How I discipline without breaking my child’s spirit

When I became a parent, I was faced with the baffling situation, how to inculcate discipline in my child, without acting like a tyrant, strict mom.

Though I wished for her to follow my instructions, I yearned for a definite plan that wouldn’t aim at obscuring her inner voice.

I’d like to confess, that I have made many mistakes in disciplining my child despite having a vision of what I wanted to achieve.

From defying positive attention (being in the same room but doing my own thing while listening to what my child had to say ) to not letting my child make choices of her own (making simple decisions about what to do in her free time to what gift she would like on Diwali).

With time, I have mended my ways, fine-tuned my parenting style countless times keeping one goal in mind.

I am not hoping to use discipline as a means to raise an obedient child.

Instead, I discipline in a way to raise a kid who is self-reliant and confident enough to know what to do in life (even if it means making mistakes) even when I’m not around.

Though I’m not quite there yet, however, every milestone is an encouragement that I am hopefully getting closer to my goal.

To assist me in staying focused, I have outlined a strategy:

1. Choose your battles wisely:

I am well aware that the way we discipline our child, our actions, and our tone eventually becomes the inner voice of the child.

Frequent rebuking for the choices made instils self-doubt; being yelled at every mistake makes the child react the same way when someone else makes a mistake and worse still smacking a child teaches her that it is the way of tackling disagreement.

In the bigger picture of life, I am now clear that if I want to raise a happy, kind, open-minded child, I need to practice the same myself while disciplining her.

2. Set enforceable limits:

The whole idea here is to put into action the one principle that seems to work for everyone, adults and children alike.

The more perceived control a person has over the situation, the more likely he or she is to cooperate and listen.

The trick to use when applying it to discipline children is instead of always telling Pari what to do, I try telling her what I will do instead.

For example:
I’ll read you a bedtime story if you will sit quietly.
I’ll let you play with your new toy as soon as you finish your homework.

This works only when you patiently wait until the kids are actually doing what you asked before you do your part of the equation.

Are you struggling with disciplining without yelling? Do you fear to break your child's spirit by being a strict mom? Here's how I'm balancing discipline and my child's will without a compromise. #theerailivedin #parenting #settinglimits #parentingquotes #discipline #singlemom #quotestoliveby #LRKnost

3. Attention and time are precious and should be spent thoughtfully:

Everyone craves for the attention of their near and dear ones. Kids are no different. Being a SAHM juggling work with my daughter around gets tough when she constantly complains about me not paying enough attention to her. This is why we now have designated work and play hours for her and myself.

When I work, she finishes her homework. When I’m free I invest my undivided attention free from gadgets, playing, reading and even dancing with her.

Recommended Reading: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

4. We work together as a team:

Conveying how much I love and cherish my daughter through words and actions has been a major shift for an introvert me.

Earlier when I used to ask my daughter to help me clean up the room, putting the toys and books back in place she would act lazy, keep watching me but wouldn’t move a finger. Once I was done and dusted, she’d insist I spend time with her playing making my hard-work go undone.

Now I ask my daughter to have our little chit-chat while we are arranging the room and she is showing me where we place what, her points of view so that she feels involved. This trick works because she loves the position where she is making the decisions, with mamma paying attention to her preferences.

She enjoys seeing how her choices resulted in the look of her room and also how she can improve it over time.

5. Pragmatism about success and failure:

Discipline has mostly been about training individuals to be successful in life. However, along the way, the need to accept shortcomings with equal grace often raises its head.

Earlier, I used to micro-manage my child, preventing her from making mistakes. Though this attitude didn’t bear any startling results, I always ended up with a cranky, whining child.

Lately, my daughter and I have adopted singing the ‘Que sera, sera’ song as we go on with life. Accepting what comes our way (despite our best efforts) with equal grace and a smiling face.

The ‘it’s all part of the game’ approach on my part has surprisingly helped my child accept life events like standing second in a recitation competition or not being given the largest piece of chocolate better than before.

6. Voicing our thoughts is as important as expressing our concerns:

Nagging or yelling to control my kid’s rude behaviour, whining or crying has never worked. It took me a while to figure out that these antics were nothing but a child seeking attention and expressing their wound up emotions.

To get the situation in control, I’ve learnt that keeping calm and telling what’s disturbing you (“I don’t like it when you scream, can you ask nicely?”) work better. Sometimes, I step out of the room leaving my child with her thoughts.

Given a moment to reflect, with a clear idea of what mama likes, helps my daughter feel in control. She gives up the tantrum sooner and approaches me in a more peaceful way.

