The Science of Parenting

Choosing Positive Discipline | Bonus

March 18, 2021 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
The Science of Parenting
Choosing Positive Discipline | Bonus
Show Notes Transcript

Guiding and directing children as they grow and develop is a serious endeavor for parents. We know family values are usually at the heart of all rules, boundaries, and limits that parents set for their children. Mackenzie and Lori discuss how we can guide our children using positive discipline, natural consequences, and logical consequences.

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This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Mackenzie Johnson:

Hey, welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. Today we're going to talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Korthals:

And I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in three different life stages. One is launched, one is in college, and one is in high school, and I am a parenting educator. And today we are going to address a question that we probably get most often. What does current research tell us about effective, effective, right, effective discipline and guidance? You know, tell us something that works, please.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. What works? What is the research showing us doesn't work. There's so much out there on discipline guidance, how do we know what to trust? So we wanted to drop you this little bonus episode, kind of in between seasons here, and talk about this idea of discipline? And what does the research have to say about it? And luckily, you know, sometimes we're like, is there research on that stuff? Oh, yeah. Oh, there's lots of it. A whole field is called family science, tons of research. And this topic in particular, because everybody asks, right, everyone wants to know, so people are studying it.

Lori Korthals:

They are. So we'll do what we usually do, which is to start off with a definition. And I think one other point that I want to quickly just remind everyone is that our role at The Science of Parenting is to provide you with trustworthy research based information. It's not to blame, shame, or judge, but we want to give you trustworthy research so that you can make your own parenting decisions, because there's more than one great way to raise kids.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And honestly, even this term of discipline, people have very different views of what that even means. But the definition we're going to look at is one from family science and research. So will you kick us off?

Lori Korthals:

I will. So the definition that we're going to look at today is really one about the word discipline. So discipline is a positive method of teaching a child self control, confidence and responsibility. And the key to positive discipline is teaching a child what behavior is okay? What behavior it is that you want them to do, and teaching them what behavior is not okay, and what you don't want them to do. And the idea is to really focus on what is expected and allowed in terms of as children grow, play, say and do.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And so it's honestly, the definition we look at from family science research, is really about kind of this idea of positive discipline, right? It's about teaching and guiding our kids' behavior to meet expectations that we set, or that school sets or those things, but that we're using our words and actions to guide our kids' behavior. And research says that taking this positive discipline approach, where we're focused on showing them what we do want, has a lot of benefits. In particular, it helps kids understand their own behavior better. Using positive discipline also helps kids gain their own independence and gives them the means to do that. It also helps them learn how to respect themselves and others. So yes, right, this idea of positive discipline, teaching them what we do want them to do. And I think, actually, so you talked about how there's different definitions of discipline, and that we each define our own parenting. And on top of that, we each define what we deem as appropriate or sometimes we use the term desired or undesired, but appropriate behavior. We each kind of define that too. Fortunately, there's a lot of research on this conversation of discipline and what's effective and how things work. And a lot of times people ask us about this idea of punishment, right, that we toss around these words interchangeably sometimes, and so luckily, there's a lot of research on the topic and according to research by Elizabeth Gershoff and colleagues, and by the way, she's been doing research on this topic for more than two decades. But they look at the studies that show that physical punishment like spanking or other forms of hitting, and harsh verbal punishment, like yelling, name calling and belittling, that both of these forms of punishment are harmful and ineffective. So not good for our kids and they're not helping us achieve the goal of guiding our kids' behavior.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. So the research is saying that it's not effective, and research is saying that it's also harmful. So physical punishment has these associations with mental health problems, lower self esteem, lower academic performance, and even more difficult parent child relationships. And even adults who experienced physical punishment as children tend to show higher rates of those same outcomes. Interestingly enough, those findings do show up and hold up across different cultures, in different countries, across different ages of children. And even when parents also practice warmth and have a positive relationship with their child, when we put in the idea of physical punishment, as well, we still see research telling us that it's not effective and it can be harmful.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, and honestly, you know, the research studies show over and over. But then there's also a survey from parents that demonstrates this, too. So a zero to three national parent survey revealed that 40% of parents reported that they wish they could do a better job of not yelling or raising their voices so quickly with their children. And of the parents who use corporal punishment frequently, 77% shared that they don't think it's one of their most effective parenting discipline techniques. So both the research and research like Lori said, there's so many studies, hundreds of them from different cultures, from different countries, from kids of different ages. And parents report that they don't necessarily think it's working either.

