The following article is from Terry Levy, Ph.D., director of Evergreen Psychotherapy Center in Evergreen, Colo. Dr. Levy is a world-recognized expert in the treatment of attachment disorders and trauma. He is the co-author of Attachment, Trauma and Healing and Healing Parents: Helping Wounded Children Learn to Trust and Love.
The ten Cs of parenting and loving leadership are the foundation for creating a healthy and healing relationship with children, based on compassionate care, appropriate structure, and mutual respect. “Discipline” comes from the
root word “disciple,” which means “follower of a leader or teacher.” Effective discipline depends on building the right relationship with a child, not merely about using a particular technique, and to encourage a child’s total development—mind, body, emotions, relationships, and values.
Parents can have a positive influence on children when guided by the ten Cs, which are described below.
Connecting with children involves empathy, support, nurturance, structure, and love. The ability to form and maintain positive connections is essential for healthy childhood development. Parents who successfully connect with
their children are emotionally available, actively involved in their lives, and model respect and compassion. Children are most influenced by those with whom they feel the deepest respect and strongest connections.
To be calm is synonymous with being levelheaded, peaceful, patient, and composed. The only effective way to positively influence children is to gain their trust, and a calm and consistent approach works best. Although it is
important to be calm and centered with all children, it is critical to remain emotionally balanced with children who have special needs, such as anxiety, depression, or a history of trauma. Parents must teach children to be calm by providing an example of calmness, which reduces the “alarm reaction” (fight, flight, freeze), and allows them to feel safe and secure enough to trust, think rationally and learn.
Parents cannot create a safe and secure environment for children without a commitment. Commitment is a promise and a pledge to be available to a child through thick and thin; a moral obligation to take certain actions and respond in certain ways, which leads to safety, security and trust. Parents must commit to the following: keeping their child safe; truly knowing their child; providing appropriate structure; having compassion for their child; being a positive
role model; and supporting their child’s growth and development. Parents make a commitment not only to their child, but also to their own health and growth-mind,body,spirit. Guiding children requires that parents are “on top of their game.”
Consistent and appropriate structure—rules, limits, boundaries and consequences—enables children to depend on a reliable caregiver, whom they begin to respect and then trust. Providing structure engenders feelings of safety and security in children, anchoring them for the rest of their lives. Inconsistent care can result in children becoming anxious and mistrustful, not knowing what to expect. It is important for consistency to occur among all the adults in the child’s life. Teachers, counselors, daycare providers, child welfare workers, and family members must all be on the same page. Children will be more likely to learn and grow when everyone provides consistent messages and structure.
To communicate is to connect. There is no greater gift to children than to be attuned; they see it in their parents’ eyes, and hear it in their tone of voice. Parental sensitivity to the child’s signals is the essence of secure attachment. Communication is the foundation of all relationships; parent-child, marital, friends, work. Sensitive and attuned communication creates the conditions in which a child is more likely to confide and connect. Realizing that so much of communication is nonverbal (eyes, facial expressions, tone of voice, touch), a parent’s style of delivery is often more important than the words. Messages register in the emotional region of the child’s brain (limbic system),
and affect learning, trust, stress response, memory, and development.
Choices and Consequences
One of the most important jobs as a parent is to prepare children for the real world. To accomplish this, children must learn to accept and learn from the consequences of their choices. This leads to the development of responsibility, accountability and maturity. There is a difference between consequences and punishment. The goal in giving a consequence is to teach a lesson, which encourages a child’s self-examination, acceptance of responsibility for actions, and the ability to learn from mistakes. The definition of punishment is to cause to suffer. Punishment is harmful to a child’s sense of self, emotional development, and trust in the parent–child relationship.
Confidence is the ability to convey self-assurance, conviction and certainty. Confident parents have trust in what they are doing to help their children. Children feel safe with confident parents, whom they view as capable and
dependable. Parents need information, skills, support, self-awareness, and hope to develop confidence. When parents understand their children they are more likely to help them. Learning constructive parenting skills leads to success, and success builds confidence. Having support provides the care and encouragement so crucial during difficult times. Self-awareness prevents parents from responding in negative ways. Knowing children will learn, grow and develop positively under the correct conditions creates optimism and hope.
Children need opportunities to learn about the give and take of relationships, including cooperation, empathy and reciprocity. Parents who are resonant in their attitude and reactions are more likely to have children who are motivated to cooperate. Resonant parents are attuned to the feelings, needs and mindsets of their children. Parents who are dissonant are not attuned to their children, and their children are not motivated to cooperate. Parents must
model cooperative attitudes and behaviors with children, spouse, extended kin, friends, and others. Children learn by watching what we do, not what we say.
Creativity means to invest with a new form, to create through imagination, to bring into existence something new. Creativity is the language of childhood. An important rule when dealing with children is:”if something doesn’t work, do different, not more of the same.” Children who feel unsafe are often focused on survival at the expense of imagination and creativity. Their limbic brains are in “fight,flight,freeze” – there is no opportunity for creativity. An important aspect of creativity is humor. Laughter is the best medicine; it reduces stress, creates positive connections, and gives a new perspective on one’s situation. Laughing with, not at, a child increases emotional bonding and interrupts negative patterns of relating.
A coach is a mentor who guides, teaches, supports, motivates and inspires positive values and characteristics in children. Parents are role models and coaches and set an example of who to be and how to behave. Children
learn more from modeling than by any other way. A good coach not only imparts knowledge, but also facilitates the attainment of wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied: figuring out a problem for yourself by using critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Coaches teach life skills, including self -awareness, self-control, conflict resolution, communication, and cooperation. Coaches encourage the development of positive traits such as tolerance, enthusiasm, industriousness, integrity, loyalty, and perseverance. We all need coaches.