A few weeks ago, I had a terrible parenting night. I yelled at my daughter. She was in tears; I was in tears once she finally was in bed.
Worse, three days later she did something every kid does, she was a bit defiant, and I was instantly angry. I was still worked up over how the night went three days prior.
That’s not the type of parent I want to be. That’s not the type of parent you want to be. We want to have decent relationships with our kids. We want to be able to get them to do what we need them to without all the hassle.
If that sounds like something you’d like, then today is the day you find a great resource called No Drama Discipline. I can truly say that reading this book over a weekend changed how the next week went.
Sure there was some drama, but it was so much easier to handle for my kids and me.
No-Drama Discipline asks you to do three things when it’s time to discipline your child.
Let’s start with connection.
Effective discipline means that we’re not only stopping bad behavior or promoting a good one, but also teaching skills and nurturing the connections in our children’s brains that will help them make better decisions and handle themselves well in the future.
Kids crave connection. They want to know they’re loved. One thing we did in our house was tell our kids that we didn’t talk to them when they whine. We did this to try and force them to calm down and talk reasonably.
Some things to remember though. Kids don’t have a fully developed brain. They can’t emotionally regulate like an adult.
You and home are a safe spot for kids. They spend all day keeping it together, and at home, they expect that they have acceptance no matter what they do. They expect that love is their’s for the taking.
Saying you don’t talk to them when they whine is saying that you only accept them when they conform to your ideals of behaviour.
When your child is behaving in a way that’s not acceptable, connection means saying no to the behaviour and yes to the child.
In practice, that means, when the upset voice starts I stop. I get down on their level and open my arms. They step in and usually calm down.
Now it’s on to the second part….the question.
According to the authors, there are three questions to ask when kids misbehave.
- Why did your child act this way? What is it they want?
- What lesson do I want to teach at this moment?
- How can I best teach this lesson?
Recently my oldest was asked to tidy up the floor and vacuum it. Those are both her regular chores. They’ve been her weekly chore for at least a year. But this time it threw her into a tantrum, for a second.
I opened my arms and said “come here” and then thought to myself why would she act this way. Once we talked a bit, the two chores at once before she could do something ‘fun’ felt like an overwhelming prospect.
Together we talked through the fact that if she cleaned up the floor today and then left the vacuuming till tomorrow, she’d have to clean again so she could vacuum.
She agreed that it did make more sense to do both chores at once and then, off she went to do them in record time.
Previously this would have been at least an hour long fight with parents continually reminding her to clean. But not this time.
Now the final bit…redirecting.
The authors came up with a fancy thing to show you R-E-D-I-R-E-C-T.
Describe, don’t preach
Involve your child in the discipline
Reframe a no into a conditional yes
Emphasize the positive
Creatively approach the situation
Teach mindsight tools
Regardless of the age of your children, long lectures aren’t likely to make them want to listen to you more. Instead, you’ll just be flooding them with more information and sensory input. As a result, they’ll often simply tune you out.
Do you need to talk to kids about what’s going on? Did you ever want to hear your parents drone on in a big lecture?
So why on earth do we figure that now that we’re parents our kids will listen to a lecture. They won’t. We sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown.
Wa, wa, wa…….
If you need to go deeper into an issue, it’s time to get your kids the exercise their empathy muscle by asking questions. Stuff like “How did you feel when your sister bit you?” and “How do you think she felt when you punched her back?”.
The biggest issue I’ve had is trying to jump from Connect to Redirect in 30 seconds. Can it take a while for your kid to calm down? Yes. Do you always have that time? Nope. But you do have more time than you think.
If you haven’t given your child enough connection to calm down then moving on is a waste of time.
It’s not all roses
Even with this new strategy making significant changes in our house (seriously my wife has said it’s easier for her to parent during the day because our oldest is just easier to handle) it won’t always go well.
Sometimes you will need to just send the kid away. Sometimes you’ll still yell.
Not every day is a good parenting day. On the weekend I called my kids stupid because I had been trying to sit for 5 minutes for about 5 hours. Every time I sat down, they all were on top of me poking and bugging and …. being kids.
The difference now is that given 10 minutes apart both my kids came forward and said sorry. Unprompted, they acknowledged they were being annoying and that it wasn’t nice to be bugged and poked. I apologised to saying that I shouldn’t call them stupid and that words hurt. Then we spent 20 minutes goofing around on the couch together before we spent the rest of the day playing.
The goal is to admit your mistakes and connect with your child when things don’t go well. Those 20 minutes were one of the highlights of the weekend. Last night over dinner they remembered it five days later as a special time together.
Without my admission of fault, it wouldn’t have happened the same way.
I gave it away at the top. YES, if you want to improve your parenting skills you must purchase this. I wish it was required reading before you had a child.