Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What now, discipline without spanking...

When I first started parenting I knew that I wanted to avoid spanking. Actually I did spank and it made me feel so horrible and I knew there had to be a better way to parent and teach. It struck me as wrong and inconsistent to spank as punishment when my child hit, or ran into the street. I did not see that there was an accurate lesson here. But what do I do I do instead. I struggled for several months, years even, looking for a better way. I am still learning in many ways. I am still learning to choose my battles, to say the right thing, or not say the wrong thing, to continue to discipline appropriately even when I am angry or tired, as well as how to parent each new age as my children grow. I have used a lot of techniques and some have worked and some didn't work or fit for my family.

Some of the things I have tried that didn't work are timeouts and reward systems. Timeouts were a struggle, having now watched Super Nanny, perhaps I was doing it wrong. It didn't seem to matter to my children that they were separated from the group or I would just spend my time chasing them down and 4 minutes would turn into an hour. It was frustrating and too much work, with both of us often left in tears. I also felt there was too much physical force to have to remove the child by picking them up and placing them into a timeout place. I wondered what they were really learning as well. I also don't agree with the idea of forcing a child to apologize. I later found that avoiding the problems that lead to a timeout worked better, or dealing with the situation from the point of view of the child.

I tried different reward systems to encourage good behavior, or actions such as chores being done. I found these did not fit well with my idea of life. I didn't want my children to grow up to be oblivious consumers and I felt that reward systems took away from the pleasure of doing things just for doing them and it also created consumers. Soon I had to up the ante every time I wanted to encourage a positive behavior. I was trying to "catch" my children doing good so I could reward them. Part of the problem of this was that I was busy also working, cooking and cleaning. Sometimes they were doing good but I didn't catch them. The positive that came out of this was that I did become more aware of what my children were doing right, but giving them a tangible reward was not for me. So now what?

I read books, my favorite being Positive Parenting by Jane Nelsen, and years later found There's got to be a Better way by Becky Bailey. These books literally changed my way of thinking about my children and how I parented. I also soaked up the book Raising your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I began to plan my day so that it was a mixture of one on one (or one on two) attention and kid time and those chores and things I needed to do as an adult such as shopping and laundry. I used a lot of skills learned from these books and feel that it really helped me change my parenting style as well as understand my parenting style.

my note
I wrote lists of what to do instead and posted them on the refrigerator and carried it around with me. My list looked something like this:

1) Do Nothing
2) Take a deep breath
3) Choose your battle
         a) natural consequence
         b) logical consequence
4) Take time for training
5) Ask questions
6) Give a choice
7) Redirect power
8) Cool off

Taking just a moment to not react the way I used to, the way I had been raised, helped me to make better choices as a parent. After reading Raising Your Spirited Child I knew that avoiding issues worked best. I would avoid letting the children get too tired, hungry or overstimulated. I would stop for snacks and play, I would slow down and pay attention to my children. I would slow down and pay attention to myself.

After reading Becky Bailey I learned a lot more about how the brain works durring times of stress or upset. You brain literally stops and you go to the reptillian brain. She has so many skills to use as both a parent and a teacher. What is really brillant is how it is about teaching the child to become independent of the parent and self soothe. Giving them skills to make themselves feel better and make better choices without having to guard them. By fueling them with love and seeing children as having good intentions you can really make a difference in your parenting.

I was once at a workshop called Children with Challenging Behavior: strategies for reflective thinking based on Linda Brault's book of the same name. She showed us how the brain works durring upset and literally Flips it's lid. She showed us this by using her hand.  I will always remember this.
She held up her hand:

She folded her thumb in, telling us this represented the reptilian brain, the emotions raw and wild:

Then folded her fingers over her hand, telling us that usually our cerebral cortex, our higher thinking, is covering and managing the reptillian brain:

But when we get upset, we flip our lid and those raw emotions are let loose:

Of course as adults we have learned how to self soothe and relax enough to not act on those feelings and thoughts. We know that there are both logical and natural consequences to misbehaving. Children have yet to understand this and we need to be their bigger selves. To be their conscience so to speak, if we are still hitting or yelling to discipline them what are we teaching then...

To discipline without spanking you need to find what will work for you, what you are comfortable doing, what your parenting style is. You need to understand your child in particular and children in general. You need to build skills to put into your "tool belt" so that when you are stressed and the kids are stressed you can make a better choice. Most importantly you need to forgive yourself, allow your self room to learn.

To new ways of parenting.
many Blessings

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