7. Use the child’s imagination to keep them entertained:

This year during the school holidays I was running out of ideas to keep my daughter from getting bored just two days into vacations. Everything I’d suggest would make my child whine or not follow for long. This was making it impossible for me to work.

That’s when a friend of mine suggested how she lets her son be guided by his imagination. She lets her son draw, colour, paint and at times even get messy (unless it is a matter of health or safety) and it is satisfying to watch the child be happy, creative, expending energy doing what she enjoys.

A mess isn’t always a bad thing.

Finally:

Making these positive changes, battling my own fears and changing the way I raise my child from the kind of upbringing I have had has helped me communicate better.

I now pair my disciplining with kindness, compassion and love. I’ve been working hard at letting Pari grow up as an individual while nurturing her will.

And the best part is the newfound peace in the family with due care of tending to my child’s spirit.

Related: How I became the calm mom I always wanted to be.

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The song on my mind: Hum Na Samjhe They ~ Gardish

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How I Talked To My Child About The Divorce

Talking to my child about the divorce and explaining what it means for both of us has been a cause of worry for me from the moment I stepped out of my marriage.

Though at that time, I had time in my favour.

My daughter was hardly a year old and that reassured me that I’d be better prepared to talk about it by the time my girl would be old enough to understand its nuances.

These thoughts would make me freeze in fear.

I was confused about;

When should I talk to her?

What should I tell her?

How would I reassure her that having only one parent around (as against what she saw in her friend’s families) would not make a difference, especially when I was myself unsure how it will all turn out?

Should I seek help to make it easier for my child to understand?

How would I even begin? And once I started talking, where exactly should I draw the line?

I could feel my heart racing and sweat beads form on my forehead despite the airconditioning, every single time.

Explaining a divorce to the kids is perhaps the hardest part about a divorce because you know that it will cause pain and confusion to the ones you love the most.

All went well in Pari’s pre-school years. But as she grew old enough to attend school, I could hear my sub-conscience tell me that the time when I had to finally do the talking was near.

When Pari started learning about herself, she learnt her father’s name. Every time I would make her learn the name, she would address her grandpa with it.

If you’re new to the blog, you might not know that I got divorced when Pari was hardly a year old. Her biological father never took any interest in her and as a result, Pari has never seen him. My father has been the father figure in my daughter’s life from day one.

No wonder, my daughter always looked up to him for everything when she was taught about who a father is.

Anyway, I digress.

When Pari started kindergarten, I knew it was time she understood why she did not have her father around.

However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get myself to do it.

Divorces are difficult and painful, more so for kids. Here are tips on how to talk to your child about the divorce and explain what it means for the family. I also share the important life lessons I learnt. #theerailivedin #divorce #talkingaboutdivorce #parentingtips #parentingstruggles #separation

At that time, I was pretty sure I had moved on in my life and had reached a point where talking freely about my married life wouldn’t disturb me.

I was sadly mistaken.

Something in my mind was convinced that this was not the right time to touch upon this subject. While my daughter might have been grown up enough to understand what I was saying, I found myself not ready to handle the (possible) after questions.

I did not want to land unprepared to deliver perhaps the most important talk I had to have with my child. That’s when I decided to do a little homework.

I started rehearsing the talk. But it only added to my anxiety about the issue.

I sought solace in reading.

Everything I read, hinted at breaking the news sooner than later.

However, there was one major difference.

Every article I read, talked about the parents talking to their children about the separation/divorce as it happens.

But this didn’t apply in my case.

That changed everything.

My top priority was talking to Pari openly and calmly about her biological father. I couldn’t let my hurt feelings get in the way.

While it was rather tempting (and often suggested by the extended family) to not talk about this topic because anyway her father was never around, I was convinced this was definitely not the right thing to do.

Though Pari never asked any questions, I would often wonder if she was curious to know about her father.

I needed a plan. A strategy. A way of conveying all that I wanted to say to her at a level of understanding that she could grasp.

When I had had enough of guessing, one lazy afternoon while Pari and I were busy reading our own books, I gently started talking about my life with her father.

The stark differences in my life now from the time when I was married actually served well in making the conversation easy and interesting. I had yet not let my guard down and was not talking much about her father.

The conversation flowed effortlessly and I continued answering any questions that Pari asked before she fell asleep.

I could feel a strange sense of peace fill my heart. The joy of having finally taken the first step in the direction of overcoming my fears encouraged me to go ahead and write about it in my journal.

I was amazed by how normal our conversation had been, simply because I didn’t try to start the talk with the uncomfortable facts.

As the days followed, I took care to effortlessly share snippets of my married life with Pari.

This has been a big game changer.

