Nurturing Vs. Punitive Discipline

Children start without labels.

Focus on Behavior, Not on the Person

Labeling yourself or your children is never helpful. Judgments cause trouble. A nurturing person does not use words that describe a person. Words like good, bad, messy, naughty, selfish, nice, clumsy are all judgmental. In general, describing a child sends a judgment. Instead, direct your comments toward the child’s behavior.

When Billy brings a diaper you need for the baby, don’t say, “What a good boy”. Instead, say, “Thank you, Billy. That was helpful.” Billy doesn’t have to live up to a difficult label. He can learn how good it feels when he is helpful. On the other hand when Billy, overcome with jealousy as he watches you give the baby attention, might try to hide the diapers or accidentally scatter them on the floor. He doesn’t need to hear an exasperated mother or father say angrily, “Why did you do that? You are a bad boy.” Instead, Mom or Dad needs to respond with something like, “If the diapers aren’t here when I need them, I feel upset and it takes longer to change the baby.”

Labeling Can Become a Person’s Identity

Labeling yourself or your children can become an identity for life and make it difficult to change and grow. A family I know called their daughter clumsy since she was a toddler. She is now a grown woman who often apologizes about little things saying with obvious embarrassment, “I’m sorry. I’m so clumsy”.

Think about yourself. What labels do you live with that may not fit? Some common ones people use: I cannot spell; I’m no good at math; I have a temper; I’m stupid, slow, fat, sloppy, ugly. Where did those labels come from? Don’t pass them on to your children. It is possible to change behavior. Identity may be difficult to change.