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wildI was the youngest of 5 kids and I don’t remember needing a lot of discipline back in the late 70s and through the 80s. I do remember one good spanking that my mom gave me when I was five because I wouldn’t share my tricycle with my neighbor. I got a choice, I could share or get a spanking. I was such a compliant and easy-going child that I know my mom completely believed that I would choose to share, but I felt that the request to share my beloved trike was just not reasonable and I was willing to pay the consequence not to do so. So, in that circumstance, I won even though I had to physically suffer. The pain to my bum was brief and the pleasure of riding my trike without sharing was incredibly rewarding. This is a great example of how ludicrous the world of “discipline” was and still is for many parents.

Other discipline techniques that were popular when I was growing up included getting sent to your room or being grounded, having privileges taken away or allowances docked, no dessert, chores increased…you get the idea. It was the age of behavior modification in all its glory. I think kids of my generation also enjoyed the reward system. They received stars and smiley faces for doing the right thing and punitive consequences for the wrong thing.

Today, you still have the behavior modification folks who continue to use chore star charts and love logical and natural consequences, who are always looking for the best consequence to match the infraction, and are struggling when their kids demand to be rewarded for making their bed or brushing their teeth. And you also have the camp of parents who consult and negotiate with their preschoolers, feeling exasperated and manipulated as their 3-year old demands milk in the red cup, and won’t clean up the crayons since they “don’t want to go to the park anyway!”

Discipline is an endless battle of wills, negotiations, and relentless demands. It has become a huge industry as parents buy the latest parenting book or spend hours googling their biggest discipline challenge to find the magic answer that will ensure their child’s compliance.

The good news is there is a way to approach parenting and discipline that is effective and keeps things quite simple…

I’ve been learning a lot lately about auto-immune diseases that specifically affect the thyroid since I was recently diagnosed with hashimotos. I’ve learned my body is riddled with inflammation and to heal myself I need to start with my gut and simplify the foods I take in.  Perhaps you’re wondering how my body’s inflammation relates to discipline. Well, it does!

When I receive a request to consult with parents about their child, it is typically because the parents are experiencing what they consider a discipline problem they want to solve.  In order to support the family I request that the parent take a step back from the current problem.

Most of the time I work with very intentional mothers who want to improve their relationship with their child that has become strained.  To begin, I ask the mom to imagine her family culture as if it were a human body.  “Close your eyes and see an image of a person standing like a star – with his arms and legs outstretched and his head held high. He has two sturdy legs – the foundation of your family culture.” As Sharifa Oppenheimer, author of Heaven On Earth, describes, one leg is our family’s daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms while the other is how the family works and spends time together.  One outstretched arm represents the family’s creative expression through outdoor/indoor activity while the other outstretched arm is the family’s creative expression through the arts of nature, music, art, and literature.  The body’s head represents discipline – the rules, boundaries, and values the family follows and understands.

My client usually is anxious to begin our work by working from the the “head” of this metaphoric family culture: the discipline strategy needed to resolve the difficult behavior of her child.  What becomes more clear as we step back from the problem, is that the easiest, most practical place to begin our work is with each foundational leg of her family, then each arm, and if necessary, address the head.

You might be wondering at this point where the inflammation fits into this metaphor, or you may have already realized that the inflammation occurs from the many ways the family functions with the outside world: in everyday decisions about meals, scheduling, morning and evening transitions, traditions around holidays and events, and how family members relate and respond to each other.

Our day-to-day lives are dictated by the things that can become “inflammatory” …over-scheduled calendars, demanding jobs and school lives that create stress which increase tense, reactive relationships with one another, processed and sugary foods, too many hours of media and screen-time, and an overload of information about world affairs that increase anxiety. Where there is inflammation, there are behavior problems.

If we begin to try to relieve this inflammation by implementing discipline strategies at the outset, parents may experience some success but this also can increase the tension between the parent and the child since applying discipline to an inflamed family culture requires using control and consequences.  Since the goal is to create a healthy, trusting bond between parent and child, this is not the “prescription” I recommend.

A holistic approach that addresses the root cause of the inflammation will have long-lasting and effective results.

Inflammation within the body of the family culture can be relieved effectively and easily by applying simplifying strategies to each “limb”, reducing behavior challenges and allowing parents to discipline with ease.  As a parent coach, I work with parents to reduce their family’s inflammation: I help them simplify their home environment, create sustainable family rhythms, reduce over-scheduling, and limit the amount of information and overload step-by-step.  A parent can’t begin all of these changes at once, but my clients are surprised how effective one small change can be in creating a more nurturing, calm, and happier family life.

Is your family suffering from inflammation? Connect with me and schedule a FREE 15-minute coaching consult to discover how you can begin healing your family culture.