This is it, this is what I’m saying.
Not “control your kids without punishment,” or “control your kids without physical punishment.”
I’m not trying to tell anyone that is is possible to control your kids without punishment.
It’s not. I admit that.
What I’m saying is, punishment harms them – us. We were kids too – so controlling them harms them, so: give up the control. Control them a whole lot less.
Protect them from serious safety issues, but don’t punish them in order to train them to protect themselves from these serious safety issues, because this punishment harms them. When they’re small, too young to understand, that’s YOUR job, protecting them, not theirs.
Protect yourself and your expensive or otherwise treasured things from them when they’re small and experimenting with the world and with their power, creative and destructive power, but don’t punish them in order to train them to protect you and your stuff from their creative and destructive power, because this punishment harms them. When they’re small, too young to understand, that’s YOUR job, protecting you and your stuff, not theirs.
Other than that, don’t be controlling your kids, the cost is too high, the cost in trauma, the cost of their trust in you and your love, and the cost in their cognitive development.
You can TRY to control them, with speech, even distraction, don’t get me wrong, you’re supposed to teach them, you want them to know you’re paying attention, that you care. You can TRY to talk them out of stuff, talk is OK, but if it’s not working, it’s not working, don’t escalate to punishing. Let them learn the real-world consequences of their actions, let them learn about the real world.
Believe me, it won’t “work” most of the time. With no tool more powerful than talk, you are going to lose the battles with your two-year old.
And that is how it should be.
If you always win, if you do what it takes to win every time, if you succeed at controlling your kids, that’s only a short term win for you. Punished kids feel betrayed and abused. Punished kids, by the time they can converse, don’t like you any more, and they don’t want to listen.
If you want them to talk to you when they can, if you want teenagers that are willing to converse with you, keep it to talk when they’re small, never escalate.
Lose the battles.
Fail at controlling them.
Beware of parenting advice that tells you you can win, because winning with your two-year old means losing your older kids.
You want to win the war?
Lose the battles.