Ways to Help Your Child Develop Empathy and Generosity

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

One of the main reasons given behind forced sharing is to help children learn empathy and generosity. While forced sharing actually teaches the opposites of these traits, here are some ways to help children develop those attributes:

  • Photo by cogdogblog (Flickr)Empathize with your child. Empathy starts with an understanding of self and putting feelings into words. Help your children do this by talking about feelings: theirs, yours, and those of others.
  • Model empathy and generosity. This sounds like a given, but our children learn so much from our own actions. Model these actions and your children will pick up on it. Discuss with them why you do certain things so that they can know the thought process behind your actions.
  • Point out similarities and humanize others. We often relate better to others with whom we share something. Help children recognize similarities with others. Use current events as a way to humanize victims so that children are better able to understand.
  • Expose your children to other cultures and points of view. Read books. Go to events and venues celebrating diversity or diverse cultures.
  • Ditch the punishments and rewards. These extrinsic motivators require a child to focus on self. Instead, talk with your kids and work with them to come up with solutions to problems which work for everyone.
  • Volunteer. Learn about giving to others by volunteering your time to a local organization or to individuals.
  • Participate in random acts of kindness. This helps children to think about others in the moment and to help out where they can.
  • Actively listen to your child. children who are heard and understood are more likely to listen to others. They are also learning the skills that you model.
  • Connect with your child. Children who feel connected to a loving adult feel better about themselves and treat others with more connection and caring.

It takes children time to develop these skills. You can’t force it. You can, however, nurture it.

Book Review: No Drama Discipline

no drama disciplineFor many years now, I would have told you that my absolute top two parenting book recommendations would be Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott and Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon. They are both fantastic books about moving away from punishments and rewards and instead working with your children, with advice and techniques included, something many parents feel is lacking in gentle discipline books.

After reading No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, I have to amend that. No Drama Discipline is now my number one recommendation to parents wanting to understand what is going on with their children and how to change their way of thinking when it comes to parenting.

The authors go into enough depth about how your child’s brain works to explain while managing to write in a conversational manner which appeals to tired, frustrated parents. The book is a fast read, with enough information in early chapters to help parents begin changing how they interact with their children right away. Real life examples will appeal to many parents, helping them both to understand how to use techniques while offering hope to those attempting to make drastic changes in the way they parent.

This is a game changing book and one I highly recommend, not only to parents looking for something better, but also to parents who have been working to parent gentle from the beginning. This is also a good book to share with your parenting partner. Order your own copy and keep it handy. It might just change the way you view parenting.

To Discipline, To Teach

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

Discipline. What does it mean? When speaking of one’s self, discipline means having control over one’s self in order to act in a way you feel is appropriate. Maybe that means not saying the first thing that pops into your mind to the rude lady at the supermarket or perhaps it means ignoring the siren song of that chocolately, ooey, gooey brownie down in the kitchen.

Photo by Sean DreilingerWhen it comes to talking about raising our children, discipline literally means to teach. When our kids screw up, and they will just as we have countless times, it is our job to help them learn to do better. When our children were babies and learning to crawl or walk, we didn’t punish them when they weren’t able to do so. We understood that they would get there when they were ready. We encouraged them. We helped pick them up when they fell down. We lent a hand when they were wobbly-kneed and trying to make it across the room. We didn’t yell or hit or threaten or lecture. We loved them and were there for them.

When our children are trying to learn something new, whether it is reading, multiplication, or a foreign language, we understand that it takes time to fully grasp the concepts. We encourage them. We answer questions. When they get something wrong, we help walk them through the problem so that they know how to do it the correct way. We don’t ground them or punish them in some other way because we don’t help people learn to do better by making them feel bad.

Fundamentally, we understand that these are the things we need to do in order to help them learn. This is what disciplining our children is all about. We want to be there for them to help them learn, because that is our ultimate goal. So when they make mistakes, we should ask ourselves what we want them to do differently next time. Then ask yourselves what you can do to help them to learn to do things better.

By helping them walk through the process, we help build those neural connections and help them build the skills needed to respond better next time. As they learn these skills, they will be better prepared to handle future situations, with or without an authority figure present.

Diffusing Situations through Active Listening

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

 

It was shortly after the birth of our third child. The kids and I were driving 40+ minutes one way in order to see our chiropractor, who was completely worth the drive. However, driving with a newborn is always a bit stressful for me. None of my children have been thrilled with driving at first, and I always felt a need to rush at the door the second the baby was finished nursing so that we could more easily make it to our destination.

