Posts tagged Discipline
You know that feeling of panic that shows up when your child does certain things? It’s that feeling that shouts at you, “You need to nip that in the bud!!” or “Don’t let him get away with that!”
When your little one lies, you envision her in jail, the next Martha Stewart. When your three-year-old hits, you have visions of your child’s eighth-grade principal calling you to let you know she’s just expelled your little bully. When your little one is bossy or whiny or tattle-taling, or cries every time they get the tiniest bump, you worry that your child will grow up, lonely and miserable, with no friends at all.
That paragraph probably made you laugh, and realize how ridiculous these thoughts are, but for most parents, the feelings in the moment are very real, and those thoughts and feelings tend to cause us to overreact and then question our choices about how we responded to the behaviour.
Once you understand where the thoughts come from, it will be easier to figure out how to respond peacefully to your child’s behaviour. Read on.
There are two main causes of this feeling of panic.
First, if you’re like most parents, you are pretty committed to sharing certain key values with your child, especially the ones you have built your life and your identity on. When your child does something that is out of alignment with these key values, it can shake us to the core. “Oh my God!” our mind shouts at us, “If you can’t even teach THIS basic thing to your child, what kind of parent are you?” This hits us right in our self-image, and so we desperately feel like we need to do something drastic, STOP the behaviour, and make sure it never happens again.
We can also be triggered by behaviours that remind us of our own painful experiences, and make us want to protect our children from the same experience. If we were bossy and friendless in junior high school, or if we learned some other lesson the hard way, we don’t want our child to hurt like we did, so we feel a desperate desire to protect them from the pain and to teach them the lesson ourselves – before they get hurt.
I get that certain behaviours are just so serious for us, as adults, that when our children do these behaviours, it feels pretty important to send a clear message and make sure it NEVER happens again. But the key here is that these behaviours are serious FOR ADULTS. Your child is still exploring boundaries, experimenting with what is acceptable, discovering her personality, learning the difference between reality and fantasy, and/or learning how to manage big feelings and act on them in ways that are helpful, not hurtful.
And he or she will learn all of these things more easily if your emotional reaction isn’t clouding your delivery of the message around that certain behaviour.
When we respond to our three-year-old as if he is an ax murderer in the making, with an intense emotional response, with punishment, or by otherwise getting really, really attached to eliminating the behaviour RIGHT NOW, we miss the opportunity to address the actual developmental process that is happening for our child, and we miss out on a lot of joy.
In truth, (good news ahead!) everything that your child does now is NOT a harbinger of impending disaster, failure, and misery, in your child’s future!
Parents ask me all the time, “Is this normal? Am I the only one whose child (hits, whines, lies, etc)? My answer, 98% of the time, is “YES!” 98% of the time it is, really and truly, just a phase. In fact, it is a very important phase that the child needs to experience in order to become the honest, responsible, non-violent adult with friends that you hope they will become!
Remember that children need to do exactly what they are doing right now in order to learn exactly what they need to learn in order to take next steps towards becoming the person they are meant to be. And how you respond to the behaviour makes it easier or harder for them to learn it.
If you can respond peacefully, addressing the child’s emotional issue, underlying problem, or developmental question, instead of focusing on simply eliminating the anti-social behaviour, your child will move through the emotion, problem, or developmental stage that is causing the behaviour much more quickly.
When you come at it with the idea of “nipping it in the bud,” most often what you’re nipping in the bud is not the behaviour, it’s the child’s learning process. In fact, if your child has tried out a new behaviour, he or she is much more likely to repeat that behaviour if YOU give the behaviour power by responding to it with a big emotional charge.
So, the first step is to take a step back, figure out whether it’s a values thing or a protection thing, and compassionately recognize what’s going on for you. For example:
“Honesty is an important value for me. I want to teach that to my child. This behaviour triggers me.”
“Wow. I was really bossy growing up and it didn’t go well for me. I’m scared that if I don’t handle this, my child will lose friends like I did.”
The second step is to reassure yourself.
“Lisa Kathleen said that there’s a good chance that lots of children do this behaviour and outgrow it. My child is going to be okay. I need to develop a strategy to address this behaviour effectively so that I can help my child to learn another way to address his/her emotion/problem/developmental need.”
