Monday, July 6, 2015

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: Chapter Two

This is the next installment of the Natural Parents Network Round Table discussion. (Follow the links - there's good reading there!) 

Chapter Two is entitled How Peaceful Discipline Supports the Sibling Relationship and I can't argue with it.

(Ok, she does propose a move from saying that we're "disciplining" our children to "coaching" them...but to me that's up there with calling a lovey a "transitional object"....but whatever. Potato Potahto. I recognize that most people conflate discipline and punishment in their head - just like some people think a "natural consequence" is a spanking. People be wrong.) 

Anyway - on to what I DO like about this chapter: the emphasis on empathy. This world lacks a lot of empathy. A LOT. Turn on the news and you'll see someone responding to some situation with a complete lack of understanding of what's happening to the party on the other side. Of course, it's hard to be sanctimonious and drive a 24 hours news cycle when you can honestly see both sides of the situation, or when you'll at least consider that the other side may have a valid point. 

So teaching your child that hitting hurts and hurting people is bad and therefore we shouldn't hit is a huge step towards a level headed adult. One who refrains from hitting because he loves his brother and doesn't want to hit his brother rather than one who refrains purely out of fear of being caught and punished. 

I really like this little bit: 

"The way you discipline your child becomes her model for working out interpersonal problems." - pp 18
She follows with a list of examples to back this up - everything from the aforementioned "Punishing focuses kids on avoiding more punishment, which is not the same thing as caring about others." "kids raised with punishment learn to use it against their sibling to increase their own standing and power" - little tattletales doing the Carlton Dance while their sibling gets a lecture and a punishment. Not cool, little dudes. Not cool. 


As for discipline vs punishment, in case you're one of the gazillion people who confuse the two:

"The word 'discipline' actually means 'to guide', from the same root as the word 'disciple.' Punishment is more about force than guiding: it's defined as causing another person emotional or physical pain to convince them to do things our way but in our culture...discipline as we it, and think about it, is a form of punishment." - p20

One more and then we'll talk about my favorite parenting phrase ever:

"The key to setting effective limits is empathy...Empathetic limits defuse resistance, because the child at least feels understood, even when she doesn't get to do what she wants."-p22

The example she uses is hitting...the darling example because and it happens all.the.time. So she's talking about these siblings and then when the parent/caregiver intervenes, out comes "I won't let you." As in: "Hitting will hurt your brother. You love your brother and I won't let you hurt him. I won't let you hit. I know you're upset, but hitting is not the way to work it out."

The boys' preschool, their lovely, lovely preschool, emphasizes "safe hands" and that the school is a "safe place" and then has the child in question reflect on whether their behavior was making their friends feel's a good conversation opener and even my 2 (ohmygodalmostTHREE) year old gets the concept of feeling safe.

This is another book that embraces the more and more common notion that spanking is just wrong and damaging, but she is taking on new (to me, at least) information about Time Outs:

"We...have a good deal of evidence that time-outs don't work to prevent a recurrence of misbehavior, which raises the question of whether time-outs may even be causing the recurrences."  - pp25-27

(So I'm going to take a moment to note that the age of the siblings in question is Old Enough to Have Squirt Gun keep that in mind while you're reading. Which you should do. Because I'm not going over the entire chapter here.)

Her approach, like many others I've heard who are anti Time-Out is a Time In (her example here is a pre-verbal child who is having a bad day and is expressing that frustration by throwing her cup across the room):

"So you summon up all your compassion and remind yourself that she's a little person whose behavior is a cry for help...You hug her, then take her to a specially designated spot that feels safe and cozy, and snuggle up. You connect warmly, which may be all she needs to pull herself together...Her sunny mood will return, and she'll be ready to help you clean up the spilled cup." - p42

The natural consequence is there already: make a mess, clean it up. We all know that cleaning up messes is a deterrent to making them, and if she knows that Mommy/Daddy/etc will be there to help her learn how to navigate the emotions that come with a crappy day, she'll be less inclined to fling the cup next time. (It doesn't mean she won't. It means she's learning that it's not the best way. And just like you don't freak out when your child says "m and o p" while they're learning the ABCs, you shouldn't freak out when your child snaps and throws a cup again. Because really, the only reason YOU don't throw shit when you snap is because you're a grown adult who has complete control over her impulses at all times. Unless you're me, then sometimes you do throw shit. It's cathartic. Our hypothetical fence will have a target drawn on it and a bucket of bean bags at the ready. I'm all about channeling impulses.)

The rest of the chapter is about Helping Children with Big Emotions - something  about which we all could do with a refresher course. I highly suggest you read it.