Lori Korthals:

And so you know, if research and parents are saying that in terms of effectiveness, it doesn't work, we still hear these arguments that physical punishment or corporal punishment can make children more compliant, immediately or down the road long term. But hundreds of studies done on that specific topic, repeatedly show that it's actually not linked to long term compliance, or even an internalization of values or morals. In fact, not even one peer reviewed, so peer reviewed means that the research was really put up to a stringent test, that one peer reviewed study found any significant relationship between physical punishment and better behavior. And in fact, the opposite was true. Studies showed that physical punishment was found to be associated significantly with more child aggression and behavior problems. So it's not effective, and it's harmful. And not one study has shown it to be the opposite.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, and this is a tough topic in parenting, this idea of punishment and how we guide our kids' behavior. We each have our own perspective on it. And I think one of the things that we probably hear most often as family life educators that we hear, people are like, okay, but my parents used corporal punishment with me, or harsh punishment verbally or physically and I'm fine. We hear this kind of conversation, and I might use the word anecdotally that people would say that, but the research is showing otherwise. I know that you have a really great response to this question and I love the way you explain why this makes sense. Can you tell us a little bit about if I said, this happened to me and I'm fine?

Lori Korthals:

So a lot of times I think about it and talk about it in terms of this analogy. So just because it worked on you back in 1956 or 1963, doesn't mean that it will work on the you today of 2021. And think of it this way. So if we had a physician, and we went to the physician with an illness and a really serious illness, and we said, you know, Hey, can you treat me with some treatment, medicine, whatever your knowledge is, to help me with this illness, we would expect our physician to use the techniques and tools that they know about right now in 2021, right? We wouldn't expect the physician to treat us with the tools and techniques that they learned about in 1943 or in 1972. We would expect that they would use what they know now. And so when it comes to parenting, it's kind of the same thing. We know a lot more now in the last 50 to 60 years than we did before. So as parents, we use the tools that we have at the time. But then we keep learning and getting new tools and adding them to our toolbox and to sort of paraphrase Mya Angelo, when we know better, we do better. So that's kind of how I answer that question of, well, physical punishment was used on me and I'm fine. But we know better now. And so we can do better now.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. I love that. I've heard you describe it as, well, how would you feel if that doctor pulled the textbook off the shelf from 1963. And they're like, okay, this is how we can treat your medical condition. We'd feel a little panic. But we do what we know best, right? And so much of our parenting is based on the way we were raised, and all these things, but you're right, we can learn more, and we can do new things. And we're fortunate that we do have the research and we've got new strategies. We've got things that we can try that research shows is effective in our parenting and not harmful. We do. So of course, one of our favorites for in the moment is Stop, Breathe, Talk, right?

Lori Korthals:

It is and did you think I mean, come on. If you're our listeners, you know, we were gonna bring up Stop. Breathe. Talk. right? We have a whole episode on Stop. Breathe. Talk. So a brief explanation is just that idea of when we're in the heat of the moment, no matter where we are in the heat of the moment, just starting, it's been a while, we're at the end of that moment, we can always, always take a moment to stop, take a breath, or three or 10, and begin to talk. Take our tone down and begin to use our thinking brain and come back into regulation.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, so we do have a whole episode on this concept of Stop. Breathe. Talk. in the heat of a moment in season one, episode three, all about Stop. Breathe. Talk. So we've got to mention that one. Yeah. But beyond that, you know, I know that I need strategies that work, right? Like parenting is hard enough right now in the middle of a pandemic and honestly, kind of always, right? It's not an easy job. And so we need things in our toolbox that work in place of like, okay, if I'm learning that this is not effective, I need things that are effective to use instead. And so in those situations where we might resort to punishment, like when our kids do something we don't like, right? They have an undesired behavior, we need a strategy instead. And so we always like to bring in a little bit of research and a little bit of reality, and always have a strategy. Research gives us a lot of information about an idea called natural and logical consequences. Yes, so we can dive into this idea a little bit. Lori, do you want to just give us kind of like the broad definitions?

Lori Korthals:

Sure, absolutely. So natural consequences, those are the ones that allow children to learn from the natural outcomes of a situation. We'll give you an example here in a second. And the logical consequences really kind of allow the parent to set the consequences of the undesirable actions or behaviors. So when we look at the idea of logical consequences, we know that those consequences work best when we can be immediate and consistent. And it's also important to talk to the child about the behavior and to discuss what alternative behaviors would be. So that being said, you know, logical consequences are not things that we're going to be using with an infant or a toddler. Nope. Right now, the logical pieces just aren't there in their brain development.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And so this idea of natural, it's almost kind of allowing it to happen, right? instead of stepping in to fix it. Natural consequences is letting it happen versus logical consequences are ones that we can set. And so I, of course, I like to dig in with something really specific. And so I came up with these questions. So as you're thinking to yourself about what consequences to use, if you need to, but what consequences you might think about for a natural consequence, you could ask yourself this question. What will naturally happen as a result of this behavior? Right, so, of course, we're only using natural consequences that aren't gonna cause great harm to our child. We're not gonna, oh, if they run in the street, I guess we'll see what happens. So you know, that's not what natural consequences are for. Lori, do you have an example that is more appropriate?