The third step is to respond thoughtfully and unemotionally to the behaviour.
“You really wanted another cookie, so you told me you didn’t have one yet. You really want it to be true that you didn’t have a cookie already!”
“You really want Suzy to be the little girl in your game! You want to be the mommy in your game!”
“Honesty is important so we can all trust each other’s words.”
“People don’t like being told what to do all the time. People like being invited to do something.”
If you do this, instead of “nipping it in the bud”, you will give your child what he or she needs to blossom and grow. <3
Need some help figuring out what’s going on developmentally for your child, or how to shift your energy around your child’s trigger behaviours? Give me a call to ask about coaching! I’d love to help! 403-607-1463
Discipline is the part of parenting that parents hate most. If you read my last blog post, about how much control you “should” have over your child, you’ll see the first reason why parents hate discipline so much – it’s because they don’t have clarity around what they do have control over, and what they don’t.
But the biggest reason that parents hate discipline is that our culture is not good at conflict. We think everything should always be nice-y nice-y. We don’t get passionate about what we believe or how we feel because we don’t want to offend anyone, and we don’t want to be perceived as trying to control anyone else. AND since we think discipline means punishment, we don’t want to be seen as the big meanie, so we feel resentful when our children push us to “have to” punish them.
What a mess.
First, we need to rethink that whole discipline-punishment thing. (Go HERE to find out more or register for my upcoming Discipline Without Guilt class.) What if, for a very young child, discipline just means that the child hasn’t developed the internal discipline to control his or her own impulses? Well, then, if we feel peaceful about being there to clearly show them where those impulses need to develop, and to be those impulses for them, aren’t we HELPING, not hurting? Punishment is when you hurt your child, ON PURPOSE, to teach them a lesson. What if, for an older child, discipline means supporting the child, in a less and less overt way, to determine what matters to them, and where they want to develop inner discipline, and to take the steps to help them develop that? Since we know that punishment doesn’t work to do this, anyway, what if we just dropped that mindset and focused on our actual goal?
Second, we need to develop clarity around what things, FOR US, are important enough to justify stepping in to consistently help our young child see clearly where those impulses need to develop, and readjust this yearly, as our child grows.
And, more and more, especially for an older child, we need to develop skills around understanding, problem-solving, coaching, and ***advocating for our own needs***.
“Oh, shit,” I hear you say, “I’m bad at that.”
Yeah, I know. Me, too.
But, here’s the thing. When you practice, you get better. You stop being afraid that someone else will flip/tantrum/be sad/meltdown, and you start standing in your own power (such an overused phrase, but exactly what I need to say) and declare what matters to you, while still respecting what’s going on for them, AND doing what you need to do to be the parent your child needs, from a place of heart, clarity, purpose, and love.
I’d love to help you bring this all together!
Discipline Without Guilt starts April 11th, 2015. Find out more HERE.
Here’s to you. Here’s to your child. Here’s to peace in your parenting, and solutions that work for both of you.
I would love to share Discipline Without Guilt with you, and help you find a new groove. Check it out here.
In the Big Picture Parenting class today, we had a great conversation about control. The question goes something like this: “How do I make sure my child is doing or not doing Certain Important Things while still respecting their autonomy and independence?
It’s a darn good question, because at the end of the day, the only thing we really have full control over is ourselves.
Our children, when small, are within our control to some extent. But they still cry when THEY choose, pee when THEY choose, sleep when THEY choose, and eat what THEY choose. (Many power struggles develop, in the long term, around sleep, potty training, and food – so if you’re trying too hard to control in these areas, listen up!)
The more time we spend in a power struggle in the short run, the less influence we have over our child in the long run.
And in the long run, ALL we have is influence. So the sooner we figure out that working WITH our child, respecting our child’s autonomy, while still providing clear limits around the things we can control (ie ourselves, our actions and reactions), is possible, the better.
As a single mom, I had to figure this out early. My daughter would head off to her dad’s house and I had NO control. I no longer got to decide what she ate, or what she was exposed to on TV, among a myriad of other things. After a few years of trying to control HIM (you can guess how that went 🙂 ) I concluded that the key was to build my relationship with her, NOT so that I could control her, but in such a way that she would respect me enough to consider my ideas and opinions, in the short term and in the long term.
