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.

 

Your Brain on Discipline at Natural Parents Network

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.

This week at Natural Parents Network, our volunteers are discussing Your Brain on Discipline from the book No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. Hop on over and read about what they have to say about how your child’s brain is developing, the three brain C’s, how you can use your knowledge about how the brain works to appeal to your child when helping them through situations, and for some resources to help you tame your own reactions.

Are you tired of the drama going on in your family? Are you looking for more peaceful solutions? Pick up a copy of No Drama Discipline and join us over the next few months as we talk about what is going on in your child’s brain and how you can learn to connect with your child, help them to learn, and leave the drama behind.

Poking the Lizard: Why You Should Strive to Work with Your Children and Stop Fighting with Them

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.

 

 

Punishment doesn’t work. Long term, studies show that punishments such as hitting, yelling, time outs, or even the reverse of a reward don’t work long-term. Fear and threat based parenting is dependent upon extrinsic motivators. Those extrinsic motivators won’t always be there or may loose appeal over time, and they don’t teach our children what to do.

Flickr (gautsch)

Flickr (gautsch)

While these techniques might sometimes show short-term effectiveness, when we look at how the brain functions, we realize that nothing good comes from reactionary parenting. Parenting with threats, whether implied or implicit, results in what the authors of No Drama Discipline refer to as poking the lizard. This phrase references the differences between what the authors simply refer to as the Upstairs and Downstairs Brains.

The Downstairs Brain, which includes the brainstem and limbic region, is sometimes referred to as either the reptilian brain or the old mammalian brain. It controls basic functions, including those for strong emotions, instincts such as protecting ourselves or our young, and bodily systems and cycles. The Upstairs Brain allows for more sophisticated and complex thought. This area is undeveloped at birth and takes time to develop as we grow. It is used in decision making and planning, regulation of our emotions and actions, personal insight, empathy toward others, adaptability, and morality.

At the times that our children are melting down, acting out, or otherwise at a loss, they are using their Downstairs, or Reptilian, Brain. They aren’t capable of rational thought at that point. Subconsciously, it is an issue of survival, one in which they must use either fight or flight. Any view of threat just increases that reaction in them. It is a basic brain function.

When we encounter a situation with our children, we have a choice to make. We can work with them, guiding them through the situation, engaging their Upstairs Brain. A person can’t be both reactive and responsive/receptive at the same time; so when we nurture empathy, remain open to them via collaboration and discussion, show active listening and work with them, we help them with thoughtful contemplation and conflict resolution, networking neurons which will help now and in the future. Work on holding your own lizard at bay and engage in the rational thinking you want your child to exhibit. Otherwise, if we choose to react ourselves, whether through hitting, yelling, punishing, or even with our tone, we are merely poking the lizard. 

Investigative Parenting

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.

 

Being a parent is sometimes like being an investigative reporter. Who? What? When? Where? Why? They seem like simple enough questions. Who was involved (or the ever popular Who did it?)? What happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? But did you forget the Why?

For years I have been saying that parents need to ask the question, “Why?” when it comes to their children’s behavior. People, children included, always have a reason for doing something. Sometimes we don’t know what that reason is. Sometimes the child doesn’t know what the reason is, but it is there nonetheless.

Photo from Flickr (andercismo)

Photo from Flickr (andercismo)

There is a saying in the scientific community that if you want to find a solution to a problem, you first have to know what the problem is. This is true in life, including parenting. If your child is exhibiting a specific behavior, you can’t truly begin to address the behavior until you understand the reasoning behind it. Sometimes the reasoning can be easy to figure out. Sometimes it requires some of those top-notch investigative parenting skills, including active listening, a basic knowledge in child development, and an open mind to working together. And sometimes, the real reason may be entirely different from the one you assumed.

The thing is, until we stop and pay attention to the reasoning, we will never fix the problem. Either the problem will continue or morph into some other issue. Until we look at the why, we won’t be able to help our children learn better ways of handling situations, the critical thinking skills to come up with innovative solutions, or the communication and social skills to work with other people in a consensual manner.

The next time you experience some sort of conflict going on with your child, put on your figurative reporter’s hat and ask yourself why.

 

 

Taking the Drama out of Discipline

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.

 

Everything was going fairly well, until the incident. The incident may have been something big, or maybe it was just a tiny little thing. Maybe it wasn’t even the incident itself that was the problem but just merely a trigger. Whatever it was, it was the incident that caused the dam to burst. With an inhale the size of an arctic storm, that dam let loose a shrill cry that would rival any banshee. The screaming. The crying and tears. The flinging of limbs that would cause an earthquake that could register an 8.0 on the Richter scale. Did I mention the screaming? And it didn’t stop.

