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.

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.

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.

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.