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)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tantrums, Tantrums, Tantrums! No Drama Discipline Ch. 3

Baz, at about 14 months...
when I found this, I hugged him 5 years.

And we're back for Chapter 3: From Tantrum to Tranquility

      I feel the need to point out that I am only scratching the surface with these posts. I'm building a whole post on one or two quotes I've pulled from each chapter - and those are picked from the dozen or so that I copy out, but even then...I'd underline the whole book if that wouldn't be super confusing. I really, really think every parent can benefit from this book. So pick up your own copy and read along! I'd love to know what you think, too.

     So my favorite acronym from this chapter is this: HALT. As in: if your child is freaking out (or whining...or clinging...), take a moment to determine if he is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Think about how well you behave when you are one of those four things...and then, as the Husband likes to say, "debug your child." If you are aware of these things and head them off, then you can stop a tantrum before it starts.

     Example: the boys are two of those things every Saturday after swim lessons. I keep snack bars in the bag for them to snack on in the car on the way to lunch. A snack and a little rest in their carseats gets them through lunch without incident. The one time I didn't give Walter a snack in the car...I was that mom sitting outside of Red Robin telling her screaming child that we can go back inside after he's gotten all his screams out because I won't let him scream at the table. I can't stop the screams, but I can remove him from the table and sit with him so that Hungry and Tired doesn't turn into Hungry Tired and Lonely (feeling dismissed because I won't hang out with him when he's cranky.)

       Obviously - this doesn't always work and obviously misbehavior still happens. This is when the authors remind us to truly connect with our children:

"Fight the urge to punish, lecture, lay down the law, or even positively redirect right away. Instead, we need to connect....[this]moves them out of a reactive state and into a state where they can be more receptive to the lesson we want to teach and the healthy interactions we want to share with them." - pp 72-74

Walter's reaction when I say "show me your mad face!" 
     A little bit later in the chapter they bring up what every critic of non-punitive discipline brings up: by not laying down the law (or even just spanking as an automatic response - I've heard that, haven't you?) you are spoiling your child. However, spoiling does happen. We all know what happens to children who are truly spoiled: they grow up to be entitled douchebags. And no one wants that.

"Spoiled children often grow up to be unhappy, because people in the real world don't respond to their every whim." - p. 91

So - how do you connect without spoiling? Connect, connect, connect.

"Connection is about walking through the hard times with our children being there for them when they're emotionally suffering, just like we would if they scraped their knee and were physically suffering." - p. 92 

We call this "Bereaved Planking" and it's a universal
toddler response to...anything they don't want to hear.
        Being aware, being proactive, and sitting with them while they let it all out - whether it's a broken heart or unbearable frustration or just pure anger - while they won't always get what they want, they'll get what they need: you, holding their hand when they need it. (Or, if you've read that poem - a place in their life where there's only one pair of footsteps in the sand.)

       Like I said above - this is the just the tip of the iceberg and I heartily recommend reading the entire book. We'll talk more about connection in chapter 4 (and the rest of the book, I presume.)

     Oh, and for those who think "I'll just ignore the tantrum and it'll go away" - I suggest you read this blog, on the author's home page.

I'm going to end this with a quote I can't attribute...but it's one of my favorites so if you know the source please let me know! (It's also possible I'm fully misquoting...)

You spoil a child the same way you spoil fruit: put it in the other room and forget about it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

No Drama Discipline Chapter 2: Your Brain on Discipline

So this chapter was hard for me to read, as are most things related to brain development these days. So before I get into my discussion of this chapter, I'm going to just direct you here, to my friend Libby's story about DIPG, a rare brain cancer that took her daughter Jennifer far too soon. Libby and her friends have worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness through the non-profit they established, Unravel Pediatric Cancer. If you want to know more, and help them in their mission, head on over and see what you can do.

This doesn't really have anything to do with this post, except he was whining about being bored and I said "if you've got time to be bored, you've got time to wash your handprints off the windows..."....and he did. He did a decent job, too.

Now, on to the original point of this post: Your Brain on Discipline.

So here's the deal: a lot of what's going on is related to how mindful we're being of ourselves and our reactions to situations. And it follows that what we're attempting to do here is teach our children to be mindful of themselves and their reactions to situations.

This chapter was chock-full of good information about brain development in children - they break the brain into two sections: upstairs and downstairs. The downstairs is the primeval brain, the reptilian brain that is only concerned with getting what it wants (whether it is actually needed or just thinks it is) when it wants it. The upstairs brain is the thinking brain, the rational brain, the brain that can see reason and logic and be taught to react in certain ways to certain situation. The upstairs brain can be mindful...or, as they say, can be taught to use "mindsight":

"Mindsight is a teachable skill at the heart of being empathetic and insightful, moral, and compassionate. Mindsight is the basis of social and emotional intelligence, and we can model this for our children as we help guide the development of their changing brains....this [their changing brains] is not an excuse for bad behavior - this is why they need clear boundaries and our help understanding what's acceptable...our frame constrains what their brain can't." - pp. 38-39

He was working within the "make snack" frame but missed the "use a napkin" detail...
Like the French cadre talked about in Bringing Up Bebe, a strong framework of expectations allows for lots of room to learn and explore within it. But sometimes those boundaries are pushed and that's when we have opportunities to help our children reach the right decisions about their actions, rather than just telling them what to do.

