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Discipline is Like Learning to Ride a Bike

We like to think of discipline as something
you do with your child, and not to your child. With this in mind, your goal should be to
nurture each child’s ability to regulate their behavior. Let’s compare this to the skill of riding
a bike. Does a toddler just hop onto an adult bike
and take off with ease? No. They’re too small, plus they have no idea
what it means to pedal and balance at the same time. And you can’t make them ride a bike, either,
they have to be the ones actually pushing the pedals. You start with a small step first, right? And then they can gradually work their way
up to an adult bike when the time is right. But they’ll still fall occasionally, and they’ll
still need practice in order to keep up with grownups. If a kid has to learn to ride a bike for themselves,
then what is a parent’s role in the process? They’re there to encourage. Suggest next steps. Provide safety boundaries. Demonstrate necessary skills. Even though the child has to develop their
own skills, the parents play an integral role in that process. So how does all of this connect with the idea
of discipline? Well, just like learning to ride a bike, a
child has to learn for themselves how to behave in society. You cannot make a child behave the way an
adult does, because they don’t have the developmental ability or life experience to do so. Just like starting a toddler out on the right-size
bike, we have to start with realistic expectations for a child’s behavior. If you ask them to practice a skill that you
haven’t demonstrated or taught, then they may get confused. Asking a child to sit quietly through a 90-minute
family dinner is like asking a four-year-old to complete a ten-mile trail ride on their
little street bike. Just as in bike riding, different techniques
and tools work differently for each child. It doesn’t matter how they achieve their riding
goals. What matters is that they get there. And what about those biking mishaps? They are signs of risks braved and challenges
met. Parents help kids up after they’ve fallen,
apply bandages, and ask kids what they can do differently next time to avoid a crash
– just as parents can coach kids through behavioral missteps. Remember–what may look like intentional misbehavior
is often just part of development and learning. Kids are constantly testing their emotional
balance and trying to see what limits are safe for them as they grow. They don’t have enough practice or life experience
to know that having a meltdown in the middle of a grocery store is not okay. So how do we handle those meltdowns and misbehavior? With patience. Let your child vent their emotions safely,
help them clean up the mess they created, and encourage them in their efforts to do
better next time. Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that
even we as parents fall off our bikes sometimes.. We can get a little scraped up when we lose
our emotional balance or try new things or brave new challenges. But that’s okay–we’re human. And we can still set amazing examples for
our kiddos by getting up, acknowledging our pain, practicing a little self-care, and mending
any relationships that our behavior may have hurt

Reynold King

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