So, how do we stay out of the power struggle, and stay in the game?
First, remember that it’s only a power struggle if YOU make it a power struggle. Your child is just doing what children do, trying to figure out how things work in the world, and doing exactly what she needs to do to learn what she needs to learn to move through her current developmental process.
Second, do what you need to do without feeling guilty. If you must stop the behaviour, stop the behaviour, support your child as she moves through the disappointment, and move on. Don’t get all in a knot about your child’s autonomy when you need to do what you need to do. Self-doubt helps no one.
Third, accept that some things aren’t in your control, and let those things go. When you are not all charged up about something your child is doing, your child won’t be as interested in doing it anyway. I was visiting a wise mama at dinnertime once, and her daughter wouldn’t come to the dinner table. She eventually chose to let it go, saying with a sigh, but obviously, no attachment and no intention to make her child feel guilty, “Well, I’m disappointed.” When you can’t control it, support yourself through the disappointment, and move on.
Fourth, give your child information so that he can make good decisions about the things that he has control over, and then let go of your attachment to which choice your child makes, whether it’s the colour of the sippy cup he chooses or whether to pay attention in class. Over years, your child will practice exercising that decision-making muscle, and will make better and better decisions about bigger and bigger things. (This is a key area of building influence – when you give your child the information she needs to understand her world and feel good about her choices, she will come back to you for more information.)
Fifth, decide what you believe is “basic respect”, and start young with creating clarity. Children raised with age-appropriate autonomy and your focus on building influence will figure out basic respect/social etiquette eventually, but you can decide what behaviour you’re comfortable with at what age in a restaurant, for example. This is up to you – an area you have control over. If you are not comfortable with your child’s behaviour in the restaurant, either don’t take them out to the restaurant, or remove them if things get out of hand.
So, how much control should you have over your child? Enough to keep them and others safe. After that, it’s all about having control over yourself, building connection, and developing respect-based influence. And here’s what’s amazing. When we lovingly focus on what WE have control over – our child’s behaviour will change, too.
Any insights? Questions? Post them below!
And consider joining me for the Discipline Without Guilt class coming up in April/May 2015. I’d love to help you find ways to manage your triggers, build influence, set your child up for success, and build connection with your child at the times when it’s hardest to do. <3 Register HERE.
Chances are, your child is an expert at pushing your buttons. Here’s how to short circuit the button, so that you can stay in that loving Zen place and stay connected, instead of pushing the disconnection even further along.
If you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know that connection is big for me. Parents tell me ALL the time that what they want most is to know that their child can share things with them, and will come to them when they need support – they want to stay connected, and they want to be trusted. Is this you, too?
When our children get good at pushing buttons, it drives DISconnection and weakens trust. Here’s what to do…
First, remember what I said in my last blog post (read it here): Your child is doing exactly what he needs to be doing to learn what he needs to learn in order to become the person he’s meant to become. Read that again! It’s a BIG concept. Your child MUST push your buttons. He’s learning SOMETHING from the process. So, you may as well use the same process to learn something awesome, too.
And here’s the awesome thing that you can learn from it. (And, happily, a beautiful thing for your child to learn, too.) Your child does not control you. You get to decide how you will react when your child pushes your buttons.
Sorry if that sounds patronizing. You’re a smart person, and of course you know that you have control over your own emotions, but if you’re reading this, chances are you’re having a tough time accessing, or acting on, that knowing in the moment.
First, I’m going to increase your motivation to learn this. Your child needs to know that he or she does not control you. Being in control of a parent’s emotions is a BIG responsibility for a little child. Your child needs to know that YOU are in control, that he or she can trust you to handle stuff. When your little person pushes your buttons and sees you react, that is scary stuff for her. She needs to know that she does not have the power to throw her whole world out of kilter. If your child is older, or a teenager, your peace, your ability to stay calm, gives him or her a safe place to land.
So here’s the magic move. It’s incredibly simple, and it’s much more powerful than you may know.
