From a child development workshop
Strokes and attachment are intimately related (of course). The quality, strength and psychological health of an attachment between mother and child is directly influenced by the types of strokes that are exchanged between them. As we know there are 4 types of strokes
If mother (and to a lesser extent the child) is giving positive strokes to a child then the quality and strength of the attachment between them will increase as is shown in the diagram. When there is an exchange of negative strokes then the quality and health of the attachment decreases. Thus the quality of the attachment is directly influenced by the nature of the stroking patterns between mother and child.
When there is no exchange of strokes from mother to child there is a plateau effect initially as is shown in the diagram. The longer the period of no strokes continues then there is a decrease in the quality of attachment at an exponential rate. Initially it is nil, then slow and then fast as is shown in the graph.
When a parent disciplines a child it is giving the child a negative stroke. Discipline causes a child pain. If the transaction does not cause pain then it is not discipline but something else. As discipline is a negative stroke that means it will subtract from the quality and psychological health of the attachment with the child.
If in the past there has been a lot of positive strokes then the attachment quality will be high up on the graph. Thus the negative strokes from the discipline has minimal impact on the relationship quality between mother and child. If the attachment quality is already low on the graph then the discipline has a more devastating effect on the relationship.
Most parents who present with discipline problems with their children have an attachment quality that is already low on the graph. One sees endless books on the disciplining of children which discuss the different types and styles and the pros and cons of both. When I work with parents on discipline I am mostly looking at what they are doing when they are not disciplining the child. The most important part in disciplining a child is what you are doing when you are not disciplining it!
This may seem a little odd and parents at times find this hard to accept and will try to bring it back to how to discipline the child and see the non disciplining periods as inconsequential. However I would assert that if the attachment between mother and child is high up on the graph then discipline problems will be negligible or quite transitory.
One negative strokes is five times more powerful than one positive stroke. If a parent gives one negative stroke to get the graph back to where it was prior to that the parent has to give five positive strokes.
This however is just a general rule of thumb. The negative relationship effects of negative stroking vary greatly depending on the type of negative stroke (discipline) given. However negative strokes are more powerful than positive strokes as described above.
Main types of discipline
1. Physical - Hit the child, bite child, pinch child, pulling hair.
2. Behavioural - Loss of privileges. This is the consequences of behaviour
approach. “If you don’t clean your room then no TV tonight”, “If you don’t get
home by 12 midnight then you are grounded”.
3. Emotional -
Anger at the child. All people have a natural aversion to anger because the
consequences of anger are never pleasant and can even be physically threatening.
“If you don’t get ready for school mummy will get angry”.
Withdrawal of love. Very powerful in changing behaviour. “If you draw on the
walls mummy wont love you any more”. Or the parent who gives the silent
treatment or the cold shoulder to the child who misbehaves.
Abandonment fear. Also a very powerful discipline technique. “If you don’t stop crying I will get a policeman to come and take you away”. Or the parent who simply walks away from a misbehaving child.
Shame. The cinderella of the destructive emotions. “You should be ashamed of
wetting your bed”. “I am going to tell your friends how horrible you are for
drawing on the walls.” A powerful form of discipline indeed