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Why Fear Is Not the Best Way to Discipline Your Child

Understanding and support are key.

Children should be seen and not heard. I remember this being said to me so many times when I was little, not by my parents, but by the people they hung around with. The older generation, you know. I remember feeling gutted and alone every time I heard it. It’s something that has stuck with me for a very long time. It’s also probably why I struggle to this day with communication when I’m upset. I cry and I can’t get my words out. It makes me feel so frustrated and silenced. Why can’t I get those words out? I decided to do a little research and look into why fear is not the best way to discipline a child. Keep reading for more!

Here’s Why Fear Is Not the Best Way to Discipline Your Child

Becoming a new parent and being Olly’s mum has really opened my eyes. I read, I ask for advice and I try as best as I can to help Oliver express himself. There are days where he screams, bites, hits, scratches, and head-buts me. Some days, I hold it together as to not show a reaction. Then there are the days that I just break down. As Big Little Feelings would say, “Just like us, children have bad days, not feeling well, lose their temper, or are emotional for no reason. This doesn’t make them bad, this makes them human. And as adults, it would be incredibly hurtful to be ignored, or worse, sent away during times of distress.” Why would this ever be effective discipline or learning for our toddlers?

According to Big Little Feelings, when we send our kids away during tantrums/times of distress, they don’t learn to handle the situation better next time. Here’s what happens instead.

  • They don’t actually reflect on behavior. Instead, they’re flooded with feelings of anger and/or abandonment.
  • We signal that big feelings aren’t OK in our family.

In this article, their mentors and colleagues, Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson, say the following:

“Decades of research in attachment demonstrate that particularly in times of distress, we need to be near and be soothed by the people who care for us. But when children lose emotional control, parents often put them in their room or by themselves in the ‘naughty chair’, meaning that in this moment of emotional distress they have to suffer alone … When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet. In fact, brain imaging shows that the experience of relational pain, like that caused by rejection, looks very similar to the experience of physical pain in terms of brain activity.”

Here’s What You Can Do Instead

So instead of showing them fear, you should stay with them. Show them you won’t leave them when they have big feelings or make a mistake. Say these phrases instead. “You’re really upset. I’m right here with you!” or “You’re feeling angry, it’s OK to feel angry, it’s not OK to hit. I’m moving the baby to keep her safe.” ⁠All of the feelings are okay, but not all of their behavior is. You can set clear boundaries, but you should do this when they’re calm. That’s how you show them whatever disruptive behavior they’re having is not okay. . Fear is not the way to go. We must teach our children to make the right decisions for themselves.

Children learn the best during calm, collaborative moments. When there is a calm moment, this is when your plan of action should take place. Here, you can teach better behavior and coping skills. Teach them to breathe. Teach them to know right from wrong. Ask them why they’re feeling that way. They’re a container for an egoless, pure soul. Their feelings are valid. It’s the first time they’re experiencing them and putting language to the feelings they’re having! Let’s learn to make sure that fear isn’t learned. Let’s teach them how to love!

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