More than punishing a child when he or she does something wrong, teaching compassionate discipline by affirming good behavior ensures growth as a mature and mindful person.
In a parenting forum, Dr. Ma. Lourdes “Honey” Carandang, a foremost clinical psychologist and family therapist, will introduce the concept of “compassionate discipline,” rather than punitive action, that more ably prepares the child for adulthood.
Carandang’s MLAC Institute for Psychosocial Services, Inc. will hold the Parenting Academy 3 forum on “The Power of Compassionate Discipline” on March 4, Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at the Henry Sy auditorium of St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City in Taguig City.
Carandang said compassionate discipline goes beyond correcting a child’s wrongdoing. More important in raising a child is affirming actions whenever he or she does what is right, Carandang explained.
“Compassionate discipline goes deeper into the child’s thinking, feeling and own way of understanding the need to follow a certain behavior. Discipline that is compassionate leads to self-discipline and self-respect,” she said.
“Discipline is knowing when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes’ to a child,” noted Carandang, president and founder of Mindfulness, Love and Compassion (MLAC) Institute for Psychosocial Services, Inc. (The Philippine Social Service Council named Carandang National Social Scientist for Psychology in 1995.)
Trouble usually begins when the parent thinks of discipline simply as correcting wrong behavior through punitive action and disregarding a child’s good actions, believing these should be a given in the first place.
Carandang warned that when a child gets used only to being punished for bad behavior, “the child obeys because of fear. And if fear is the only motivation (for doing something right), the child complies only because he or she is afraid. And only at that moment. When the person feared is absent, the child might not comply. That is the kind of discipline that (many of us) are used to.”
Carandang said this kind of discipline also explains why some adults run through a red light when there is no traffic cop, or some employees choose to shoot the breeze when the boss is not around.
The key word is affirmation, Carandang stressed. It helps both parent and child when a child’s good behavior, decisions and words are acknowledged and praised. The child grows up integrating good values into actions and decisions because of affirmation from the adult being looked up to.
“Compassionate discipline is mindful discipline,” Carandang said.
For example, teaching a child to be honest through words and action and eventually acknowledging good deeds when telling the truth reinforce the lesson at an immediate and personal level.
“The child tells himself, ‘I’m doing this because I understand this is good for me and for the family. This is a good rule and I will follow it,’” the psychologist said.
Carandang was quick to clarify that compassionate discipline is not in the same league as reward and punishment.
“Reward and punishment focus only on the behavior, while compassionate discipline is also about the underlying need to understand why a child matters,” she said.
Carandang offered the case of a very bright child who always earned high grades and praises from the parents. On the third quarter of one school year however, the child’s grades dropped to 78 and 79. The parents were alarmed.
Carandang said the child was brought to her clinic. During their conversation, the child volunteered to “testing” the parents to see if they would still love him even if he was getting low grades.
The child also wanted assurance that he is loved and that he matters despite his high grades. It was a case beyond reward and punishment, the psychologist said.
Carandang said offering rewards for good behavior has its own caveat. “Reward is usually material and short-term. The child might even be doing the good deed just to get the reward. So, reward is not the same as affirmation,” she warned.
Affirmation means respecting the child’s ability “to understand and to think, and not just to obey,” Carandang said.
“Reward and punishment is for dogs. The child is more than his or her behavior. It’s about feelings. What kind of message is getting across? If it’s about doing something only to get an iPad or a higher allowance, that is external and superficial and does not connect with the innate goodness of the child,” she added.
So, how does a parent instill compassionate discipline that develops mindfulness and respect?
Make the child aware of how actions and decisions impact on other people, Carandang said.
Eventually, the parent realizes that the child has developed it “when he or she does a certain behavior without being told to and even without the parents’ presence. You will know that a value is already integrated in the child’s person. The child does the good deed even when nobody’s looking. The child teaches other children the behavior because he or she understands it,” Carandang added.