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.

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. 

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.

Someone’s Hero

Welcome to the March 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Everyday Superheroes

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the remarkable people and characteristics that have touched their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***


My “S” emblazoned T-shirt is covered in spit-up. The tail of my sling, aka cape, has dirty little handprints, and we won’t hazard a guess as to what exactly those crunchy items that resemble boogers are. The Mom-mobile (van) looks more like it belongs to a suburbanite, with ice skates, cloth grocery bags, and extra towels in the back. I could use some super speed to take care of everything on my to-do list which seems to grow as though it was in a vortex.

My super powers are limited to making breastmilk (and humans) and throwing together edibles from whatever is on hand, along with some mad organizational/planning skills and the ability to multi-task like no one’s business. I can nurse a baby, answer the questions of my children, churn out a bit of work, and keep the household from tumbling into a chasm all at the same time.

Overall, I don’t feel much like a hero. Sometimes I become frustrated and flustered. I make mistakes. Really, sometimes I just want to quit pretending I’m a grown up. I want to cry. I want to step back and let someone else deal with the bills, the laundry, the groceries, and dealing with all of the problems that moms (and dads) deal with.

And then someone puts their arms around my neck and gives me a slobbery kiss. I watch one of my children make a breakthrough in something they were struggling with. I see them mimic my behavior, whether good or whether making something right. They tell me they love me.

It challenges me to find myself, not only for me but for them, and to work toward being a better person every day because they deserve that. So I put on my tights and my cape. I look in their eyes, and I step up because I am someone’s hero.

 

photo credit: paurian via photopin cc

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • I Am A Super Hero — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she learned the hard way exactly what it means to be a real super hero and not a burned out shell of a human simply pretending to be one.
  • Quiet Heroics — Heroism doesn’t have to be big and bold. Read how Jorje of Momma Jorje is a quiet hero…and how you probably are, too.
  • Not a Bang, but a Whisper {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about the different types of “superheroes,” ones that come in with a bang and ones that come in with a whisper.
  • Silent courage of motherhood in rural Cambodia — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings marvels at how rural Khmer women defy the odds in childbirth.
  • Super PappyMother Goutte‘s little boy met a superhero in checked slippers and Volkswagen Polo, his grand dad: Super Pappy!
  • An Open Letter to Batman — Kati at The Best Things challenges Batman to hold up his end of the deal, in the name of social justice, civic duty, and a little boy named Babe-O!
  • My Village — Kellie at Our Mindful Life reflects on the people who helped her to become her best self.
  • 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me — Children are amazing teachers, when we only stop to listen. They remind us to choose happiness, to delight in the small things, to let go and forgive. There is so much we can learn from our children. Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a few of the lessons she’s learned.
  • Could you use some superpowers? — Tat at Mum in search shares a fun activity to help you connect with your own superpowers.
  • Like Fire Engines — Tam at tinsenpup tells the story of the day she saw a surprising superhero lurking in the guise of her not entirely mild-mannered four-year-old daughter.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her list of Walker Warburg Syndrome Superheroes that have touched her life forever.
  • My Superhero of the Week: Nancy GallagherTribal Mama muses about the transcendent things her superhero mom has done.
  • My choice in natural birth does not make me a super hero — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, discusses her thoughts on her experience with the perception of natural birth and putting those mamas on a different level. Does giving birth naturally give cause for an extra pat on the back? No! All mamas, no matter how they birth, are superheroes.
  • Someone’s Hero — Sometimes being a parent means pretending to be a grown-up, but it always means you are someone’s hero. Read Mandy’s lament at Living Peacefully with Children.
  • Growing into a Super Hero — Casey at Joyful Courage shares how owning our behavior and choosing to be a better parent, a better person, is an act of courage.
  • A Math Superhero — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling writes that her 7-year-old daughter’s superhero is an MIT-trained mathematician.
  • It Starts With Truffula Trees And Tulips — Luschka of Diary of a First Child takes a hard look at the realities of her relationship with her mother, and through this post goes on a journey of discovery that ends in a surprise realisation for her.
  • We Don’t Need an Excuse — Maria Kang (aka “Hot Mom”) asks women #WhatsYourExcuse for not being in shape? Dionna at Code Name: Mama asks Hot Mom what her excuse is for not devoting her life to charity work, or fostering dozens of stray dogs each year, or advocating for the needs of others. Better yet, Code Name: Mama says, how about we realize that every woman has her own priorities. Focus on your own, and stop judging others for theirs.
  • It’s not heroic when you’re living it — Lauren at Hobo Mama knows from the inside that homeschooling does not take a hero, and that much of what we choose as parents is simply what works best for us.
  • Superheroes, princesses and preschoolers — Garry at Postilius discusses why his preschool-age son is not ready for comic book superheroes.
  • The Loving Parents of Children with Special Needs – Everyday Superheroes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares posts with resources for parents of children with special needs along with posts to help others know how to support parents of children with special needs.
  • Everyday Empathy — Mommy Giraffe of Little Green Giraffe shares why her secret superpower is everyday empathy.
  • The Simplicity of Being a Superhero — Ana at Panda & Ananaso explains what superheroes mean to her wise three-year-old.
  • My Father, The Hero — Fathers are pretty amazing; find out why Christine at The Erudite Mom thinks hers is the bees knees.

