Connection + Discipline = A Winning Combination


I recently received a question on my Instagram: How do you substitute connection for discipline when your child continues to make bad choices?



The first thing I want to point out is that we’re not trying to substitute connection for discipline. They should happen together. Connection should happen when you are disciplining. We don’t throw connection out the window when we’re disciplining. In fact, connection is the most important thing to ensure that your child feels heard and seen, especially during a time that’s difficult—like disciplining.



So let’s talk about how we create disconnection. Disconnection comes from yelling, shaming, blaming, placing guilt on our children. Shunning them. Sometimes we put them in a time out or just say, “Leave me alone,” or we yell at them. All of that shuts our children down. It makes them feel like they aren’t loved. Even if we say “I love you, but”—that doesn’t work. We don’t want to create that disconnection.



It’s easier said than done, I know. Throw out the yelling, throw out the shame, throw out the guilt. Throw out all of that.


The question asked, how do you substitute connection for discipline? If you remember what the word discipline means, it means to teach. And that’s what this opportunity is. It is an opportunity to connect with our children, and to teach them. So, ask yourself, what and how can I teach in this moment? 


Taking a Level-headed Approach

A lot of time, with my little ones, I’ll get on my knees, and make sure I’m at their level, so we have eye contact. I make sure that I check in with myself and that I’m at a place where I can offer connection. If I am angry at them and feeling frustrated, and breathing heavily, and just so irate, that’s not a good time for me to create connection and it’s not a good time for me to discipline my child. So before even going to the place of disciplining, first take care of yourself.  First, calm yourself down.  Splash some water on your face, stick your head in the freezer, have a sip of coffee.  Remember that the goal is to teach and you’re the best teacher when you are coming from a place of calm and love. 


That discipline, that consequence, may have to wait until a later time, when I’m feeling a little bit better, where I can create that love, and that connection. Because a lot of times, we’re disciplining our children because they did something “wrong.” They made a “bad” choice, right?


So we need to figure out:

What was that about?

Why did they do that?

Is there an unmet need that they have?

Are they not feeling loved?

Are they feeling confused?

Are they feeling hungry or tired?

Is there a lagging skill?


Sometimes it’s just that—that they’re making those bad choices. Or maybe it’s a skill that they don’t have. Maybe they need to be taught how, and maybe they don’t have that flexible thinking that allows them to think about other things, like, “No you don’t get it your way, we’re not going to go to the store that you want to go to today.” We need to create opportunities to teach our kids the skills they need to handle upsets. Discipline is an opportunity to really create connection, even when our children continue to make, as this post said, “bad” choices.



Our job as parents is, first and foremost: take care of ourselves. Make sure we are in a place where we have calmed ourselves enough to allow for connection, to allow for discipline.


Then I want to look at, what is the unmet need? What—even in their rage, even in their bad choice—could be the reason behind why they made that choice? Is there a skill that’s lacking? If there is, how can I teach them that skill?


In conclusion, Connection + Discipline = A Winning Combination.   You can still create boundaries and set up expectations.  You can still discipline.  Tone matters.  Intention matters. 

You can do all this with connection.  Connection matters. 


Reaching Out

If you want to talk any of these things out, or understand how this all works, I’m happy to offer you a 30-minute consultation call. You can book it on my website. Or you can reach out to me, call me, message me. Please know that I’m here for you. I want to make this an easier journey for you.


A Moment of Gratitude

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I want to share with you something that happened last night in my own family that I thought might be helpful to you.


The past several weeks have been somewhat stressful for me and my extended family.


I recently went down to Washington, D.C., to visit some family with my two kids. We spent some time and that was great. Yesterday I drove back, and it was about a five-hour drive. We got home around 7:30pm. I was exhausted from driving, hadn’t slept well the night before, and was just really tired. So I said to my kids, “Hey I need your cooperation. I need you to brush your teeth, get into bed and please cooperate with what I ask of you.” And they did.



Over the past week or so, my youngest child, the five-year-old, had been whining, and talking like a baby, reverting to baby talk. And my cousin who I went to go see asked me about that. I explained that sometimes, reverting to baby talk and reverting to baby behavior is an indication that they have a need. When they were babies, we were attentive to them when they cried and cooed. We always responded to them, and now that my kid is 5, she does a lot so independently! She brushes her teeth, gets dressed, and takes baths, all on her own. Talking like a baby is her way of saying, “I need your attention” and the only way I think I can get it is by behaving like a baby.


The past few weeks, I’ve been distracted and focused on all that has been going on with our family, and not paying as much attention to my children.