When the button is being pushed, breathe UNTIL your brain turns off and your heart is speaking clearly. Breathe UNTIL your love for your child bubbles up and overtakes whatever ego-driven, power-focused thing you were about to say or do to your little person. Breathe UNTIL either the moment passes completely, and you can’t remember that the button was pushed, or UNTIL you know exactly what loving thing you can do instead of reacting from fear or anger. Keep breathing.
Breathe into the crunched-up, angry part of yourself that can’t seem to let go of the crunched-up, angry thought that you are holding (see my last blog post to understand where that thought came from ). Breathe into the tips of your toes and the bottom of your belly. Feel and follow your breath into the spaces between your ribs. Breathe with ALL of your attention. Breathe with ALL of your power. Breathe with ALL of your heart. And when your attention shifts back to those crunched-up angry thoughts, breathe louder and deeper.
If your attention is 100% on your breath, your mind will shut off, and the crunched-up angry thoughts will float away.
What will your child do while you are doing all this breathing?
First, he or she may just stop doing whatever he or she was doing that was pushing your buttons, because broken buttons are no fun to push. Second, he or she may try harder to push your buttons, because broken buttons can also be frustrating. That’s okay, chances are you can out-breathe your button pusher. If you can’t, that’s okay, too, because you can always start again. Third, your little button-pusher may get a little worried about you. You are behaving in a way he or she is not used to, and it may be a little disconcerting. Keep breathing. Breathe as if you are eating chocolate, enjoying every single melty bit of it in your mouth, down your throat, in your belly. Breathe joyously. Breathe determinedly. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
Remember that breathing does not mean that you don’t DO anything else. It just means that you don’t do anything IN ANGER. And that is the ultimate key. You may still not know what to do (if this is you, join us for Big Picture Parenting 2015 and learn What to Do Instead of Rewards, Punishment, Praise, and Shame) but there’s a good chance you’ll come up with something much better to do than what you would have done otherwise. And you’ll do it from a place of peace, a place of understanding, and a place of kindness.
Start breathing now. The more you breathe, intentionally, every day, all day, the easier it will be to breathe in the moment. The more your mind is used to existing without thoughts, the easier it will be for your mind to go there when your buttons are being pushed.
Your child will thank you for it.
If you need help short-circuiting your buttons, check out Big Picture Parenting 2015 or call me for a little coaching… 403-607-1463. I’d love to support you!
Okay, I’m just going to blurt it out.
The bottom line is, we get mad at our kids because we think they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and because we think that, if they are doing what they are doing, it means that we are bad parents.
Here’s how it works:
The child doesn’t listen to us. We think they should, and we assume that since they didn’t, we have done something wrong – we are bad parents. When the thought arrives that we must be bad parents, we resent our child for making it so clear to us that we are bad parents. Finally, we get mad and lash out at them, because if they did what we want them to do, we wouldn’t feel like bad parents. Then we feel guilty for lashing out, and we backpedal and cater and fix it for them – to convince them that they aren’t bad, and to convince ourselves that we aren’t either. Often, it all happens in a split second, and by the end of it, EVERYONE feels bad.
The problem with this whole vicious cycle is that it is based on faulty logic in the first place. When your child does whatever he does that you don’t like, it does not follow that someone has to be bad.
Most of us grew up in cultures that evaluated, judged, compared, and rated us, all the time. We were told to be “good” and most disagreements between children ended up with a good guy and a bad guy. So, it’s not surprising that EVEN THOUGH we know in our hearts that our kids aren’t bad, it’s hard to get our heads around the idea that we aren’t bad, either. Because the culture we grew up in taught us to choose: “Someone has to be wrong here, and someone has to be right.” When we’re upset, our thoughts run wild, and we waffle back and forth between, “He’s bad,” and “I’m bad.”
Let me hold your hand and tell you something, straight from my heart.
You are not a bad parent when your child doesn’t listen to you. Your child is not a bad kid, either.
Now, let’s reframe this whole situation starting with a different basic premise.
Let’s start from the truth – that your child is doing EXACTLY what he needs to be doing in order to learn what he needs to learn to move successfully through his current developmental process, with his or her personality.
