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Discipline vs. Abuse

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I was abused when I was a child. So any kind of discipline I must apply is a constant reminder of my childhood unhappiness. Where do I go from here?

A: I'm sorry you're still haunted by the physical abuse (I'm assuming you meant physical and not sexual since you're talking about discipline) and/or mental abuse you suffered as a child. I'm also assuming the disciplining you are talking about being afraid to do is with your own child(ren). If you are "constantly reminded of it" then you have a long-standing chronic problem that is not going to go away on its own and which is preventing you from performing an important parental task, that of disciplining. My guess is that one of the principal reasons your childhood abuse memories paralyze you in the area of discipline is that you came to associate discipline with being hurt physically, being punished.

Discipline is not punishment and hurting children physically should NEVER be a part of discipline. I believe this is a significant enough problem to warrant at least some short-term therapy with someone who has treated adults who were abused as kids. Interview therapists as to their experience in this realm and then select the one you feel most comfortable with. If this is not dealt with you will also begin to doubt your overall abilities to parent. Reading about successful ways to discipline with love and respect for children will complement your therapy. A few good sources to begin with are : Discipline with Love, by Stephanie Marston, M.F.C.C.( an audiotape) and the book, Discipline without Shouting or Spanking, by Jerry Wyckoff, Ph.D. If you can't find these in a bookstore, they are available from Glazenbrook and Associates, P.O. Box 138299,Chicago, IL 60613.

It's time you freed yourself from something that was done to you when you could not defend yourself. I am sure you will be a wonderful loving parent who learns to discipline with love, humor and creativity. I wish you good fortune on your brave journey.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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