Archive for logical consequences

Renaming Discipline

Dear Parent,

I wonder how I would view disciplining children if it were called shaping children or growing children or supporting children?  Would you see discipline differently if it were called something else?

I know the word discipline derives from the Greek word to follow or follower of a teacher (like Jesus). In the truest sense of the word, it follows that children are the disciples of parents (who often are not at all like Jesus); however, it does not follow that discipline means “to teach,” but rather it means “to learn.”  To teach is a misnomer.

In popular culture, discipline has come to mean something more authoritarian, power over, and punitive.  To discipline a child is to create learning through some form of pain–isolation from the family, restriction from play, loss of beloved things, slaps, spanks, verbal lashing, humiliation, and other unspeakable forms of torture in the name of discipline.  Pain of some kind is de rigueur,  as though pain infliction is the only way to get a child to learn.  Isn’t that odd?  Even a little counterintuitive from where I stand.

I wonder if I would have learned Spanish if every time I conjugated a verb incorrectly the teacher inflicted pain so I would learn.  I am actually having a hard time even imagining that scenario.  Of course, we all know pain is not necessary to learn Spanish or any other academic subject.  I think we all know that, except a lot of knock-down drag-out fights over homework might be evidence to the contrary.

Actually, to really learn Spanish (for native English speakers) there needs to be 1) a desire on the disciple’s part to learn, and 2) there may or may not be another reward involved, such as a passing grade, the ability to speak with someone in Spanish, the internal feeling of pride and accomplishment, or college entrance and employment advances.  Come to think of it: I’m pretty sure had pain been part of the equation, I would have elected not to learn Spanish.  I would have given up on my desire to learn it, and any of the possible rewards that would have accompanied acquiring Spanish speaking skills.  I never would have made it to college, because a language is required.  I would not have become a teacher or therapist.  Likely, I would not be able to afford the luxuries my professional career brings me.  I might have ended up living below the poverty line:  Perhaps even lose my will to accomplish anything in life at all.  I might have started hating Spanish, and learning, and teachers all together. I might have dropped out of school, given up on myself and my goals, and perhaps pursued a less than savory lifestyle to get by.

If I had to choose between painful success and painless survival, I’m not sure I would have had enough pre-frontal cortex developed in my high school years to make a decision that ultimately would have given me life advantages.  To clarify, the decision that would have given me life advantages would have been to continue on learning Spanish, while hating learning, hating teachers, and despite the pain inflicted when I made mistakes–despite the pain, not because of the pain.  (I thought about inserting an old Nun quip here, but I’m too serious about the topic to make it funny.)

What do you say we collectively stop painfully disciplining our children to teach them to learn and start supporting them, growing them, shaping them to learn instead?  Just a thought on this fabulous Friday.  Go have some fun with your precious traumatized, attachment challenged babies.  Playful engagement is the best teacher of children and it is  in their native language.

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Love matters,


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Fear Strikes The Core

Like a lightening bolt, fear strikes the core of our complex traumatized children in nearly all that they do.  
lightening bolt
Last night, I came home from work and walked in the door to my son beginning a lie before the door had even closed behind me.  
“I cleaned my room, Mom, but I already messed it up again.”
In my world owning up to an ugly truth is difficult, but entirely freeing. For my son, fear strikes his core before he can think of the truth, so the lies shoot out in my face like spring-loaded slinkies–one right after the other in a barely detectable loop-de-loop.
Once quiet again and out of his fear-stricken state, for the 5000th time I asked him, What could you do instead of lie?  
He responds, “Not be afraid.”  
Well, can you actually control your fear?  
Did it occur to you that you could not be afraid by simply cleaning your room?
“Oh.  Pregnant pause. “No.”
This is an executive function problem.  Putting two and two together in a logical order is very difficult for some of our traumatized children. I wish it were different, but it isn’t.
For the 5001st time, Well, you could do your chores or not do your chores. Since you don’t get in trouble for not doing your chores, there is nothing to fear and nothing to lie about either way. Cool, huh?
“I’m really trying Mom.”
I know, Honey. I know. Just go clean your room.
“Okay. Can I tell you about what Mr. XYZ did today?”
Yes, three seconds after you clean your room.
“You’re funny Mom.”
I know, Honey. I know. Go.
Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
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Repetition creates new neuropathways.  
Brains seem made of cement around our house.


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Love Matters
Good Morning Fellow Parent,

I reply to many email questions daily from parents with parenting questions.  I welcome questions in email, so families can get support between sessions.  Turns out, I don’t always understand the questions and offer less than what is expected; however, sometimes the replies have a universal quality.  This is a response to a recent email I thought might be helpful to share with you.

I wanted to follow up about that “glee” you experience in your (child) when he is blowing out.
That is a chemical reaction.  When he is blowing out, his brain is flooded with cortisol (stress hormone taking his prefrontal
cortex–judgement, caring, ability to respond appropriately–off line), his adrenaline pumps through his body (giving him the feeling of superman like physical power), and endorphins are released because of the over-arousal (giving him a burst of relief and, dare I say it, exuberant satisfaction) which makes him seem to ENJOY a good blow out while it is happening.
What you interpret as “enjoying the negative escalation” is really “enjoying the chemical process” of the blow-out, not the defiant behavior directed at you. To top it all off, this chemical alchemy is ADDICTIVE, so the blow outs become habituated because unconsciously he is seeking that intense feeling.
That said, what is the answer?   While you are getting him into recovery from addictive blow-outs, you have to do some therapeutic things that maybe seem counter-intuitive and like way too much energy to be putting into a kid that is old enough to do the basic tasks of getting dressed, taking showers, etc. Remember, his brain is addicted to blowing out.  He has been blowing out most of his life; it isn’t just for you.  You will have to do the regular, daily, hard work of re-organizing his experiences to replace the blow-out habit with a new positive addiction like relational, interactive play (the language of children).
Keep your emotions light and be playful… Give him the same chemical alchemy in a positive way.  Morning pillow fight to get his blood pumping? Game of tag around the house before a shower? Turn on some rock and roll and dance around like an idiot?  Tickle fest?  Serenade him with I’ve Got a Hammer?

Try it, if you think you can stay playful and tolerate the “up” energy.  You can get some replacement neuro-pathways constructed this way.

Love Matters, Ce

Understanding your child’s behavior as a brain/body process, rather than a calculated, personal attack on YOU, is important to your ability to meet your child with love. 


Punishment vs. Consequences

Most traditional parenting strategies will not work longterm with an attachment challenged child. However, it is important to allow natural and logical consequences to persist in your child’s life because it is the way of the world and children need to understand that over time. Still natural and logical consequences will likely not create huge behavior change.

A natural and logical consequence becomes punishment when you deliver it by withholding love and giving anger, disapproval, rage, put downs, rejection, hopelessness, and dismissiveness.

Negative emotional “consequencing” is punishment. It doesn’t work longterm to change behavior and it slices gashes on the heart of your relationship with your child. That punishment lasts a lifetime.Scared child

A loving, short talk is a logical consequence. That will change behavior faster than your expressed rage, disappointment, disgust, anger, frustration, rejection or dismissal.


Because a loving relationship changes the heart (otherwise known as the brain) of your child. Win-win.