The trouble is, sometimes we react with our reptilian brains...I have found a little solution. I saw this post on Modern Parents Messy Kids and recognized a tool that a) I handily already owned and b) was super easy to institute. A stack of 5 rings that I purchased when my fingers were swollen from pregnancy and so, I confess, sometimes when it's cold now my fingers shrink just enough that I can't wear them, lest the literally fly off and land across the room...anyway, they normally go on the right hand and should I lose my temper I take a single ring and move it over to stack against my wedding ring. The next morning, I start over. Her post on the ritual is well worth a read. (The update is here.)

My 5 rings...hanging out on kitty's heiney while I wash dishes.

The bottom line is that this is a learning process and requires a lot of practice to become second nature. Like cooking, or bike riding, or playing the drums. Take a deep breath, remember that you're dealing with an under-developed brain (in relation to yours) that hasn't harnessed impulse control, let alone reasoned why one would even need impulse control...and then give yourself a break. The same reasons your child flips out are the same reasons you flip out. Have a snack and a rest, hug it out, and start with all 5 rings on your right hand tomorrow.

NPN RTD featureThis 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 Your Brain on 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 Child. Hop on over and read about what they have to say about how your child's brain is developing, the three brain C's, how you can use your knowledge about how the brain works to appeal to your child when helping them through situations, and for some resources to help you tame your own reactions. 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.

Friday, February 20, 2015

On Making Assumptions: No Drama Discipline Read-Along Ch. 1

Get the details for this Round Table here, if you don't have them already.

Some of us at Natural Parents Network are reading along to No Drama Discipline over the next few months. We'll each post a bit about the chapter we've just read and I'll link to all of the posts at the bottom of this one.
This is where most of my reading sentence at a time.

This post is about Chapter One: ReTHINKing Discipline.

Specifically, this sentence:

But when we approach with curiosity instead of assumptions, looking deeper at what's going on behind a particular misbehavior, we can often understand that our child was trying to express or attempt something but simply didn't handle it appropriately.
Let me get to the heart of that right here:

Approach with Curiosity instead of Assumptions.

The end. Do I really need to write any more?

I do?


GRRR! No More Selfies!

So basically, it reminds me to stop and take a moment to assess the situation and remember that what it looks like isn't always what it is. Sometimes, Walter really does trip over his own feet and sometimes Baz really does push him.

Let me illustrate it for you:

I'm in the office trying to write up this blog (for days, folks. I've been trying to write this for days) when I hear shenanigans from the living room. I walk in to total chaos, grab one of our penalty flags and lob it into the fray. As it's flying through the air I feel the weight of the 5 rings on my right hand and remember not to assume I know what's going on. The flag hit the ground and the boys pause enough to notice me. Baz starts jabbering while a wailing Walter falls into my lap as if he's bidding for Best Actor in a Melodrama.

If I were an assuming parent: they were playing and Baz used his greater size and vocabulary to literally and figuratively push Walter around.

If I'm a curious parent: something happened, but until everyone calms down there's no way of knowing just what it was.

In the book, there are 3 questions they want you to ask (they appear to enjoy breaking things down into 3s - 3 questions, 3 brain Cs in Ch. 2...) before you react to a situation. I'm loathe to get up and find the book, lest I get distracted and take another 5 days to finish this post...but basically you assess the situation and ask what happened, why it happened, and what the ROOT CAUSE is. They are all about the Root Cause.

The penalty flags live in a pretty bowl on the to the fruit and the incentive potty training candy.

So I ask...and honestly I forget what the problem was but by helping them calm down and ensuring that no one is hurt and in need of medical attention, I can get both versions of what happened and offer up a solution. Pretty sure in this case it had to do with both of them wanting the same thing - so I remind them we have lots of things and surely they can come up with a solution. So I guide them to a solution based on just that situation and their moods at the time, rather than just meting out punishments and consequences and shouting a lot, and it became such a non-issue that now I can't even remember what it was about.

In a few weeks we're going to be talking about Ch2. I encourage you to read along. While I find myself agreeing with what they're saying, it's a nice reminder and - like they say in the intro - this is something that takes practice. It's like learning to cook. You need the recipe the first several times you bake that cake, but after a while it becomes something you can do without even thinking about it. (You knew it was coming back to food eventually. Children are like Cakes....I'd run with that metaphor but you'd need all day to read it.)

NPN RTD featureThis 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 Child. Hop 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.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Flag on the Play! (Over at NPN)

Flag on the Play! | Natural Parents Network
A single penalty flag weighs about 3 ounces.

 A flag on the play. Literally. I had a genius idea the other night after dinner, watching my sons play the way little kids do: full contact and with lots of enthusiasm. They started to get a little too rambunctious, and my husband I started to call out warnings for them to cool it . . . of course they ignored us, and things elevated, and then everything ended in tears. Luckily it wasn't serious (a bonk here, a tumble there), but then a light bulb went off. Bright. Yellow. Flags. The weighted ones. Tossed in front of their faces when things started to look like they were getting out of hand. Could it work? Read more in my post today at Natural Parents Network, Flag on the Play.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The New Year’s Non-Resolution - Emily Bartnikowski

Monday December 30 The New Year’s Non-Resolution (Emily Bartnikowski) This year, I’m not resolving to do anything I haven’t already been doing – or trying to do. This year, I am resolve that I am enough as I am; resolving to enjoy where I am at more; and just breathing. Read about my heartfelt goal for the New Year at Natural Parents Network today - The New Year’s Non-Resolution.
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