One, it has helped me warm up to talking about every aspect of my life, including the divorce without an iota of unease.

Secondly, I can sense my daughter feel relaxed every time she is curious to know more about her father.

If you’ve been through a divorce that involved kids you’d be well aware how important these conversations are.

More so, if you’re living in a conservative society that is still in the learning phase of accepting divorces without harshly judging a divorcee.

These thoughts don’t bother me but still, the parent in me is often stressed about the possible biases my child might face being raised by a single mom.

On all these times, the only thought I feel ringing in my head is to arm my daughter with ample information and guidance about the divorce, its implications and my past life that no one can ever use any part of it against her.

While that’s what the mother in me hopes to achieve, I know it’s going to be a rather long, arduous journey of making it happen. The biggest roadblock being I can only share age-appropriate details with my daughter.

Opening up the channels of free talk has made us both feel relaxed to broach this topic anywhere with ease. That has been quite an achievement (for me) in itself.

In the course of making open talk about divorce happen, I have learnt these important lessons:

1. Trust your kids to understand what you’re talking irrespective of their age 

We, parents, often underestimate our child’s maturity and shy away from freely talking about the issues that are affecting them on a daily basis. It doesn’t make sense to leave our children guessing or be at the mercy of half-baked information from strangers who might not have their best interests in mind.

2. It is important to reassure our kids that none of this is because of them

This has been the most important point in my talks with Pari.

Pari’s father drifted away and took no interest in Pari and this is why my daughter has never met her biological father. Though it can be tough to explain to a child, it is crucial that I help Pari understand that the divorce or anything that happened around that time was never because of her.

It is critical that as soon as possible, we tell the kids directly that it has nothing to do with them and that it’s something daddy and mommy have decided on together.

3. It helps to discuss such topics repeatedly from time to time

Making it a one-time talk is not a good idea because bombarding our children with plenty of information can be too taxing for them.

Besides, when talking about the divorce had been so overwhelming for me, as an adult, it can surely prove to be the same for my child. Talking in bits and pieces over time has been working well for me.

4. Keep your adult issues out of the way

It’s hard to maintain normal good parenting or an open mind when you are grieving a lost relationship, battling depression and struggling with the chaotic life of being a single parent.

I struggled for a long time with my own emotional turmoils to feel confident enough to talk to my child.

Though once I initiated the conversation, I learnt how critical it was that the adults keep their grieving, hurt and pain aside and not let it paint our words.

Having a support system in place, with support from family and trusted friends can immensely help in achieving this. My support system has played a key role in keeping me sane when I struggled with Pari’s anger issues and tantrums.

5. Time it well

It helps to make time for these talks than leaving them to be done at times when you’re pressed for time or your child can’t participate attentively.

Talking over the weekend when both the parent and the child have free time and there is room to accommodate any tantrums, getting upset or emotional with patient reassurances is helpful.

6. There’s only a start point but never an ending

After our initial discussion, I realised that though I felt lighter, my work was far from finished. Pari took a while to process what’s happening. She needed extra time to process the new information.

In this important phase, it helped to pay extra attention to her. However, children never act predictably. Pari seemed to have internalised all I told her and expressed it only in the form seeking extra attention from me.

However, with time, she has been asking a lot of questions over and over, which I believe is a healthy sign. Being patient with her questions is my best bet.

7. Be honest and fair

While it might seem harmless to honestly talk to Pari about why her parents decided to part ways. But given her tender age, I think it would be wise to stick to age-appropriate details without highlighting who was in the wrong and why.

While I do not aim at painting a rosy picture of my past life, I do not wish to fill my daughter’s heart with undue pain or hatred simply because she is too young to comprehend the facts or has access to only my part of the story.

I have set the stone rolling and have been at work in helping get the core messages right.

At this point, the best I can do is help my child understand our life’s reality in its honest form while being around to answer her queries to the best of my ability.

I sincerely hope that with my earnest efforts, I can help her realise that we are together in this as a team. And that we are enough.

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The song on my mind: Is Mod se Jaate Hain ~ Aandhi

Why (and how) I Set Clear Boundaries With My Child

I have been working on self-awareness to resolve the key issues plaguing my life.

While I succeeded to some extent in getting an insight into their root causes and triggers, there is something that has been undermining all my efforts.

After much struggle and facing constant failures, I taught myself the art of being a peaceful parent.

I was confident that I had already won half the battle.

I was sure that the road ahead of my parenting journey would be rather smooth that I had conquered (or rather well understood) my biggest enemy, my anger.

Little did I know that all this while I had been ignoring a major fault in my personality.

