Creative Child

The Trouble with Separation-Based Discipline Part 2

In part 1, I discussed why separation-based discipline tactics are not only emotionally harmful but also developmentally illogical. That may have left you wondering if another popular discipline technique, counting to 3, might be a better choice.

 

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For the answer to this, I asked Bridgett Miller, “I was happy to see you address counting to 3 as a behavioral control technique in your book. Tell me how, developmentally, this technique also doesn’t make sense.”

She replied, “From an adult perspective this approach makes a lot of sense but that’s because we’re using an adult brain that’s able to understand the logic of consequences. This approach assumes that a young child has the maturity to consider the consequences of their actions and reflect on their wrongful ways in the moment. The fact is, they are not developmentally capable of doing either as their brain is not yet mature enough to do so. Making a choice is difficult at the best of times, and it’s almost impossible—even for adults—to make a choice under stress. Reflection requires brain integration and maturation and takes many years of conducive conditions to develop.

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Scaring children into compliance with the threat of a time limit and looming consequences may result in a temporary halt in their undesirable behaviour, but it does not ensure they will learn what it is you hope they will from the experience. When we alarm children with 1-2-3 they may do what you want out of fear, that is, until the technique is overused and they stop responding because they no longer care about the consequences. For children to truly learn from us they need to be open to taking in what we want them to know because they care, but they can’t do this effectively when they are under duress or their caring feelings have been knocked out. Not understanding this leads many well-meaning parents to use disciplinary measures that work against what they are trying to do, which is to guide and to teach their child to do what is needed when no one is watching (or counting!) over them.”

Now let’s discuss some positive alternatives to separation-based discipline that work.

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