PS - sorry for the lack of photos eldest has the viral plague and no one wants pictures of has been a trying week for all of us and my empathy patience has been seriously tested. House Arrest leads to much, much whining. You know what helps it? Underwear dance party (also it roughly 8billion degrees and we have no a/c - so...)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Introduction: Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings

So this whole post is about one page: the Part One opening page. This quote really struck me:

"All siblings will do some fighting, no matter what their parents do. Conflict is a part of every human relationship, and you can't stop your children from having needs and desires that clash. What you can do is give them healthy tools to work through these disagreements, tools they'll use the rest of their lives." 

We all know I'm a big fan of having a fully-stocked Parenting Toolbox.

Like the Penalty Flags

And the Stop Sign.  They got this one from preschool - when someone is doing something you don't like, you hold up your hand in the universal "STOP" gesture. This is especially helpful for kids who have a speech delay. And you don't have to know ASL to get it. (The "stop sign" Walter is holding up is ASL for "yours" - the ASL sign for stop is more like a karate chop to your own open palm.)

And everything I learned from No Drama Discipline

And everything else this book is going to teach me. 

One final quote for my not-very-in-depth-first-post:

"When parents have better relationships with their children, those children have better relationships with each other. When parents have negative or punitive relationships with each child, the children behave more aggressively and selfishly with each other."

So the place to start is with a better parent, have better children. (Does anyone else have Man in the Mirror in their heads...? No? You do now. You're welcome.) 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Another Read Along is Coming!

I keep agreeing to these read alongs with the Natural Parents Network in the hopes that a) I'll learn something useful that I can pass along to you and b) I'll blog more. Because I enjoy blogging.

One out of two isn't bad, right?

Anyway, next week (or later this week) we're going to start talking about Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, by Dr. Laura Markham.

Pick up a copy and read along!

And just for funsies: a gratuitous picture of the boys!

Monday, May 11, 2015

No-Drama Discipline Conclusion: On Magic Words, Being Human, Reconnection, and Change: 4 Messages of Hope

Here it is, folks - the final post on the excellent book No-Drama Discipline, a book which every parent and/or caregiver should read. (In case you missed it, you can watch the book trailer here. It's worth it. Then read the book!) 

The conclusion is exactly what it should be - a round up and synopsis of all the Very Good Information covered throughout the book. The book I suggest you read.

They do a nice little list - 4 Messages of Hope - to send you off on your Drama-Free Disciplining way. I want to print it up and put it next to the French Food Rules we have hanging in the dining room (that's a good place to hang behavior reminders, right?)

1) There is no Magic Wand. Of course there's not. Just like there's no magic age, no magic phrase, and (sadly) no letters from Hogwarts...
2) Your Kids Benefit Even When You Mess Up.  I've always wanted to learn to ride horses...I've also always wished that we could see rough drafts when we're forced to learn how to write - based on the great writers - in school. Those are related because I decided at some point in my 20s that I would learn to ride *with* my children. So they can see that even adults don't know everything and even adults make mistake and it's important to get back on the horse and try again. That reminds me...I should find a local stable and look into that. Also I should write more.
3) You Can Always Reconnect. It's easier than it sounds. Sit on the floor - or get to their eye level - and be straight with them. You're human. You lost it. You flipped out. You know that you should use your words and be gentle the way you're trying to teach them to use their words and be gentle. We'll try hard tomorrow. "Tomorrow is a new day, with absolutely no mistakes in it, yet." (To misquote Anne Shirley.)
4) It's Never Too Late to Make a Positive Change. Darn skippy. It's never too late. (That's a good song, btw. The boys love it...sometimes.) 

This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth. This week at Natural Parents Network, our volunteers are discussing ReTHINKing Discipline from the book No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain ChildHop on over and read about what they have to say about the true goals of discipline and rethinking how we approach parenting with our children. Learn how to separate yourself from the situation and use some of the very same skills we want our children to use. Are you tired of the drama going on in your family? Are you looking for more peaceful solutions? Pick up a copy of No Drama Discipline and join us over the next few months as we talk about what is going on in your child's brain and how you can learn to connect with your child, help them to learn, and leave the drama behind.

Monday, April 27, 2015

R-E-D-I-R-E-C-T: No-Drama Discipline Ch. 6

Not gonna lie - this was my big take-away from this chapter was one of my favorite parenting gems of all time:

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.

Ok, they didn't explicitly said that, Ice Cube did.