Lori Korthals:

Oh, I do. I do. I love natural consequences honestly. I appreciate them. It's not a devious kind of love. I appreciate what they can teach because then I don't have to be the bad guy, right? Yeah, so natural consequences with my teenager. Teenagers in general seem to be allergic to coats in the winter, in the rain, okay, so a natural consequence of not wearing your coat in the winter is that when you come to a railroad crossing, and a very long train is crossing, and you don't have your coat, and your heater isn't working in your car, you're cold. And so the natural consequence of that time is that if you don't wear your coat, and the heater doesn't work in your car, you're cold. And that's okay.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We don't need any kind of punishment for our kids not wearing their coat. Yeah. Right. The world has a natural consequence. And honestly, I think allowing the natural consequences actually make our job as parents a little bit easier. And then know that the world is going to teach you things about your choices. Yeah, so absolutely. So natural consequences. And I also think that little tidbit, it also includes not stepping in, not fixing a situation for our kids. So I think of an example I've heard in another parenting education course, was about if your kids forget something that they need for school, or that they need for practice, like, okay, maybe I can't run it to you. The consequence of you not having your stuff packed is that you don't have it. Exactly. Sometimes natural consequences mean not intervening to fix it for them, too?

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Now, on the flip side are those logical consequences. Those are ones that we're actually setting. And so a question that we have for you to consider a logical consequence, what age appropriate expectation could I set that would help my child understand the impact of their behavior? So you know, I think, actually like, you break it, you bought it. Oh, you were playing ball in the house, and you broke this. Now we're gonna have to figure out how to fix it or how to pay for it and you're responsible for that. It's kind of the simple way of explaining logical consequences. Do you have another example from parenting of a logical consequence?

Lori Korthals:

I do. And I think one thing that our writer Barb Dunn Swanson really reminded us of is that logical consequences often bring into play our values as parents, family values. And so you know, those are things where the values kind of shape where those consequences go. So an example might be speaking to our child. So because you made a choice to not tell the truth, I actually will be driving you to the basketball game and picking you up instead of allowing you to ride with a friend. You know, so the expectation is that I exp ct you to tell the truth, the consequences for not telling the truth is I'm probably gonna be w tching where you're going and hat time and who you're with for a little bit here.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, the natural consequence is the loss of trust. The logical consequence that you're setting, you know, expectation is like, okay, I'm gonna have to take you to and from. So actually one of the professors at Iowa State, Dr. Diana Lange, gave us a little sneak peek into her textbook that she's writing with a little more info, and one of the things she mentions, is that finding consequences that are realistic for you to uphold. Absolutely, you know, so if you're setting a consequence that punishes you as a parent more than your child, right? If you physically are going to have to change everything to take them to the game and that's not realistic for you, you know. You get to decide what's realistic for you because you do want to be consistent, right, in putting forward the consequences you say you're going to. So that's another little tidbit that I was thinking of like, oh, yeah, this matters too.

Lori Korthals:

Choose consequences that you as the adult can handle. Yes, absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. You can be in charge. Absolutely. So yes, the natural and logical consequences. We do have all kinds of great techniques we can use to discipline and guide, right? We're teaching and guiding our kids towards behaviors we do want. And so natural and logical consequences can help us do that, as well, of course, as Stop. Breathe. Talk.

Lori Korthals:

Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So this idea of positive discipline is what we're looking at and what we encourage with The Science of Parenting, that there's a lot of research to support the benefits of it.

Lori Korthals:

There is and if you want to hear more about this idea of positive discipline, get more tips and strategies, you can attend any of our workshops which we offer online and in person all across the state of Iowa. So check out what classes we have coming up by going to the scienceofparenting.org website.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. We've got colleagues all over the state who help us spread the great research and reality that we have from The Science of Parenting. So that's a wrap, right? This is just a little bonus episode. Bonus. Yep, dropping you a little research and reality just on this topic of discipline, which we get a lot of questions about. And so remember that discipline is about teaching, and it's about the behaviors that we desire and guiding our kids toward them using effective parenting strategies. So we can do this most effectively by having positive relationships with our kids and encouraging behaviors we like to see and then using effective strategies for when we do have those undesired behaviors, which includes natural and logical consequences. So and of course, you're gonna Stop. Breathe. Talk. along the way.

Lori Korthals:

We are. We are and of course we're gonna Stop. Breathe. Talk. So come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs and the ins and outs and the research and reality of The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non- discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension@iastate.edu/diversity/ext