Relationship: The Foundation of Discipline

Parenting relationship discipline

Written by Dr. John Carosso

The discipline trap

How beneficial is time-out, taking away the TV, or ‘grounding’ a child from going outside? Of course, as most parents have come to find, all of these discipline strategies can be effective. However, what happens if you rely too heavily on these strategies? Well, first, your household can become like a gulag; not too pleasant. Second, you and your child will be miserable. Third, the discipline strategies become less effective.

Relationship: Beyond Softer and Closer

That’s why I recommend relying on the ‘softer and closer approach (see the blog, “softer and closer approach”). However, no matter what discipline you attempt, it will all go to waste, and you’ll feel like banging your head against the wall, if you don’t have a healthy, positive, and pleasant relationship with your child.

Quality and Quantity

The key to parenting and discipline is you and your child doing things together, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, and spending time (quality and quantity time) in fun activities. Actually, even ‘not so fun’ activities can be quite bonding and reinforcing (e.g. helping with homework or school project, assisting in getting your child ready for bedtime…). In any case, absent a healthy relationship, there is no glue to connect a parental directive to the subsequent (hopefully) compliant behavior. Kids comply because, ultimately, they love their parents, want their parents to be happy, want to get-along and have a good relationship, and realize that ‘we’re all in this together’ so I might as well do my part.

The fear factor

If your child is complying predominately due to a fear of punishment, then you’re in trouble. In that case, your child’s ‘compliance’ is based in manipulation and fear, and tasks are often completed superficially and marginally.

The fun factor

Instead, build the relationship and you’ll have a disciple (a willing follower) and be less reliant on discipline. Don’t get me wrong; both are vital, but the former is a lot more fun 🙂

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).