Are Parents Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

07/09/2016 09:50 pm ET | Updated Jul 09, 2016

On July 8, 2016, I attended the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association’s monthly lunch meeting. The topic was “Rethinking Discipline: Cultivating Curiosity, Shifting our Assumptions, and Moving Beyond Behavior.”  The presenter was Tina Bryson, Ph. D., co-author of two books (and an upcoming third book) with Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. Among other things, she said the following:

 

“Behavior is COMMUNICATION.”

And, it leads to “discipline”, defined as “teaching and skill building.”

 

Is the response to behavioral issues counter-productive? Will it lead to skill building?

- Yelling/screaming/threatening/humiliating

- Punitive time-out / isolation

- Punishment

- Spanking - almost universal

- Lecturing / arguing

“Stop crying” or “it’s not that big of a deal”

- Fear-based control

- Behavioral systems

 

Are parents causing their kids confusion in their brain circuitry by making them fear their attachment figures?

 

“Engage, don’t enrage.”

 

“One of our most important discipline/ behavior / brain-changing tools is connection/ relationship.

SOOTHE”

 

“Empathic connection + Boundaries

 

This requires caregivers to have some capacity for:

 

* Self-regulation

*Mindset / Attunement

* Empathy

* Tolerating their child’s negative emotions

* CURIOSITY - searching for the need

 

* This may require them to ‘do their own work’”

 

For what it’s worth, what Dr. Bryson is referring to is emotional intelligence.

 

Along those same lines, on July 9, 2016, I read an article titled “Angry Kids: Dealing With Explosive Behavior - How to respond when a child lashes out.”  The article covered many of the same points raised by Tina Bryson.  

 

On April 7, 2016, the Journal of Family Psychology published a study by Elizabeth T. Gershoff, and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor titled Spanking and Child Outcomes: Old Controversies and New Meta-Analyses.

 

‘The study looks at five decades of research involving over 160,000 children. The researchers say it is the most complete analysis to date of the outcomes associated with spanking, and more specific to the effects of spanking alone than previous papers, which included other types of physical punishment in their analyses.... 

 

The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking by experts at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan.’

 

Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor tested for some long-term effects among adults who were spanked as children. The more they were spanked, the more likely they were to exhibit anti-social behavior and to experience mental health problems. They were also more likely to support physical punishment for their own children, which highlights one of the key ways that attitudes toward physical punishment are passed from generation to generation....

 

As many as 80 percent of parents around the world spank their children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Gershoff notes that this persistence of spanking is in spite of the fact that there is no clear evidence of positive effects from spanking and ample evidence that it poses a risk of harm to children’s behavior and development....

 

‘Both spanking and physical abuse were associated with the same detrimental child outcomes in the same direction and nearly the same strength.’

 

By the same token, a great many people wrongly believe that shaming others produces positive results.

 

According to Brene’ Brown, Ph.D., ‘separating self from behavior is the difference between shame and guilt. Shame is very correlated with addiction, depression, suicide, aggression, violence, bullying, and eating disorders. Guilt, on the other hand, is inversely correlated with those same outcomes.’

 

We have a huge problem with the consequences of a shame-based culture.

 

Meanwhile, people keep believing what they want to believe.  As a result, parents continue shaming their children, since they were shamed by their parents and they don’t believe that they were harmed as a result - and the cycle continues.  The same is true of spanking.   

 

So, a huge part of the problem, in my opinion, has to do with the way in which parents have raised and are raising their children, what our society ‘believes’ is proper parenting (including the legal system), and our culture of shame.”

 

On May 18, 2016, I attended the 2016 Alden-Berg Lecture on “Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles”, presented by the UCLA Department of History and featuring John Mack Faragher, Howard R. Lamar Prof of History & American Studies and Director Howard R. Lamar Center, Yale University with responses by Zev Yaroslavsky, former Los Angeles County Supervisor and Jim Newton, journalist, author and former editor of the Los Angeles Times.

 

I agree with John Mack Faragher that to a very great extent, violence is learned and that much of that learning is taught through our family of origin.  As I have long said, you can only give what you have and teach what you know. 

 

Our society would benefit significantly, if parents began “Rethinking Discipline: Cultivating Curiosity, Shifting our Assumptions, and Moving Beyond Behavior.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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