NORMAN — Q: My 6-year-old daughter has recently learned to say, “You’re hurting my feelings.” This is part of her school’s anti-bullying program. The problem is she’s now saying it to me when I discipline her.
What should I say to her? In exasperation, I’ve said, “You hurt my feelings when you disobey me.” That seems to have some, admittedly small, effect. I hope you have a better idea.
A: The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. Over the past few years, a good number of parents have told me that their kids, when disciplined, complain of hurt feelings. The mystery as to the origin of this epidemic is solved.
A very wise man once said words to this effect, “Proper discipline never feels good at the time but results in all manner of good in the long run.” In other words, discipline is not corrective if it does not feel “bad” to the person receiving it. It should “hurt” — not harm or abuse, just not feel good. That emotional memory is what deters future missteps of the same sort. So, don’t concern yourself with your daughter’s complaint.
A proper response to her complaint is, “That means you heard me. Good.” And then walk away. Do not turn this into an exchange. If you don’t give credence to her complaint, she will stop making it.
Q: Over the past year, the relationship between our 14-year-old son and his sisters has deteriorated markedly and is causing major problems in our family. He won’t speak to them and says he hates them. He’s also become very disrespectful toward me, Mom. His sisters say they want to be on good terms with him, but he rejects any attempts on their part to improve the relationship.