How Connecting with Teens Triumphs Over Correcting

By Shefali Tsabary, PhD Posted July 28, 2014 under Guest Authors

If you check the dictionary, discipline is about training a child to obey rules by using punishment to correct defiance.

These days, we refer to punishment with the more benign expression “giving a child a consequence.” But consequences aren’t “given.” Consequences are the natural result of actions, the flow of cause and effect. If we have to “give it,” it’s not a consequence—it’s a punishment.

Discipline is associated with the word “disciple,” a person other than ourselves who we look to as an example in life. Thus, discipline sets the stage for us to be susceptible to the influence of others. Growing up is a process of discovering one’s center of gravity, or awareness of self. In early childhood, discipline puts a child at risk of having to perpetually please others. In adolescence, they begin to resent the one they must please, the one who disciplines them. This is why so many teens resent their parents and school officials.

Instead of developing confidence in their ability to order their own life, discipline often produces anxiety in teens. For instance, anxiety can drive alcohol and drug use, abuse of OTC medicines, early sexual activity and self-harm such as cutting and suicide.

Effective parenting isn’t about controlling kids and teens through discipline, but about facilitating their own learning so they find their own feet. The goal is to raise children to be disciples of their inner being, so that they increasingly order their life for themselves.

This is best done by establishing routines within the family. When there’s a way things are always done, children and teens feel that they’re a part of what’s happening rather than that something is happening to them.

If your child is already a teen who rolls their eyes and speaks disrespectfully, set aside your agenda, and instead get in touch with your teen’s agenda. Replace correction with connection. Find out who this person really is by connecting on their terms. It may take time, but it’s never too late.

Shefali Tsabary, PhD, received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University, New York. Dr. Shefali was exposed to Eastern philosophy at an early age and integrates its teachings with Western psychology. This blend of East and West allows her to reach a global audience and establishes her as one of a kind in the field of mindfulness psychology. She lectures extensively on mindful living and conscious parenting around the world and currently has a private psychotherapy practice in New York City. She has appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and Life Class, as well as speaking at events such as Wisdom 2.0 and TEDx. Her books The Conscious Parent and Out of Control are published by Namaste Publishing,