Flickr (Miss Yasmina)

Flickr (Miss Yasmina)

When that dam released, it just seemed to keep on coming. There was no going back once it broke. All of those pent up emotions and frustrations were making their way out, and there was no way to stop it. Once started, it just needed to rage forth until the energy behind it ran out and everyone around was spent, drenched in the words and actions, with the innocent bystanders standing by, mouths agape.The drama rivaled that of any Oscar winning motion picture.

Is it a scene you recognize? Now let me ask you something else, quietly. Was it your child, or was it you? Don’t answer out loud. I don’t need to know. Either way, it’s a horrible feeling, isn’t it? Someone, or in many cases multiple people, was out of control. The person felt so powerless in a situation and in that moment lacked the skills to cope with the situation, that the most basic of reactions overtook them. If it was you, you know it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good to your child, either.

And what is worse? It often causes chain reaction. The people around the person also feel helpless with the situation and lack the skills to cope. Maybe you are having a bad day. Maybe your child is, because children have bad days, too. But something happens and now you are faced with a choice. Do you fight back against the flood, causing more energy to build up resulting in more drama? Do you threaten, punish, or throw a tantrum of your own Or do you opt for the drama free approach? The one in which you realize that you can do something besides reptilian reacting?

Kids are learning. They are going to make mistakes. They are also still developing, which means some of those lessons aren’t going to stick for a while. You really don’t have any control over that. Welcome to parenting. It’s a roller coaster of a ride sometimes. But you aren’t just strapped in, helpless for the ride. You aren’t aren’t at the mercy of a miniature dictator. You get to make the choice of reacting and adding fuel to the fire, so to speak, or responding and changing the situation into a better direction.

No-drama discipline has two main goals: (1) working together with your child, and (2) helping your child develop the necessary skills and self-control to make better decisions and handle situations appropriately. You just have to ask yourself which road you are willing to take, and how you are going to get there. Working with our children isn’t always easy, especially in the early years when they are young and many of us are new to the concept. No one ever said parenting was easy. However, it is definitely worth every minute. As your family has more practice working together and living consensually, it will come easier and faster to everyone.

Parenting: What To Do or Not to Do

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.

 

Articles and online threads regarding gentle parenting often find themselves subject to a frantic cry from parents who want to do better but don’t know how. “How?” they ask. “You tell us what not to do, but what is it that we should do?”  This is a valid question. If someone was trying to teach you to use a computer and only told you what not to do, it would be difficult for you to figure out what exactly it was . Imagine going to orientation for a new job and only being told what not to do. It would be frustrating at the very least. You might feel like screaming, or crying, or just flat out giving up.

Now imagine a similar scenario except as a child. In families that use punishments, you often find a similar situation, times one hundred. “Don’t hit your brother.” “Stop leaving you stuff all over the house?” While you may be frustrated at work, at the end of the day you get to go home and take a break. If the situation is really bad, you might request a change or even decide to leave and find a better job. But what if you didn’t have any recourse? A child doesn’t have those possibilities. Home is supposed to be their safe place. If all, or even a significant amount of, what they hear is what not to do, they aren’t learning what they should do.

Parents may say that punishments are set up to help children learn responsibility and to do better, but the truth is that punishment is set up to make child feel bad. Punishment, whether hitting (i.e.spanking), time-outs, or grounding, is the easy road for parents. They can feel like they did something while putting very little effort into the situation. Your child hits her brother? Punishment. He forgets to take the dog out? Punishment. She got home later than the agreed upon time, left his homework at home, didn’t take the trash out, questioned an adult, wanted a different pair of pants than you wanted to buy, chose his words poorly, and on and on. Frankly, when you are a child living in such a world, everything you do is subject to judgment and punishment. And you thought the work scenario was bad.

Kids are going to screw up. We, adults, aren’t perfect, either. We screw up quite a bit. Kids haven’t even had the same opportunities we have in order to learn how they should be handling all of these situations. And yet, many adults, parents included, expect kids to be able to handle everything perfectly. It is bad news for the kids who don’t have everything figured out yet. In this punishment mindset, we can just hope they figure it out for next time.

Right about now, you may be thinking to yourself that I still haven’t told you what to do, You would be right, and there is a reason for that. Every situation is different. Every person is different. While punishment takes a one-size-fits-all attitude, life isn’t like that, though. I can’t tell you what you should do in any given situation, because I am not there. I am not you. I don’t know your child or the background. There isn’t one thing you should do.

So, how do you know what to do then? You have to think about it. Sometimes you have to put yourself in your child’s place. Ask yourself why they did what they did (there is always, always a reason behind why a person does something, even if they, themselves, don’t know it). Talk with your children. Listen to them. Work with them. Connect with them. Help them to figure out a better way to do whatever it is. I won’t lie. It is not always easy, especially when you are first starting out and especially if you grew up with the authoritarian mindset. But you know what? No one ever said parenting was easy. But it is definitely worth it.