Photo by Ken Wilcox

Photo by Ken Wilcox

On this particular day, we had already been in to see the chiropractor and were back out in the waiting area. I was nursing the baby, and my two older children, then almost three and almost five, were playing with toys. As the baby finished, I was thinking about getting everyone packed up and into the van as quickly as possible for the commute home. I didn’t really register the disagreement between my kids until it had begun to escalate, voices raising and some large arm waving. The already stressed out part of me wanted to tell my children to “come on” because we needed to go. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the receptionists look over as they saw me putting the baby back in the sling and trying to get ready to go. The small part of me that still occasionally wonders if someone is judging my parenting kicked in, but I knew what I needed to do

I took a deep breath, got down to their level, and one by one asked them to tell me what was going on. The television in the play area was on when we had entered. One of my children wanted to turn the television off, and the other wanted to leave it on. Both were adamant in their resolve and together were at an impasse. A little more questioning and I discovered the reasoning for each child. The child who wanted to turn the television off was concerned about wasting electricity and the television potentially being loud and bothering other people. The child who wanted to leave the television on was concerned that someone might want to watch it. I pointed out that they both were coming from a place of thinking about others. When they realized that, we were able to work out a solution which worked for everyone.

In all honesty, the entire situation probably only took a couple of minutes. Had I not taken those minutes to actively listen and help mediate, it probably would have taken us much longer to leave the office that day. Instead, my children cheerily skipped to the door and went out to the van with me with the impending crisis averted.

 

Parenting is Not One-Size-Fits-All

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

 

913856-bobby_brady1I am not a Brady Bunch fan. The fact is I didn’t watch the reruns growing up. However, I did happen to catch one particular rerun with my husband during undergrad. I don’t know that all of the shows were so telling, but this particular episode stuck with me. Bobby, who is the youngest Brady son, is given the ultimate job at school: safety monitor. He can write students up for not following the rules and therefore not being safe. Oh, the power! It isn’t long before he has enacted his institutionally given powers at home, turning in reports on his siblings to their parents. One sibling comes home after curfew. Another has a different sibling do her chores. You get the idea. Each person has a reason for breaking the rules, but it doesn’t matter. They broke the rules. As far as Bobby is concerned, this blatant disregard for rules is black and white. That is, until he is faced with breaking the rules to go into an old house, while getting his good suit dirty, in order to save a cat. Suddenly he is faced with making a decision.

The story unfolds from there. He makes the decision to save the cat. A mishap with a large amount of laundry detergent results in him shrinking his suit, flooding the house with suds, and his parents finding out. The lesson is learned, however. Life isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Each situation is unique. Just as we want our children to learn to think for themselves, assessing situations and using that information to come up with the best solutions, so to do we need to do that as parents. We can’t rely on arbitrary rules and pre-determined punishments in order for our children to learn. Life doesn’t work that way. If the goal of our parenting is to raise empathetic, conscientious critical thinking, we have to raise them that way.

Connection: Moving Kids from Reaction to Reception

NPN RTD feature

This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.
There was crying and frustration. For some families, there may be yelling and harsh words. While we could say our children are at the heart of the tantrum, that isn’t always the case.Sometimes our children do melt down. Sometimes the person in full melt down mode is the parent. Either way, the person is reacting to elements of which they hold no control, causing them to be out of control. A person melting down is a person in crisis.

What can you do to help someone in crisis? You can reach out and connect. Connection is the first step to helping someone. It helps calm down the person’s nervous system so that they are in a place to stop reacting and start responding. It can be as simple as looking at the person, hugging them, holding hands, or rubbing their back. A simple connection can immediately begin to release oxytocin into their system and decrease levels of stress hormones. Not only does it help our children when they are in melt-down mode, it can do the same for us as we feel the stress of the situation.

Photo from Flckr (basibanget)

Photo from Flckr (basibanget)

Connection does more than just help calm a person down. It impacts brain development. When we comfort someone, really listen to them, and show them we care, our connection helps to increase communication between the person’s upstairs and downstairs brains. You build a stronger connection to help the person in future situations and you help the person, including yourself, to respond more quickly next time.

Connecting with our children also helps strengthen our relationship with them. When we take the time to connect, we remind them and ourselves of how much we love them and want them to succeed. The next time you are faced with a melt-down, remember that it is a cry for help. Try giving a hug.

 

 

Proactive Parenting: Preventing the Melt-Down

NPN RTD feature

This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

 

Photo by John Williams (FLCKR)

Photo by John Williams (FLCKR)

Think of some time when you were stressed out. Work was crazy, with deadlines looming over you. Your boss was on your back. The information or supplies you needed in order to finish your project weren’t available.  Everything was going wrong. You hadn’t been sleeping well, and your lunch was still sitting there because you were called in to a meeting rather than getting five minutes to eat. You were feeling frazzled. Then, when you got home, your safe spot in the sea of craziness, you realized that the house was a mess. After your crazy day, you couldn’t even relax but had to clean up after other people.

It doesn’t matter why or how your stress may have been caused in your personal scenario. When we are stressed out, for whatever reason, we aren’t functioning at our best. The same is true for our children.

In their book, No Drama Discipline, the authors share their key phrase HALT. When your child is feeling out of sorts, are they Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? It is a good way to remember to stop yourself (HALT) and ask what is going on. Even if we don’t readily see it, there is always a reason for the your child is acting. By recognizing that, we can often avoid melt-downs before they begin.