Still, they went to bed, and my older one who is almost 7, came out of her room crying, saying, “I need you; I need you; I’m scared.” I had very little patience that night. I took my deep breath, and I tried to hang in there and I said, “OK, sweetie, I need you to go to bed. I need to clean up a few more things, and I’ll be up. Please just go to bed.” And she insisted, “No, can you please just come to bed with me? I need you.”


I cleaned up as quickly as I could and I went back to her room, and thought, I’m not going to lay down with her. I got really stubborn. I thought, I’m not laying down, I’m just going to sit here.


She laid back in her bed. I got on my phone, and I was texting or looking at Facebook, or doing whatever I do, and she leaned over and said, “Do you want to come here, and lay down next to me?” And at that moment I listened. And I put down my phone and laid right next to her. And it felt so good to take that deep breath that I really needed, and I laid down with her and then she said quietly, “Can you please sleep with me tonight?”


All I really wanted was to sleep in my own bed. We had been traveling, sleeping in another bed for five days.  My husband wasn’t home; he was traveling. So I said, “Why don’t you come sleep in my room?” and she did.



She fell asleep quickly. I didn’t—it took me a while. She reached out her hand to me and we held hands. When we were holding hands I reviewed all the things I was stressed about over the past few weeks, what I was feeling, what was going on, what my thoughts were, what my feelings were, and I cried. I didn’t wake her, thankfully, and we just held hands. And I loved that moment of stillness and quietness and calmness with her.


At that moment I didn’t know who was holding whose hand.  Was I holding her hand or was she holding my hand?


That’s what I needed at that moment. Somehow, I wasn’t listening to myself, to say, “Maria, settle down, calm down, take a deep breath, take care of yourself.” But my child must have known what I needed, because she asked me, begged me, “Please come with me, I’m scared.” She said all these things that had nothing to do with her, but somehow, she knew, the universe knew, that I needed that moment.


I needed that time. And I was grateful for it. I’m grateful she reached out her hand and held me through that time.

The 5 Biggest Problems Parents Face


All parents! You, me and your neighbor with the greener grass!

Parenting is the hardest but also the most rewarding job that you’ll ever have. What makes it so challenging most days is that you may be doing everything right, yet the results don’t seem to be there. Your kids are not getting to bed on time, they’re not eating breakfast in the morning, or they’re spending too much time in front of the TV.

As a result, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious. You may even begin to doubt the decisions that you’re making. That’s especially true if you’re raising young toddlers or preschool-age kids, where the gap between effort and result can often be daunting.

As a PCI Certified Parent Coach, I’ve seen a lot of different situations, but many of the reasons why parents reach out to me for help are the result of the five following issues:

  1. Children’s eating habits and mealtimes
  2. Morning routines and getting out the door on time
  3. Sleep times
  4. TV and screen time
  5. Work/life balance

Yes, that’s right. It may seem like there are many more things that cause stress in your daily life as a parent, but almost all of them can be reduced to these five basic problems. And don’t worry – every parent faces these problems, sooner or later. (Trust me, even the “perfect mom” who seems to have everything under control faces these issues).

The good news is that there are a variety of strategies and approaches for dealing with each of these issues. Take the example of children’s eating habits and mealtimes. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the end result – my kids need to eat more vegetables! – and not enough on the process. As a result, the process of getting your kids to eat vegetables becomes even harder to fix because certain rules (such as “no standing while eating”) steadily get eroded, all in an effort to get to that final result.

My role as a parent coach is to understand what’s going on in a non-judgmental way, and then explain possible steps that might help alleviate the situation. Most importantly, I can be a sounding board for your concerns, and help you cut through the clutter of the latest child-rearing ideas and concepts.

Remember – parenting tends to follow fads and cycles. The fads and cycles might not be as obvious as they are in, say, the fashion industry, but they are definitely there. Grandparents and parents often have very different ideas of how to raise a child, and that also leads to its own share of tensions. You may have your own very defined ideas of how to raise your child, but if those ideas don’t seem to be working out in practice, it’s hard to deflect criticism or judgments from other members of your family!

That’s exactly where a parent coach can matter the most – not in telling you what you’re doing wrong, but in validating what you’re doing correctly. Over the next five blog posts, I’ll be taking a look at those five issues that seem to trip up every family, and provide some practical advice that you can use. This is advice that I’ve learned the “hard way” – as a school social worker, teacher and parent. And it’s advice that I’m hoping to pass on to you in the hopes of helping you rediscover the unique joy and meaning of parenting.