What the authors did say:

"Keep Calm and Carry On...Not a bad mantra to have at the ready when your child goes ballistic - or before you do....How you respond to your child's behavior will greatly impact how the whole situation unfolds." p167-168

Because I have been quoting Ice Cube for the past mmphhhhh years...that's where my brain went.

For example: "Check yourself before you wreck yourself - because getting hit by a car is bad for your health!" (Not lying - why do you think my kids stop at curbs? I'm not a fairy...I'm *scary*)

Most often, though, I just drawl out: "Y'all best check yourselves before you wreck yourselves." Something about the Stern Southern seems to do the trick.

They do give some handy strategies for helping you R*E*D*I*R*E*C*T after you've all checked yourselves - of course they go *way* more in-depth than I'm going to, but here's the list for some reference:
Reduce words, Embrace Emotions, Describe - don't preach, Involve your child in the discipline, Reframe a no into a conditional yes, Emphasize the positive, Creatively approach the situation, and Teach Mindsight tools.

I really like the "Reduce words" part - it never works when you word-vomit all over your kids -- they just tune you out until you chill out. But if you just give them the meat of the problem, they can easily digest and respond.

Example of what not to do "You know why it's bad to hit your brother? It's bad because hands aren't for hitting they're for being nice, and art, and cooking, and also making things, and for petting animals...but only nice animals, can you imagine petting a mean animal? Imagine if you hit a mean animal. You're lucky your little brother isn't a Tiger, a tiger would only be hit once and then it would eat you up. Like in that song by Maurice Sendak that Carol King sang on that CD that I love that you only tolerate because you think it's for babies...."

Right? I tuned me out.

Better: "I won't let you hit your brother. It's not safe and it's not nice. Keep your hands to yourself and if you need help I will help you." The end. (FTR - I got the "I won't let you" gem from Janet Lansbury. I can't find the original phrase but basically she says it works because it's definitive and gives they child no room for argument. It places the parent in the role of parent and shaper of behavior. There's no need to yell or coerce - just a simple "I won't let you_____." and then put a period at the end.)

The rest of the advice in this chapter is well worth checking out. (Before you wreck out...? No? Ok.) As always, I highly suggest you do.

This is the only wreck I've got a photo of...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Flexibility and Empathy: Chapter 5 of No-Drama Discipline

So here we are for the penultimate post about the round table read of No-Drama Discipline being hosted by Natural Parents Network.

In case you've missed the first posts (both here, at NPN, and over on Code Name: Mama) I found the book trailer! It's worth a watch, for sure.

So I'm going to talk about two of the topics they cover in this chapter: empathy and flexibility. I have long felt there's an empathy deficit in the world. Too many people are so focused on what they want that they fail to see what is needed for the person in question.

(Sidenote: One of my favorite posts ever about hospitality and empathy comes from Jana Riess writing for the Religious News Service - don't let that deter you - entitled: Everything I Need to Know About Hospitality I Learned From Molly Weasley. It's full of spoilers so don't read it if you haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, but this is the gist: her son brought home an orphan and she treated him as *he* needed to be treated, which was different from her own children. And within her own children, each was treated according to their needs and unique personality. She modeled empathy and flexibility for her children.)

From the book:

"The more we give kids the opportunity to consider not only their own desires, but also the desires of others, and practice making good choices that positively impact the people around them, the better they'll be at doing so...A collaborative and respectful redirection [is] worth the effort and extra time." p.139

Checking out the instructions

Here's an example with my 2.5 yr old: we purchased a 4billion piece LEGO set last year. When completed, it would be a Winter Village and part of our Christmas decorations...and let's just say that the "expert" label wasn't lying. We pulled out the instructions, opened the 50 bags as needed, and sorted pieces into neat piles by color. We used various prep bowls and empty yogurt containers to contain the piles. Baz and I would look a few steps ahead, collect what was needed into a ramekin, and pass it to Steve, who would assemble. Walter, who didn't intuit a job for himself past sorting by color, starting undoing the sorting, pushing pieces off the table, and generally being a pain.

Option 1: throw on a movie for him to zone out to while the "big kids" assembled the LEGO.
Option 2: scold, scold, scold.
Option 3: give him a job.

Not Sorting.

We settled on Option 3. His new job was to take the particular needed piece from the waiting ramekin and hand it to Steve - where he would either help press it onto the other pieces or he would reach for the next piece.

It seems like a small thing, but we all know parents who wouldn't have seen a place for the youngest child and would have tried to distract and then scold when the distraction didn't work. The bonus is that the next weekend, when we picked up to finish the assemblage, he also picked up where he left off - this time without the preamble of mess-making. It doesn't take a Master Empathizer to see that he just wanted to be included, the trick was finding the age-appropriate way to include him. It was an instance where we succeeded.

