Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Child Discipline

QUESTION: What can I do to discipline my five-year-old daughter who learned terrible habits from my ex?

ANSWER: The most important thing to remember is that she is a five-year-old human being. As a human being her most basic non-physical needs are for acceptance and effectiveness. To the degree that these needs are filled from her point of view she will be in harmony with her environment. If she doesn't get enough acceptance she will try to replace it with effectiveness (usually as "power plays," "control tricks," or over-achievement). If she doesn't feel effective enough she will try to replace this with being more acceptable (submissive, dependent, or emotionally manipulative are usual ways). As a five-year-old she doesn't have a lot of experience to work with, so she will copy behavior learned from the other parent, from other children, and from television. The behavior she will learn best is that which helps her get what she wants, but she may have a limited number of resources to learn from. So the next most important thing to remember is that the root meaning of the word "discipline" is "to teach." You will need a lot of patience, but her behavior will improve to the extent that you teach her at an emotional level that she is loved, and teach her in a practical way how to be more effective in dealing with people and situations.