Guest Author - Megan Faulkner
Attachment parenting and punishment donít mix. When many people hear this, they think that attachment parenting must be a permissive parenting style that produces spoiled kids. However, quite the opposite is true! To understand how this is possible it is important to understand the difference between punishment and discipline.
Many parents confuse the terms discipline and punishment or mistakenly believe they are talking about the same thing. To lessen some of the confusion, many attachment parents use the term Positive Discipline to further differentiate the methods they use to guide their children towards behaviors they wish to reinforce while reducing the occurrence of unwanted behavior.
Positive discipline often starts at birth, which may sound confusing, but let me explain. The goal behind discipline is to teach the child how he or she should behave in order to become a happy, healthy, functioning member of society. Baby-proofing is often the very first form of positive discipline that a child receives. In essence, the parents survey the environment looking for anything that may be potentially hazardous or that they would prefer their baby not to suck on or play with. Those items are then removed to prevent the child from getting into any trouble.
When the baby gets more mobile and can climb up on things, parents may reassess their environment to ensure that it is both safe and has age appropriate things that they child can play with. Meltdowns and tantrums can easily be passed off as the baby is tired, or the baby is hungry; essentially, that the baby has a need that has not been met.
Somewhere during or shortly after toddlerhood, some parents switch from positive discipline to a more punishment-based approach of guiding their children. The expectation is that children are old enough that they should not be behaving that way, they should be able to control themselves, that they have been told several times and they should know better!
Often, this is an unrealistic expectation. Even if you have told the child before, the ability of the child to remember and understand all of the rules, to associate cause and effect, and then decide whether or not they want to go ahead with the action, well, that is a whole lot to expect out of a small child. Children do not learn how to walk or talk after their parents have explained to them a few times how it is done or shown them what they expect from the child. It is understood by most people that it takes a long time and a lot of practice for a child to be able to perform those tasks. The same should be expected for other behaviors. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for most of the factors involved in decision making, does not even mature until age 25, or older!
Children lack the impulse control that adults have and they need help learning, over and over again, how to make good choices in life. Hitting the child, isolating the child, yelling at the child, or doing something to make that child feel bad will not help him or her learn to behave better. In fact, it is likely to lead the child to believe that he is she truly is a bad kid, and it will lessen the attachment between the adult and the child.