National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Happy to Be Disciplined?

Family Matters

BY Dr. Ray Guarendi

October 23-November 5, 2011 Issue | Posted 10/14/11 at 2:16 PM

 

My daughter, 7, sings or draws pictures with her fingers when I sit her in the corner. What do you do with a child who seems happy when she is disciplined?

Just because Melody sings during discipline doesn’t mean the discipline isn’t working. It means that Melody is making the best of an inharmonious situation, and that’s an admirable characteristic for anybody, child or adult, to cultivate.

I’m pretty sure your daughter doesn’t enjoy the corner. If she did, periodically she’d mosey over there on her own just to sing and draw a few finger pictures. I’m also pretty sure that the only time she visits the corner is at your request or command.

Much to their frustration, parents routinely believe that for a consequence to work, kids have to be bothered or upset about it. Not so. By its very nature, disciplining needs time (lots of it) to get its message across. Consequences typically have to be repeated hundreds, if not thousands, of times. In your situation, the cumulative impact of the corner is what will make it work.

A child’s reaction to discipline, generally, is not a good indicator of whether you’re on the right track. While Spike makes his discipline obvious to anyone within a three-mile radius, Bliss apathetically shrugs you off with an “I don’t care” style. In fact, apathy is a favorite kid reaction to discipline. Your daughter has just elevated apathy to a happier plane.

The best gauge of whether discipline will be successful is not a child’s short-term attitude toward it, but her behavior in the long term.

Dr. Ray Guarendi is a clinical psychologist, speaker

and author of You’re a Better Parent Than You Think! and Back to the Family.