When Discipline Styles Can Have Major Community Impact

As one who deals with all kinds of issues in the community, I hear stories of teenagers and adults who have found themselves in extremely difficult circumstances. So, I have become particularly aware of how discipline styles (or lack of healthy discipline) can have a major impact on a whole community.

Parents: shameful “not good enough messages” and overindulgence are unhealthy discipline styles

Children need effective discipline to grow up emotionally and relationally healthy
Children need effective discipline to grow up emotionally and relationally healthy

We all need to be careful in our judgment of parents, as most parents I know are doing the best that they can. However, contrary to parents’ efforts, society wallops our youth with overwhelming exposure to pervasive violence, harmful drugs, permeating and often confusing social media, music with powerful negative messages…an overall relentless and depressive droning.

We certainly need strong positive counter-messages to encourage appropriate boundaries, assure hope and lend structure to the lives of our children.

So many struggles with our kids begin with a simple message of how we are going to handle negative situations, and those messages evoke potential to impact the community significantly when we do.

In one of my former posts, I surfaced how shame plays a significant role in violent behavior.

This post described research based in a prison system in Connecticut. The warden took on a project in which he tracked the nature of violence to a shame-based home. His findings were overwhelmingly significant: those who were violent had a background of shame that developed from the most basic of issues in their family. They also experienced violence and punishment as a means of discipline in their homes.

Many adults who have shared their family legacies with me admitted the prevalence of the “not good enough” principle.

This past-generation parenting philosophy seemed to be regarded as a means of motivation. Sadly, no matter what the child did, a negative comment was usually added to any affirmation (if an affirmation was even given when the child tried to do what he/she was supposed to do). Children who received this kind of discipline have led a lifelong pursuit of “trying to be good enough.” Their efforts of extreme attempts to be successful have led to devastating results in careers, personal and family lives.

Reliving those “trying to be good enough”parenting message moments can place people in dire circumstances because a legacy of faulty core beliefs “voice” that they can never be good enough; so, they feel they deserve the punishments they are receiving.

I also see overindulgence as a disciplinary style.

These are parenting situations where boundaries and rules are either vague or nonexistent. It is almost as if the children have free reign, until behavior is so disruptive and destructively entitled that the broader community has to deal with the results. At that point, parents usually become angry at the consequences.

Overindulgence is not a helpful discipline style
Overindulgence is not a helpful discipline style

Lack of clarity about discipline or limits can make children feel unsafe. Children need boundaries, discipline and structure in order to be emotionally and relationally healthy. How to deal with being told “no” is sometimes a very necessary part of learning how to cope in life.

What we know is that punitive or permissive styles of parenting tend to push our children and teenagers to extremes.

Sometimes these extremes can end up in tragic results.

In order to maximize our parenting impact in a world that most parents would say is too busy, we need parents with strong values who strongly support their kids, healthy ways to communicate, firm but fair ways of handling disciplinary moments and impactful relationships that are emotionally healthy.

Discipline requires a significant commitment and a lot of relational work. Our children need parents to be with them during the tumultuous developmental stages of life. They need perspective on relationships they are creating with friends and other adults. They need an understanding of themselves, their strengths, their limitations and their potential as they try to grow in a very difficult world.

Active and supportive parenting is a must—which includes effective and healthy environments of discipline. It is in those environments we will best learn how to help our kids grow up to be healthy, stable and self-controlled.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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