Cooperation or Compliance

Frequently, I hear parents complain about how their child refuses to cooperate. One can almost see the anger and frustration wafting off of these parents in regard to their children, children whom they love, whom they currently view as defiant and disrespectful. I understand. Really, I do. There are times when I am really frustrated with my children, or at least our current situation. I am not a parenting guru. This is the point where I say that if anyone ever refers to themself as a parenting guru, you should walk away…slowly, avoiding eye contact, until you feel you are at a safe enough distance to turn and run. Certainly, there are people dedicated to researching child pysychology, realtionships, communication, and so on, who may very well be experts in their field. That is different than a guru, but I digress.

The fact is that I have never met a child, one who was healthily connected and had all needs met, who wasn’t willing to cooperate with a loved one. Yes, I actually said never. “But Mandy,” you say. “You have never met my child.” That may be true. “But Mandy,” you say. “You have met my child.” That may also be true, depending on who you are and who your child is. I stand by my statement, though. As much as we may like to think of our children as unique little snowflakes, there are some things which are just human nature. Working together is a fundamental survival skill.

So that brings us to two points. If your child is, in fact, not cooperating, I challenge you to ask yourself why. People, children included, don’t do anything without reason. We may not always examine our reasons, or perhaps we don’t recognize the reasons, but they exist none-the-less. Is your child feeling connected with you? If not, maybe they need to spend more, or more mindful, time with you. Are all of their needs being fully met? If not, rectify that. Make certain your child’s needs are met. If there is a want mingling in there, explore a little more and see what underlying need is behind the want. You can’t help fix a problem if you don’t know what the true problem is.

Secondly, and one that frequently casts a shadow to the forefront, is that the parent is confusing a lack of compliance with cooperation. When many parents say their child is not cooperating, what they really mean is that their child is being non-compliant, i.e. the child is not doing what the parent wants.  Again, I challenge you to ask yourself why. Except, this time, I challenge you to look at yourself. Are you feeling connected with your child? Are all of your needs being met? As a parent, if is often easy to overlook our own needs, but that can actually be detrimental to our families. We aren’t functioning at our best when we have needs being left unmet.

Of course, the other scenario is a compilation of the two. Perhaps neither the parent nor the child is feeling connected. Perhaps everyone has needs which aren’t being met. If one person has unmet needs, it isn’t so far-fetched to think that an underlying cause may be preventing other family members from having their needs met, too. Regardless of what is going on, let go of the negative thoughts and instead, take a second to mentally explore options, connect or meet needs, andcommunicate with your child. They may just have some ideas to help everyone out.

photo credit: mcdlee via photopin cc

The Inauthenticity of Anger

Welcome to the July 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Anger

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about anger. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about breastfeeding.

***

Feelings…..nothing more than feelings….Anger. It’s a very real emotion and one that many parents have experienced. Anger, even when expressed in healthy ways, is not healthy tough.

How can a real emotion be unhealthy? It is unhealthy because it is a manifestation of our inauthenticity. You heard me correctly. While anger can be very real, it isn’t authentic.

Anger is actually a secondary emotion. It always follows after other emotions. While emotions point us toward our met and unmet needs, as a secondary emotion, anger doesn’t let us know what is going on.

When we find ourselves angry, we have ignored the primary emotions, the ones that were there to tell us about our met and unmet needs. We haven’t been honest with ourselves or with the people we love.

It is important to take the time to discover the primary emotion we are experiencing in order to address what is really going on. When we are being authentic, including with our parenting, we address issues before we reach that point of anger. Sure, there are times that we may be frustrated, sad, upset, or just feel unappreciated. The time to address those issues is when they occur. Bottling up our feelings until they explode into anger isn’t helpful to anyone.

Be kind to yourself and kind to your family. Acknowledge the primary emotions and work together to meet everyone’s needs. Be authentic.

photo credit: Mysi(new stream: www.flickr.com/photos/mysianne) via photopin cc

***

APBC - Authentic Parenting

Visit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, when we discuss breastfeeding!

 

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon July 27 with all the carnival links.)