6 Tips For No Drama Discipline

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Any parent can tell you that disciplining their child is not easy and no parent does it perfectly.  In my Connected Parenting classes and with my own children, we spend a lot of time understanding and addressing our own triggers that get flared from our kids' behaviors.  As parents, we have a lot of unresolved feelings and issues from our own childhoods that get kicked up every time our kids misbehave.  If we could develop the self-awareness to notice when we're triggered and deal with our own feelings first, we wouldn't react so much to our children, yelling when the tips listed below would work much more effectively. Dr. Daniel Siegel is a neuroscientist from UCLA who has written several books about parenting with the neuroscientific needs of our kids (and ourselves) in mind.  In his newest book No Drama Discipline, he and Tina Bryson, Ph.D. remind parents that discipline is about teaching, not punishment, and give several beautiful illustrations of the most effective ways that parents can address our children's behaviors and emotional needs.  Here are 6 important tips from their book:

1. BE CALM

When a parent is wound up, stressed, with unresolved prior emotions already under the surface, kids and their typical horse play can trigger loud and scary yelling and reactions which get parents and their kids NOWHERE.  Most parents have had incidents where their kids are doing something they're not supposed to do like jumping on the bed and we don't say anything, we don't say anything, it goes on, until something breaks or gets knocked over and we SCREAM at our kids about how wild and irresponsible they are.  The truth is we need to set limits calmly before the behavior gets out of hand and understand that yelling and screaming at our kids is REALLY scary and unsettling for them.  It really breaks trust for them.  Parents need to take some deep breaths and remain calm.  Respond immediately by setting a calm limit when kids start doing something they know breaks the rules.  Don't give in to avoid a confrontation/tantrum and don't wait for the broken lamp and screaming.  State the limit, hold it calmly, and handle it proactively so that kids understand WHY you have a limit (to prevent things from getting broken, including the bed).  Reacting in anger, with yelling and screaming is not discipline, it's simply unresolved rage being projected onto your innocent child and it DOESN'T WORK anyway.

2. WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO LEARN?

Thinking about the ultimate lesson you want your kid(s) to learn can help guide your interactions with them.  You most likely want them to learn that they can't have everything they want all the time, bigger ethical qualities like care, responsibility.  Framing those lessons in your mind prior to disciplining (remember it means teaching) them can help guide your words, your tone of voice and help you to remain calm.

3. CONNECT EMOTIONALLY

Because of the limbic functioning of the brain, when kids are acting out, they are actually looking for a connection to be re-established.  If parents understand this, they can respond to off track behaviors by connecting first to help the child regulate his or her emotions.  A parent can get down and get low, put their arm around their child, look them in the eye, speak in a calm and nurturing tone, and prioritize establishing that warm connection.  Once that connection has been made or re-established, a child can calmly function and listen.

4. DO NOT ISOLATE IN ORDER TO PUNISH

The way our brains function is to need connection for self regulation and in order to think well.  When children go off track in their behaviors, isolation actually is the polar opposite response to what the brain is actually needing to function optimally.  It does not teach the lessons intended.  When we connect with our children in difficult moments, we teach them to work with us and trust us as they work through their own lessons to be learned.  We anchor them and provide support rather than isolate them to use shame as a weapon.

5. TEACH EMPATHY

Rather than forcing a child to apologize in a half hearted way that obviously lacks true desire or feeling, parents can ask their children how their actions made another person feel by asking them how they would feel if someone did that to them.  Then we are creating internal understanding and motivation on the part of the child to improve his or her behavior rather than forcing external compliance.

6. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE... THEN LET THEM BE

If you want to see your most valued qualities in your child, like discipline, kindness, creativity, compassion, etc., be those qualities in your interactions and every day living.  This is how your children will learn them best.  Once you are using these tips to connect, teach, draw on their empathy, create compassion, and demonstrate excellence through your own living example, it's time to let your children be who THEY are.  Let go, allow space for them to be their unique selves.  They are not mirror images or "mini me's" of you.  They are individuals wanting their own unique expression in this world.

You Can Be the Parent You Want to Be

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Parents today struggle to be present with ourselves and our kids as our 24-hour connectedness to technology and work often pull our attention away from the present moment. Our children feel this distractedness and act in ways to pull our attention back to the present moment, to them, to meet their developmental needs. Our children's cries, tantrums, yelling to get our attention back to the present moment and to them can feel grating on our nerves. We have been taught to interpret these signals for our presence and attention as something to get rid of, to shut down, to punish. Add to that the intense pace of life which leaves little room to be aware of the present moment and before you know it, parents are yelling, dismissing, disengaging from the opportunity that these behaviors are actually giving us to re-connect with our children in a patient, present and positive way.

Children haven't changed much over the ages: their brains, bodies and hearts still need what they have always needed. What has changed is the way we live, what society expects of parents, and the pacing of life, all of which conspire to make parents overwhelmed, stressed and reactive.

What if there were another way to do this parenting thing? What if we could liberate ourselves from this reactive way of life and choose to parent from a place of patience, presence and positivity? Imagine a time when you child's behavior grated on you and you reacted. Now imagine instead of that response, you had learned the skills to respond with patience, presence and positivity. Stop and imagine what that would feel like. In your body, what would the sensations be with this new way of being? How would your facial expression change? What words would you speak? How would you feel differently about your child and his/her needs?

When I discovered the connected parenting and mindfulness tools that I teach, I viscerally felt lighter and I started to live and parent from a more authentic place that felt right to me. These tools and practices empowered me to let go of the messages swirling around me from the outside to move faster, expect more, schedule more and more, to curate this ideal, "perfect" child in response to some pervasive modern parenting fears.

What I embraced instead what the actual child standing in front of me, her strengths, her personality, her wants and desires. And in embracing her, I embraced myself. I started to really celebrate myself for who I am, shedding layers and layers of who I thought I was supposed to be. Talk about freeing! Ultimately, the invitation our young beings offer us, their parents, from the moment they are born is that by unconditionally loving them, they teach us to unconditionally love ourselves and all other beings. Thank you, dear child, for this gift :-).

I work with parents who are in all kinds of situations: parents who are overwhelmed by their to do lists and are not enjoying life or parenting much at all, parents who are so connected to their work they find it hard to find the time to connect to parenting, parents who have changed careers and are still defining their post-child identities, parents who are finding it tough to communicate with loved ones without yelling, parents who are feeling isolated and lonely and want to find that village that will raise their child they always hear people talking about, parents who are confused about what good parenting looks like because they weren't parented that way, parents who want to add a few more tools to their tool kits to be the best parents they can be, and parents who are looking to join with other likeminded parents to have more fun, create more community and redefine the current parenting paradigm on their own, more freeing terms.

Please call me today at (650) 308-9425 or email me at kiran@theconnectedfamily.net so we can talk about your authentic vision of parenting and together, create a plan of action for you to realize it. You can be the parent you want to be and I will be the biggest supporter on your journey.