Parenting without Punishment: Savvy Siblings

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.

 

Parenting without punishment. The knee-jerk reaction to that phrase from much of the population will be a grouchy proclamation that that is the problem with kids today: no discipline. But parenting without punishment doesn’t mean no discipline, and it definitely doesn’t mean not parenting. Discipline actually means to teach, something that research shows punishment fails to do in the way we think:

  • Photo by symphony of love (Flickr)

    Photo by symphony of love (Flickr)

    When children are routinely punished for transgressions, their focus is on avoiding punishment rather than rectifying a wrong or learning how to do something better. The use of punishment actually delays the development of empathy, making it harder to see the point of view of others. Punishment makes kids selfish. Learning and empathy help them care about others.

  • When parents set limits without empathy, their children miss out on valuable opportunities to develop self-discipline. They are extrinsically motivated, and therefor need outside influences to control them. Conversely, children who feel as though a parent, guardian, or other figure understands them, they internalize limits, choosing to act based on reason and consideration rather than on fear.
  • Children who are raised with punishment learn to punish others, including their siblings. Punishment utilizes a power play, with parents holding power over children. Children, feeling powerless, try to increase their feelings of power or raise their standing in the power hierarchy by lashing out against siblings, tattling, or otherwise trying to make themselves look better than their siblings. It’s a competition, with your love and attention as the trophy.
  • When children are punished for fighting, the resulting resentment tends to be channeled against one another in the form of revenge.
  • When children learn that their emotions are unacceptable, they bottle their feelings inside. This can result in depression for being bad or in anger, which they are more likely to take out on their siblings.
  • Children who are punished learn to bully others. When parents yell, children are more likely to yell. When parents hit, children are more likely to hit. Withdrawal of love or connection or other privileges teaches children to manipulate others with power.

What punishment teaches is that those with power control others. It teaches revenge rather than conflict resolution. It teaches children to ignore their feelings until they can’t handle those pent up feelings anymore. It teaches children that they are bad.

Our children don’t need us to be enforcers, punishing for indiscretions and mistakes. They need us to coach them, showing them that we care and understand, connecting with them where they are, and working with them to figure out the root cause of the problem and to find a solution which works for everyone. They need us to be there to help guide them through these situations as they learn. Before long, due to our guidance and modelling, they will be working out their problems on their own.

Coach Rather than Referee: Helping Children Get Along

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.

 

In a perfect world, our children would automatically get along. There would be no arguing or fighting. Life would be perfectly peaceful, and unicorns would shoot symbolic hearts from their horns (because real hearts would be disturbing…..and messy). The world is not perfect. And luckily I don’t have unicorns prancing around my house, leaving their piles of rainbow colored poop behind for me to clean up. Been there. Done that. All those colors mixed together result in regular poop-colored poop. It smells horrendous, too.

Photo by Woodley Wonder Works

Photo by Woodley Wonder Works

Conflict is a part of life. It happens. If you have more than one child, there will be conflict between them at some point, especially if these very different people have very different personalities (or someone looks at someone else). The question is not whether or not there will be conflict; the question is regarding how you will handle it.

It can seem logical that as parents, we need to jump in and referee these arguments before they escalate into full fledge fights. This is where I urge you not to be a referee. Your children do not need a referee. Referees break up fights. They make certain that everyone is playing by the rules, which everyone knows are meant to be broken. They can seem biased, whether or not they really are. And even if the referee isn’t needed often, the sole purpose of the referee is to mitigate between opposing teams.

In these instances, what your children need is a coach. Coaches help players learn to do better. They guide them. They help them work together as a team. They help them develop new skills, the same skills which will help them navigate the game (in this case, life) from now on. What can you do to help coach your children and work through those conflicts?

Stay Connected. Research shows that when children have better relationships with their children, the children have better relationships with each other. Everyone needs to feel loved, connected, and valued. When they do, they are able to transfer that and apply it to how the treat others.

Emotion Coaching. Bottle up those feelings and eventually the bottle is going to explode. It won’t be pretty. Instead, we need to help our children recognize and name their emotions as they learn appropriate ways to express those feelings. They need to feel safe to experience and express their emotions. In doing so, they will learn to manage their feelings and calm themselves, understand and empathize with others, put their own needs into words, and work together to form solutions which work for everyone (win/win solutions).

Regulate Your Own Emotions. It isn’t enough to talk to our kids and help them through a situation. Much of their learning comes from watching us. We need to work to regulate own emotions and model the behaviors we want our children to exhibit.

It won’t happen in a day. The most talented athletes have to work and practice. But with a little coaching on our parts, we can help our children to work together, appreciate one another, and build a lifelong relationship with each other built on love and understanding.

 

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.

Keep Calm and R-E-D-I-R-E-C-T

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.

 

You know you want to keep calm and connect with your children when things begin to go South, but what can you do to change the situation and help them learn? The authors of No Drama Discipline have provided a handy way to remember some very useful techniques: R-E-D-I-R-E-C-T. You can read a more in-depth explanation of each technique on my post at Natural Parents Network, but as a quick reminder in the moment, check out this free printable (click on link to print your own copies):

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Reduce Your Words Keep your words short and to the point.

Embrace Emotions Acknowledge feelings and help your children put a name to what they are feeling.

Describe, Don’t Preach Use simple declarative statements to bring attention to situations.

Involve Your Child in the Discipline Discipline is about learning. Actively involve your children in this learning process.

Reframe a No into a Conditional Yes Try rewording what you say to make your child receptive rather than reactive to your words.

Emphasize the Positive Focus on the positive things you want your child to learn rather than the negative behavior.

Creatively Approach the Situation Novelty garners attention. Grab your child’s attention by switching things up.

Teach Mindsight Tools Help your children learn the skills to recognize feelings, assess a situation, and make a positive change.

 

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.