Breaking The Cycle: A Shift from Punitive to Positive Parenting

emotional intelligence  member highlight  mindfulness  positive parenting 

By Ashley Patek

girl carrying a large stuffed lion down a dirt road

I doodled as I daydreamed about it in class. I bragged about it to my friends on the playground. My eight-year-old self was over the moon about our upcoming family trip to Grant’s Farm that weekend. I had never yet been there, and I was excited. Like really excited.

Saturday morning finally came, and I was ready. Perfect outfit, check. A quick bowl of Frosted Flakes, check. The first one in the car, beating my brother, check. 

But then the morning took a terrible turn. The twenty-minute car ride was a disaster. Arguing with my brother had inspired an even bigger, messier argument between my mom and dad. By the time we parked, everyone was in a mood and I was crying.

“Quit crying or we will leave,” my dad said. 

My dad's threat brought on more, not less, of my waterworks plus a dash of hysteria at the thought of leaving before we even got there.

“That’s it. We are leaving!” 

And after a swat to my backside, we left. Bruised emotions and a sore tush were the only trip tokens that came home with us that day. 

I remember feeling small. So small that I could fit inside my own pocket.

girl covering her face with both hands

My parents were of a generation that frequented corporal punishment. It was the way they were raised, and their parents before them too. 

So it’s of little surprise that when I became a parent myself, my impulse was to spank, yell or lecture. Not knowing the long-term effects of this type of punishment, I repeated the experiences of my past, perpetuating the cycle.

Then one day, after an encounter with my own son that resulted in a swat to his backside, I stood there looking at him and I saw instead the reflection of my eight-year-old self. This shook me to the core.

I started studying all things positive parenting, and soon learned that unknowingly, with a swat of my hand, I was actually affecting my child’s brain; both neurologically and developmentally. His brain had eyes and those eyes saw me as a threat! 

And although I could achieve the short-term goal of getting my children to obey in that moment, I realized that I was not nurturing the lifelong skills of managing emotions and connecting with others.

Relying on fear to achieve obedience had both physical and emotional effects. I had never been taught how to manage my big emotions, and I noticed that my children were lacking the skills to manage theirs too.

It’s difficult to teach what you were never taught and do not know yourself. 

As I began to re-parent myself, I realized that “educational violence” was not a family tradition that I wanted to continue. I wanted to break the cycle of generations past.

“I love you but I hit you” was not the message I wanted to send my children.

This is when I found Generation Mindful.

I always thought being spanked didn't have an affect on me. And then I became a parent.

GEN:M planted seeds for me to water and cultivate. I started to focus on connection to better regulate myself and to co-regulate with my children. As I gained more emotional freedom, I broke down personal barriers and repaired relationships.

We are not the sum of our behaviors; a message often sent to my younger self with corporal punishment. I now see that when misbehavior rears its ugly (but inevitable) head, there is an unmet need lurking nearby. Misbehavior is an unmet need and instead of removing our love and attention, we can choose to connect.

One heart. One moment. One home at a time. We are the change.

** This article was written by a Generation Mindful mom member who wishes to remain anonymous. Do you have a story about mindfulness and/or connection to tell? Visit here for details and submit an article to our editor for consideration.


Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

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