One that held the power of undoing all the good my new-found wisdom brought my way.

The flaw of not setting clear boundaries.

The lack of certainty in my actions.

The blurred, unclear boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour I set for my child, soon started nibbling on my new found peace.

Amongst the many strategies I’d adopted, my success (in being a peaceful parent) rested on two major conditions being fulfilled.

Bestowing positive attention to my child

and

Making room for self-care.

I noticed that in my quest to make more room for quality time to bond with my child, I had gone overboard.

I did not notice it right away.

The extra time I was spending with Pari soon started stepping on the time I had set for myself.

While I was mindful of this encroachment in the start, the doting mother in me chose the wishes of her daughter over her well-being.

Gradually as this became a routine, I found myself returning to the bad old days of yelling and feeling agitated over trifle issues.

This time around I was conscious enough to notice it right away.

On reflection, I discovered the one powerful emotion that is ALWAYS responsible for the devil take over me.

Feeling powerless.

I felt powerless when my child wouldn’t let me complete my assignments because she wanted me to play with her a little longer.

I felt powerless when I couldn’t control my child’s behaviour.

I felt powerless when despite planning well, I couldn’t get my child to sleep on time before an important event.

I felt powerless when I just couldn’t get my kid get ready for school on time despite an early start.

I would have been better equipped to control these negative thoughts had I not been feeling weak on the inside.

This weakness came from having skewed my self-care routine.

I was working late into the night to accommodate my kid’s request for an extra story.

I was sacrificing my exercise time to cook elaborate breakfasts on school mornings.

I missed out on an important work assignment because of spending an extra hour at the playground, just because my kid refused to get back home until dark.

I was sacrificing my diet plan by obliging to let my kid have an extra serve of the dessert only to end up having to eat it myself.

In hindsight, these situations look pretty manageable.

But on the day, for an exhausted mom, these occasions were enough to make her feel powerless, weak and an incompetent parent.

And that was how I realised I still had a lot more work to do before I can begin to feel I have this parenting thing sorted (somewhat).

While I was clearly saying NO, I was diluting its impact with repeated requests, orders and sometimes threats that I did not follow through.

I was failing at making up my mind as to what mattered most to me. Giving into my child’s momentary requests or allowing her momentary grief to go on with life as per plan.

I was failing at setting clear boundaries.

I was an emotional mess.

I would hurt when my child threw a tantrum when her requests weren’t granted and when I did succumb to her pleadings, I would end up kicking myself for the chaos my daily schedule ended up being.

The worst came to fore when I let self-care take a back seat.

I was letting my personal needs to be pushed to an unseen tomorrow and as a result, it was having a devastating effect on how I was treating my child in our regular interactions.

It was in this hour of crisis, I came across this quote;

How do you set limits as a parent when you've got sour faces to look at? Setting Limits with kids can be really difficult. Read on to learn why it is setting and establishing boundaries for children so vital and learn how I'm creating healthy boundaries for my family. #theerailivedin #selfcare #momlife #parents #kids #children #positiveparenting #singlemom #toddlers #toddlers #settinglimits

This provided me with ample food for thought.

By ignoring myself I was teaching my child to not learn to respect the needs of others. I was modelling a behaviour where putting ourselves after the people we love was a norm.

This message was all over in my attempts to prioritize my child’s needs and desires over my own.

This was my wake up call.

The people pleaser in me, the part of me that sought validation in gifting joy to others was shaken.

I was brought to the point where I had to consciously decide what I wanted to see happen in my life and my home.

I had to make my child aware of my needs, be confident in enforcing the limits and stick to them no matter how much I wanted to act otherwise.

But life doesn’t unfold like a scripted play.

No matter how much research you invest in making your relationships work, it always boils down to customising your approach if you wish to see any success.

My case was no different.

All the parenting books and articles that I have been reading say two prominent things.

Discipline without bruising your child (or their heart).

Parents need to show their children (through their words and actions) that they’re the boss.

How in the world, could one implement these two together?

I had to learn to find the middle ground.

I was not ready to fight another war with my kid. The very thought of possible power struggles, arguments, emotional meltdowns and yelling loosened my grip on the resolve to set clearer boundaries.

At this point, I wish to share, that I found this bit hard to work around because I have never been allowed to (or rather shown how to) assert myself or to put my foot down in my growing years.

Simply because ‘good girls’ don’t do that.

As skewed is this mindset, so is the conditioning ingrained in my very being.

However, this was my chance to turn things around.

For myself and my daughter.

It was the golden opportunity I couldn’t let go because on it rested the emotional well-being of us girls and our relationships.