Your two year-old MUST resist and say “no” as she discovers that she is not you. Your 3 year-old MUST experience overwhelming emotions, in order to learn how to manage those big feelings that come in life. Your 4 year-old MUST intentionally not listen, in order to find out where he has power to choose and where he does not. Your 5 year-old MUST experiment with saying Really Mean Things in order to discover his own power to hurt, and to heal, another.
“But,” you say, “My friend’s 2, or 3 or 4 or 5 year-old doesn’t do those things!!”
Not every child is alike. The developmental processes are the same, but every personality experiences those developmental needs differently. A more outgoing personality with a need for intensity and leadership potential will explore with power differently than a more introspective personality with a need for quiet and a love for being part of a team.
Your child, in order to develop his or her potential, strengths and self-knowledge, MUST do EXACTLY what he or she does to test hypotheses and to learn, whether you like it or not.
So, what to do with this information? Does it mean that, since we don’t get mad, we just let the child do whatever and walk all over us?
No. But whatever you do, if you keep in mind that your child is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing, and that nobody’s bad, your actions will no longer be laced with anger and designed to punish your child.
You will still sometimes need to pick your child up and leave the birthday party amidst screams and misery. But you won’t blame your child or yourself, you won’t feel the need to stay mad or punish your child, and you won’t deem the situation a failure. Nobody has failed.
Instead, your child has succeeded in discovering one more thing about herself in the world, and you have succeeded in helping her learn, compassionately.
I’d love to help you identify how your child’s behaviour is reflecting his or her developmental process, and help you figure out what to do instead of rewards, punishments, praise or shame. Check out Big Picture Parenting 2015, or call me up for some coaching!
We can coach by phone, by Skype, no matter where you live, or in-home (if you live in Calgary, Canada). Call me to find out if coaching with me might be a good fit for you…403-607-1463.
I’d love to connect!
Let’s talk potty talk. One of my regular coaching clients called me up because her son was “having issues” at preschool because he was saying “poopy” and she needed help figuring out how to deal with it.
She shared this with me. Then we stopped and stared at each other in disbelief. It was one of those surreal moments where you think, “Is she paying me for this?”
It spoke to the ridiculousness of our cultural situation around Everything Fundamentally Human. We can’t talk sensibly about poop, death, sex or anything else even a little messy. Really? A preschool teacher who was uncomfortable dealing with the word “poop”?
So, here’s Potty Talk 101 for Parents, in four easy steps.
1) To help your child a) fully enjoy the glory of potty talk, and b) not get booted out of preschool, put sensible limits around potty talk. Limits can be place-related: “Oops! Potty talk goes in the bathroom!” or time-related, for example, implementing a Potty Talk time during which the whole family sings to the glory of poop or whatever other word your child is enjoying the sound of. Limits can also be person-related: “No potty talk around grandma.” It’s a good idea to work in a limit about not directing the potty talk AT anyone (ie “poop on you” – not ok).
2) Gently enforce the limits. If the limit isn’t adhered to, direct the child to the bathroom or somewhere Away From People and invite them to do their potty talk as much as they want. This is not a punishment. To gently enforce any limit, do it in the same decisive and kind way you would remove your child from the middle of the road. Without fanfare. If your child isn’t impressed, you can say something like, “I know. It’s hard to remember all these rules. Potty talk is for Away From People/in the bathroom/potty talk time.”
3) Laugh, on the inside, when your child drops the F-bomb in the grocery store. This will be a great story to tell at your child’s wedding. Relish the moment fully, imagining your 28-year-old’s face as you tell the story in front of her mortified new mother-in-law. Wink at the store clerk, or anyone else who looks at you in horror, and otherwise ignore it completely. Children play with these words because they have power, and they only have power because we give them power. Take away the power and let it go.
4) Enjoy potty talk yourself, within limits. Don’t chastise your child for saying something you would say. Just remind him or her of the limits, and point out that you wouldn’t say that at grandma’s house either. And for heaven’s sake, don’t say it at grandma’s!
This post hasn’t begun to touch on the bigger picture of why kids love potty talk and how to address it developmentally – that juicy conversation is for my class, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex, Drugs, and Rock’n’Roll”. Check out the Full Circle Parenting calendar to see what classes are coming up next, or contact me to chat about whether coaching might be a fit for you. I’d love to get to know you and your family!
Best potty talk stories? Share them below!
