Some of you have seen my posts about common discipline mistakes even the best parents make. Mom.me has just posted a re-working of those ideas as a gallery with pictures. It begins like this:
Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed moms, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Yesterday I spent a fun hour with the delightful Richard Fidler on ABC Radio in Australia.
Discipline is a complex and complicated subject. I could write a whole book about it. In fact, I’ve already started working on one.
But when we talk about effective discipline and how parents can achieve the results they want when they interact with their kids, it can actually be it pretty simple. If it were a math formula, it would look like this:
WARMTH + AUTHORITY = EFFECTIVE DISCIPLINE
The research is really clear on this point. Kids who achieve the best outcomes in life – emotionally, educationally, and relationally – have parents who raise them with a high degree of warmth and nurturing, or what I like to call emotional responsiveness, as well as a high degree of authority, where clear boundaries are communicated and enforced. Their parents remain firm and consistent in their boundaries, while still interacting with them in a way that communicates love, respect, and compassion. Warmth and authority are the two sides of the effective-discipline coin.
The first side of the discipline coin: Warmth
When we nurture our children and attune to their internal world, we allow them to know and believe that they are seen, heard, loved, and approved of by their parents. Then they’ll interact with the world around them based on that belief, so that their brains are wired to expect that their needs will be met in intimate relationships. On the other hand, if a parent repeatedly Continue Reading »
[This is a revised version of the first article in a two-part series. Click here to see the second four mistakes.]
Because we’re always parenting our children, it takes real effort to look at our discipline strategies objectively. Good intentions can become less-than-effective habits quickly, and that can leave us operating blindly, disciplining in ways we might not if we thought much about it. Here are some parenting mistakes made by even the best-intentioned, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Common Discipline Mistake #1: We lay down the law in an emotional moment, then realize we’ve overreacted.
Have you reacted in a way that was a bit “supersized” for the behavior you were trying to address? Maybe your child’s actions didn’t warrant such a dramatic pronoucement: “You can’t go swimming for the rest of the summer!” Or maybe the consequences even had to do with something you were counting on: “Stop calling your brother names or you can’t go to Grandma’s house today.” Of course, she again calls him “stinky-head” and calls your bluff. Your options at this point are to either miss your lunch with your friends or show your child that you don’t mean what you say.
In these moments, give yourself permission to rectify the situation. Obviously, follow-through is important once you’ve set boundaries; otherwise, you’ll lose credibility in your child’s eyes and your child will not have the security of knowing where the limits are. But there are ways to be consistent and still get out of the bind you’re in. For example, Continue Reading »
[This is a revision of the second article in a two-part series. Click here to see the first four mistakes.]
Here are more discipline mistakes made by even the best-intending, most well-informed parents, along with practical suggestions that might come in handy the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Common Discipline Mistake #5: We get trapped in power struggles.
Everyone says to avoid power struggles. But no one seems to tell us what to do once we’ve gotten ourselves into an inevitable one. And when our kids feel backed into a corner, they instinctually fight back or totally shut down. So here are three ways to help you get out of those lose-lose power struggles you sometimes find yourself in.
A. Give your child an out or a choice that allows her to comply with your expectations, while still saving face: “Would you like to get a drink first, and then we’ll pick up the toys?” The phrase “It’s your choice” can be a powerful tool to wield, since it gives your child some amount of power, which can often diffuse stand-offs. So maybe you ask, “Would you like to get ready for bed now and read four bedtime stories tonight, or play 10 minutes longer and read two stories? It’s your choice.” (If she chooses fewer stories, it’s a good idea to remind her several times before story-time about her choice.)
B. Negotiate: “We’re not really getting anywhere here, are we? Let’s see if we can figure out a way for both of us to get what we need.” Obviously, there are some non-negotiable issues, but negotiation isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a Continue Reading »
If you’ve heard me speak before, you may have heard me talk about the upstairs brain and the downstairs brain. Or maybe you’re read about the concepts here, where I help you teach the basic information to your kids.
Right now I want to apply that information in a way that can help us deal with one of the most unpleasant parenting issues we all face: the dreaded tantrum.
The Downstairs Brain and the Upstairs Brain
The basic idea is that we can think about our brain as a house, with a downstairs and an upstairs. The downstairs brain includes the brain stem and the limbic region, which are located in the lower parts of the brain, from the top of your neck to about the bridge of your nose. Scientists talk about these lower areas as being more primitive because they’re responsible for basic functions (like breathing and blinking), for innate reactions and impulses (like fight and flight), and for strong emotions (like anger and fear).
Your upstairs brain, on the other hand, handles much more sophisticated thinking. It’s made up of the cerebral cortex and its various parts—particularly the ones directly behind your forehead, including what’s called the middle prefrontal cortex. In other words, it is literally the higher (and thus upstairs) part of your brain. This is where more complex mental processing takes place, like thinking, imagining, and planning. Whereas the downstairs brain is primitive, the upstairs brain is Continue Reading »
Auto-pilot may be a great tool when you’re flying a plane. Just flip the switch, sit back and relax, and let the computer take you where it’s been pre-programmed to go. Pretty great.
But I’ve found that auto-pilot is not so great when I’m disciplining my children. It can fly me straight into whatever dark and stormy cloudbank is looming, meaning my kids and I are all in for a bumpy ride. So instead, I’m always working on DECIDING how I want to interact with my kids when I discipline them.
For example, let’s talk about consequences. For most parents, when we need to discipline our kids, the first question we ask ourselves is, “What consequence should I give?” That’s our auto-pilot. But through my years of parenting, I’ve begun to significantly re-think my use of consequences.
My four-year-old, for instance, hit me the other day. He was angry because I told him I needed to finish an email before I could play legos with him, and he came up and slapped me on the back. (I’m always surprised that a person that small can inflict so much pain.)
My immediate, auto-pilot reaction was to want to grab him, probably harder than I needed to, and Continue Reading »