So...flexible consistency...or as the French call it: The "cadre" (frame)

"Consistency means working from a reliable and coherent philosophy so that our kids know what we expect of then and what they should expect from us. Rigidity, on the other hand, means maintaining an unswerving devotion to rules we've set up, sometimes without having even thought them through, or without changing them as kids develop." p 147
"Rigidity is about...fear-based parenting...parenting with a goal of reducing our own anxiety and fears, rather than what will best teach our child's emerging mind and mold the developing brain." p. 149 

Flexibility within the consistency removes your fears from the equation. The fears they're talking about here are the ones that worry any single indulgence will lead to a slippery slope of bad habits (cue the people who tell you not to hold the baby too much, or co-sleep, or let them indulge in a snack...I could go on and on...) without realizing that if you allow a bit of crazy now that doesn't mean you allow it always.

Helping Daddy on the second day of assemblage

Flexibility acknowledges that accidents happen. It allows for the occasional loss of temper. It allows for boundary pushing. It allows you to see that the reason your 2 year old is throwing LEGOs on the floor is simply because he want to be included. Flexibility gives space for the parent and child to talk about why it's not ok to throw pieces, and what would be a better activity.  Rigidity sees only the LEGOs on the floor and reacts to that infraction. Rigidity allows for no discussion, only consequences.

So your Goal is to be consistent but flexible. Empathize with your child to all your to better understand where he's coming from, and work together to find a solution that works for everyone and sets up the framework for the next time that situation occurs.

And seriously, folks, every parents and/or caregiver should read this book.

Finished Product. Not pictured: Santa's Sleigh (not part of the set.) 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Connection in Action: Chapter 4 of No-Drama Discipline

People...I had this whole thing planned to write about Shark Music vs. Pasture Music...which is a GREAT thing they talk about in chapter 4 and then Walter spent Friday night from 8:30-almost midnight...and then from 2-4:45 am (I know because I finally checked the clock) doing this:

So guess what I did? We live in an apartment - the one above us is occupied and he shares his room with his I sat in his room and cajoled him to sleep...while he mocked me. MOCKED ME.

How I didn't completely lose my shit is beyond me, although I do remember consciously not looking at the clock until his eyes were closed and I was out of there because if I had done so I would have flipped out. The time for 3am shenanigans is college and I haven't been there for about a decade.

So then Saturday was a fog during which I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about not writing this review of Chapter 4: No-Drama Connection in Action....I have copious notes but they may as well have been written in swahili for all I could comprehend yesterday.

This was about all I could muster:

So that was yesterday. Last night everyone slept very well after watching Kentucky win and this morning I glanced over my notes again and then my kids...

What was on my mind from my notes: Response Flexibility:

"Response Flexibility helps you choose to be your to be your wisest self possible in a difficult moment with your child, so that connection can occur." pp. 102-3
So instead of flipping out when they decided to play Vacuum Chicken (which is where I vacuum the carpet and they see who can run in front/jump over without actually hitting it...and then run and shriek and stand on tables) and then pull bedding off one bed and put it on the other so they could be snails, I did a bit of eye-rolling and texted my BFF: "OMG, my kids are such assholes. I mean, they're just being kids and I love them and whatever...but they're still being assholes."

Then all of the stuffed animals came out...joined by ALL of their bedding...

What I wanted to do:

What I did:

And then when they started to whine about cleaning up the mess (hours later)...I wanted to:

But what I did was remind them that I warned them this mess was theirs to clean up and then I passed them off to Steve, whose mood after his 64 mile ride earlier was as close to this as a non-medicated parent can get:

And now I'm throwing together a bunch of gifs to animate the point that even when you're in the middle of reading a book about how to discipline better, sometimes you just have to meet a deadline and taking/editing/posting images of your little assholes is the last thing you want can still have learned something. At no point did I yell, I didn't slam a door, I didn't start lecturing and whining back....

But they're making dinner (Disheveled Josephs) and I'm going to do this (without the cigarette, obviously...)

Ok, also without the pearls...and the fabulous hair, makeup, wardrobe...and shit. Without the wine.

Is it bedtime yet?

PS - the other lesson to learn? Deadlines and small children mean that the other thing I'm about a decade away from is waiting until the last minute and churning out genius. No way would this post break a curve if I had to turn this in as an essay. I am clearly off my game.

(That's Charles Barkley. Watch Space Jam)
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