Most parents these days don’t want to be authoritarian, and they don’t want to be permissive.
Unfortunately, since most of us didn’t have a strong example of what The Other Way looks like – in practice – we sometimes flounder when all of our firm-but-gentleness and consistent respect are met by Resistance (despite our gentle requests!), Selfishness (despite our abundant sharing!), Anger (despite our best intentions!), Mean Words (even though We Don’t Call Names in Our Family!), Ingratitude (despite our giving, giving, and more giving) or a myriad of other Things Kids Do When They Are Growing Up.
Many parents who call me up for coaching say things like, “He was fine until he turned…(3 1/2 or 5 or 12).” Most children, at some point, will experiment with behaviours that you don’t like. Some will start experimenting early, and challenge you all through the years. Others will throw you a wild curve ball somewhere along the way.
So then, when the curve ball comes, or frequently through the years, we worry that Gentle Parenting Doesn’t Work and we try some other stuff, stuff that may not feel good in our hearts.
I want to offer you some reassurance. Often when a parent of young adults hears that I am a parenting coach, and after we’ve chatted a bit about my take on parenting, they say, “Oh! You help parents be the kind of parent I was!” When this happens, I take the opportunity to do an informal interview of that parent. As you know, I also read a lot of books and look at lots of research about specific parenting styles. The interviews always back up what I know. They go something like this:
Me: Soooooo…..how was it? Raising your child? The teen years?
Parent of Young Adult (with a big smile and sparkling eyes): It was amazing! She/He was definitely (15 – with a vengeance), (a little distant around age 20), (a rebel without a cause for a while), but it was great. And it’s even better now. We have a great relationship and we (talk on the phone several times a week), (have dinner together every Sunday), (go on amazing trips around the world together), (have the same parenting styles, now I have grand-kids!), (are best friends), etc, etc, etc.
Whatever your personal hopes and dreams are for your relationship with your kid(s) as they grow up, I want to reassure you that gentle parenting works. It’s not always easy. You will be challenged, again, and again, and again, to choose kindness over punishment, to choose love over power struggle, to choose connection over proving your point, and to think for days about what is the right way to handle the particular curve ball that your child has thrown at you.
So, that’s the delayed gratification answer – you’ll know that gentle parenting works when your child is an adult. Probably not so great to hear if you’ve got a 3 year-old or a 5-year-old that is challenging you right now, so here’s a big slice of shorter-term encouragement….
You’ll get a lot of amazing moments along the way. You will be at the mall one day, and your 5-year-old will see a parent threaten, then punish their child, and will slip her hand into yours, look up at you, and say, sadly, “Mom, I’m so glad you don’t punish me.” Your 7-year-old will call you the Best (and some days the Worst) Mommy Ever – and you’ll know that his judging mind has kicked in, and he’s actually thought it through, compared you to his friends’ parents, and you’ve come out A-OK. Your 8-year old will confront her teacher in a meeting with you, her dad, and the principal, will state her values and ask for respectful treatment, and your heart will beam with pride and respect for her articulate and kind assertiveness. Your 10-year-old’s friend will confide in you, and tell you how much he likes having an adult actually listen to his ideas, and your own child will say, as they walk away, “Yeah. My dad’s awesome at listening.” Your 12-year-old will mobilize her class to earn $5000 for an orphanage in Tibet, then crawl into your bed that night after sending off the cheque and say, “How can I do more?”
And your child will be 3 1/2, and 5, and 9, and 12, and 14 (boys) and 15 (girls), with a vengeance. They will live out their developmental stages, and explore the strengths and weaknesses of their personalities in ways that are not pleasant for you, and you will doubt yourself. You will question your values. You will make mistakes – lots of them.
Parenting in keeping with your values is hard. And, I want to reassure that it will be worth it. You will cry. You will worry. You will wonder if you’re giving your child the skills they need to thrive. You will second-guess yourself.
And, in spite of all your imperfections, your children will forgive you, understand you, and probably even grow wiser than you.
And one day down the road, you’ll be the parent I interview, and your eyes will sparkle, and you will tell me, that yes, gentle parenting works.
And please, post below about one of those special moments along that way that gave you a big slice of hope. We’d love to hear!!