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.
[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 »
How well do you handle yourself when you’re upset with your kids?
Me? Sometimes I respond extremely well, making myself proud of how loving and understanding and patient I remained. At other times, I lower myself to my kids’ level and resort to the childishness that upset me in the first place.
My message to you today is that when you respond to your kids from a less-than-optimal place, take heart: most likely, you’re still providing them with all kinds of valuable experiences.
For example, have you ever found yourself so frustrated with your kids that you call out, a good bit louder than you need to, “That’s it! The next one who complains about where they’re sitting in the car, has to sit in that same seat for the rest of the year!”
Or maybe, when your eight-year-old pouts and complains all the way to school because you made her practice her piano, you say, with your parting words as she departs the mini-van, “I hope you have a great day, now that you’ve ruined the whole morning.”
Obviously, these aren’t examples of perfect parenting. And if you’re like me, you beat yourself up for the times when you don’t handle things like you wish you had.
So here’s hope: Those not-so-great parenting moments are not necessarily such bad things for our kids to have to go through. In fact, they’re actually incredibly valuable.
Why? Because these less-than-perfect parental responses Continue Reading »
Here are some things parents say to me about their discipline frustrations:
–I don’t feel like I have an overall theory of discipline. It’s more that I just do whatever comes out at the time. Sometimes my reaction or instinct is really good, and other times I’m being just as immature or reactive as my toddler. I just feel like I need to give more thought to it and have a plan.
–I feel disempowered. I think I’ve been told a list of things that I should NOT do –spank, yell, etc. – but I don’t know what I CAN do, other than just take a toy away. So I find myself making empty or meaningless threats (“Do that again and you’re going to be in BIG trouble!”) and then I’m just so frustrated. I don’t know what to do in the moment.
Do these parents’ comments resonate with you? I can certainly identify. I remember how clueless I felt as a new parent, and even though the stories often end up being funny in retrospect, I’m embarrassed at how I responded at times when my kids acted out.
The Parenting Expert Gets Taken Down by Her Own Reactive Brain
One day my three-year-old got mad and hit me. I guided him to his time-out spot at the bottom of our stairway, sat next to him, and smiled. I lovingly (and naively) said, “Hands are for helping and loving, not for hurting.”
While I was uttering this truism, he hit me again.
So I tried the empathy approach: “Ouch! That hurts mommy. You don’t want to hurt me, do you?”
At which point he hit me again.
I then tried the firm approach: “Hitting is not OK. Don’t hit any more. If you’re mad you need to use your words.”
Yup, you guessed it. He hit me again.
I was lost. I felt I needed to up the ante. In my most powerful voice I said, “Now you’re in time out at the top of the stairs.”
I marched him up to the top of our stairs. He was probably thinking, “Cool! We’ve never done this before. . . I wonder what will happen next if I keep hitting her?”
At the top of the stairs, I bent over at the waist, my pointer finger wagging, and said, “NO MORE HITTING!”
He didn’t hit me again. 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 »
Last week Dr. Drew Pinsky asked me to come on his show “Life Changers” to discuss spanking as a discipline approach. I ended up getting to say only a minute fraction of what I wanted to say about this polarizing discipline strategy, so I decided to share some of my thoughts here.
The parents I’ve talked to about spanking are almost always very strong in their position, but they avoid talking about it with other parents, and when the discussion begins, it’s almost never a respectful, open conversation among people who really are willing to listen to the other side.
I feel compelled to really have those conversations, so I’ll be doing more of this in the coming months, both informally at the park and on the ballfield, and also publicly in various formats. In order to get the ball rolling, what you’ll see below are my answers to the questions Dr. Drew’s producer asked me in our pre-show correspondence.
WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THE DEBATE OF TO SPANK OR NOT TO SPANK?
Anyone who’s heard me speak knows that I am really big on boundaries and on parents being authority figures. And still, I am against spanking. I think that using physical force, particularly against a child, is wrong. The idea of inflicting physical (even minor) pain on a child is unsettling to me. Beyond that, I firmly believe that when you understand how the brain works, you see that spanking is often counter-productive when it comes to teaching our kids the lessons we want them to learn.
However, that being said, it’s not really all that simple. Two particular points make the whole question about spanking a complex one in my mind. The first is that there are really good, loving parents who spank. I have friends who spank calmly and with nurturing conversations with their children regarding their discipline. They are intentional about how and WHY they do it. I know these parents well, and I’ve seen how great their kids are turning out, and how loved those kids feel. So those of us who don’t spank need to avoid the temptation to caricature parents who use corporal punishment, seeing them as out-of-control child abusers whose kids will turn out to be violent monsters.
The second point that complicates matters is that there are plenty of non-spanking discipline approaches that can be more damaging than spanking. I know that I myself have been guilty of Continue Reading »