This is why I choose to take it one step at a time.

After all, growing a back of steel can’t be a one-day act, isn’t it?

When I pictured setting healthy boundaries, I visualised the time when Pari was a few months old. Every time I would have to run errands or step away from her, I’d create a barricade of pillows and cushions that kept my daughter safe, playful and me without the worry of constantly supervising her or interrupting her with repeated “No(s)”.

I had to do just that.

My initial steps at putting my foot down were met with extreme resistance (as expected) by my daughter. In those times, often an undue argument would ensue and I’d be drawn in to either engage in a power struggle that ended in my getting angry or me choosing to succumb to my daughter’s wishes and wants.

It took me a long time to figure out that being the boss didn’t necessarily mean that I had to overpower my child.

The desire to overpower triggers yelling, threatening or bribing which take us two steps backwards in the quest to set healthy boundaries.

Intimidation is seeking favourable outcomes out of fear. We’re losing respect in the bargain. And if you look closely, threatening is a form of bullying.

Then what works?

Be you.

The person you are, in your honest, assertive form who is eager to connect with the child but is determined to play the leader.

It actually works because you’re harnessing the powers of your authentic self. This approach gifts encouraging results with us (the parents) sticking to our words and enforcing the set rules with confidence.

No bargaining, threats or bribing along the way is allowed.

When I first started setting boundaries, I’d tell Pari to do something (for example to put her toys back in their place) and she’d push back.  It took me immense will-power to not meet her head-to-head.

It was my responsibility to make this work. That’s why I’d deploy the one trick that works well with my willful child.

Options.

I’d give her options that she could pick what she wanted to first. Put her clothes in the laundry basket or rearrange the toys. Though it meant that eventually, she’d be doing all I’d asked her initially.

Pari was relieved to see that she could exercise some control and had the power to choose.

This worked for sometime before Pari understood how this works. This was the cue for me to shift gears. I added competition to the mix.

I’d challenge her to do a task at hand faster than I did the task I had scheduled for the day. No rewards were needed. The prize would be the task done and the pride that came with winning a challenge.

Though there were times when Pari wouldn’t agree to do as told.

Earlier, after telling her a few times, I’d eventually get the work done in a huff. What I realised later on was, this was having a deleterious impact on my child. I was teaching her to be slow deliberately so that the work got done by someone else.

That’s when I started leaving the work undone. If Pari cared enough for the task, she’d have to do it herself.

This was very difficult for the cleanliness freak in me and rather convenient for my kid. That’s why I created a backup plan. I started using consequences for the actions delayed beyond a certain time.

No enforcement, no threatening, no pressure. Only direct consequences.

No tidying up the room meant no TV time that day.

No homework meant no going out to play.

There was whining, sobbing and lashing out in anger in the start.

It took me a while to see that It wasn’t an ask to fix every problem for my child. At times, it was best to let them figure it out for themselves.

All that’s needed is to accept, acknowledge, and let the feelings be.

The one thing that has helped me cross the bridge between feeling powerless when my kid threw a tantrum and confidently putting my foot down is that on all these occasions I set limits in clear words.

When I can’t oblige by reading another bedtime story to her, I calmly say “You want me to read another story, I hear that. But for now, mom has to complete her assignment.”

It didn’t come naturally to me.

I faltered by sounding unsure if I really wanted to break my darling’s heart only to regret doing so, later.

While there might be many tactics that I employ, the one thing that has stayed common in them all, that bear results was to,

Define boundaries with certainty.

The calm confidence with which you give clear instructions actually sets the tone of favourable outcomes.

Where does the confidence come from?

Practice my dear parent.

When you define boundaries on a daily basis, your child learns to respect them because the certainty these limits gift makes them feel secure.

While being the boss is important, it’s vital that you follow through when executing the consequences.

I’ve seen my daughter thrive on positive outcomes. The ones when she’s made to feel like an important part of the workforce helping the smooth running of our household.

In due course, simple, predictable days offer more dependable break times because children are more likely to go with the flow when they know the routine.

We, the parents, especially moms need that time each day to recharge our emotional batteries and, if nothing else, think our own thoughts.

Self-care is essentially getting these rejuvenating breaks.

What’s the bottom line?

Parenting is an exhausting, overwhelming responsibility. But it needn’t feel that way if we mindfully set healthy boundaries for the well-being of the family.

Go ahead, love your children. Care for them well.

But, in the process, don’t forget to love and take care of yourself a little too.

Am not yet fully sorted, but am working on simplifying life, setting one boundary at a time.

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The song on my mind: Zindagi ki yehi reet hai ~ Mr India