boy who uses that tone of voice. It’s time for a … hug ”(and then we hug the child, reach for him when he escapes, and generally follow his giggle).
We can also get in touch with adults and even relieve others of their sense of responsibility they may have regarding discipline by keeping our view of the situation light. Just be careful not to shame or belittle your children in the process.
To do this, connect to the real need behind your child’s behavior. For example, if your child is crying, there is likely to be an alert. When we pick up our screeching three-year-old, you answer this commandment, but for the uncle, who looks at this in horror, you keep things easy: “Oh dear, that was loud. I bet Uncle Joe wants to scream sometimes too … maybe Polly and I can go to a Scream Athon in the back yard, shall we join in, Uncle Joe? No, well, we’ll be back soon! ‘
Loving leadership in difficult moments is our goal
Our goal is to reach a point where we can lead with love in difficult moments.
When others know we are leading, they may not like what we are doing, but they will not feel like they need to stand up and “raise” our children. There will be no need for them to offer discipline.
It is important to send a “I have this” message when other adults may be tempted to step in and set hard boundaries.
As they see the beautiful connection with our children grow and our children’s behavior become less rigid, they may also find that our approach is something for them to be curious about!
How you do that?
Carefully setting a limit with them AND with our child brings loving confidence and gives everyone involved the respect they deserve, with the limits they need.
This is something most of us cannot do easily or overnight, but with enough listening time it is absolutely possible.