When I drove home from my SNOMOMS twin club meeting tonight my head was swirling with all the struggles I’ve been through with my three kids the last couple of weeks. I keep chatting with moms about Positive Discipline and how it has helped turn around my parenting style and the behavior of my kids. Once again I was inspired to sit down and finally write out a blog post about it.
Tonight I decided I’d go for it.
A while back I shared the status of our household. It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Just five months ago I was at my wits end with how my boys were behaving. There was constant fighting and competition between them, I was in tears almost daily unable to keep the peace inside myself when there was so much noise and chaos in my environment. When it started to cause strife in my marriage I knew we needed to do something drastic. By the recommendation of friends I finally dug into Positive Discipline. I’d been checking out books on the subject on and off for the last year but never made the time to read them. So this time around I turned to websites, blogs and audio courses. Later on I took an in person workshop that strengthened everything I had been saturating my brain with over the previous month.
And it’s been working.
Within a month I saw a huge difference in how my kids acted (and how I acted) and within two months I felt like we were having more good days than bad days on a regular basis. It’s been wonderful.
But here’s the catch. It’s not easy. It’s not a quick fix. It is something you work on daily, weekly, monthly with your littles. And there will be hiccups and set backs along the way. We experienced this first hand when we got “lazy” over the summer. Vacations and time away from our regular routine threw us off our game. Then last month I noticed Joel and I were starting to yell at the kids more often. So we recognized what was happening, went back to our methods and we’re in the process of getting back to where we want to be. It’s frustrating when you can’t just snap everyone out of the funk they’re in and just tell them to knock it off (and have it work).
Positive Discipline concepts are right up my alley. I love self-help stuff and I majored in Communication and Psychology in college. Finally I had at my finger tips the method that spoke to my need to have a calm household without ruling as a dictator over my children.
Before we had kids Joel and I talked about how we were each raised and what kind of household we envisioned having. I was raised in a spanking household. I have fond memories of my childhood and have no ill feelings towards my parents over them using spanking in their parenting tool box. What is so wonderful with my parents (and Joel’s too) is that they are very involved in the lives of their grand children, yet give us the space to be the parents; to make mistakes, to figure out how we want to do things and to respect the choices we make along the way.
Our family is not perfect and I am not a perfect Mommy. The perfect parent does not exist, nor does the perfect parenting technique. You have to do the best you can for your kids and when you learn better you modify your techniques and do better. What makes me the most disappointed are the times where I have spanked the boys for one reason or another. Well it’s always for the exact same reason. I’ve lost my patience and have snapped.
The arguments against using spanking in our household are that I don’t feel better afterwards, the kid’s behavior does not improve and it creates a distance in my relationship with my kids. I say this with personal experience because I just had a spanking incident at dinner time yesterday.
It was the end of the day, my kid was pushing all the right buttons, not listening, not behaving, back talking and then started taking a swipe at me. I snapped. I spanked. I didn’t feel better. They didn’t feel better. It was a dark night for me.
And perhaps that’s why today’s meeting inspired me all the more. I was sitting in a circle with other women talking about our kid woes and realized we all go through the same things in our own way.
SO let me do a quick run down of my take on Positive Discipline. I hope this will help you find your way along the path of parenting.
Positive Discipline is based on the psychological findings of Alfred Adler. He believed that all children have purpose behind their behaviors and all behavior has two goals. Every child is looking to feel a sense of belonging (connection) and meaning (significance) in their family. Mis-behavior is from the mis-taken belief about how to achieve those purposes.
Positive Discipline is a no spanking, no screaming, no time-outs solution to the parenting stresses you face. When I read back in my blog about how implementing the naughty step saved my sanity I almost want to delete those words so that other parents wouldn’t use it in their household. BUT that technique did have a purpose at the time. It got me through a rough patch and gave me a method that I could implement and feel good about. We no longer do a naught step. It had run the course of being useful and was causing more problems than solutions in our house. Especially if you have a strong willed or stubborn child I really recommend reading about Positive Discipline. It has picked up where time-outs have failed for us and has taken our parenting so much further than time-outs ever could. It will be interesting to see how things go for us as Alice gets older. I’m sure I’ll be brushing off the basics and starting over on my techniques as she gets to walking around.
So if you aren’t doing time-outs or spankings what ARE you doing? Well the belief of Positive Discipline is that if your child is not getting attention in positive ways they will “act out” to get the attention they are craving. Being yelled at is better than getting no attention and so that’s what they’ll take. To reverse that problem you give your kids a dose or two of positive attention throughout the day so they aren’t needing to grab your attention in negative ways.
In our household we have one on one time with each child and each parent every day for 10 minutes at a time. You have to label it and exaggerate it at first so the kids will really feel it and it’ll have the greatest impact. When you’re kids are old enough you can introduce the concept to them by having a conversation about it.
“You know guys, I’ve been so busy with your baby sister lately that I’ve really missed out on our special moments together. You’ve had to be so patient and it can be frustrating when you can’t have what you want right when you want it. Daddy and I talked about it and decided that we are going to start having one on one times with you every day to make sure we get to spend time with each of you.”
Then you can go on to explain what they can expect. In our house we have one parent and one child go into a room or area with a door they can close so that all other distractions are shut out. There are no cell phones distracting mom or dad’s attention and the siblings are out of sight and not sharing in the task. The child gets to pick the activity and our only rule is that it’s not a screen time activity. We’ve read books, talked about their day, tossed a ball, played Octonauts, built legos, played with cars, done art projects. The key is that the kid gets to pick. This is one area they get total control of and they get to make up all the rules. It’s a great way for them to have a big hit of attention and power and fills their need to be in control. We use a timer on our smart phones and set it for 10 minutes (but then don’t look at our phones again while play time is going). We show the timer to the kid and say “You push the start button and our time will start” and when the timer goes off (chose a pleasant sound so it’s not too jarring) we let them shut it off and then we wrap up by saying “Thank you for spending time with me I really enjoyed our one on one time”.
Sometimes we’ve had to get creative by having one on one time during bath time and we sit down on the floor and play with bath toys with them. Or for evening story time we split them up and I’ll take one and Joel takes the other to read our bedtime stories. When we first started I made a big point of getting down on their level and playing how they wanted to play. I’d end up in our walk in closet hiding in the clothes playing with cars or laying on our backs staring at the ceiling and talking about planets. Even just getting down under the kitchen table can make the one on one time feel really special and significant to them. My kids love small cozy spaces so I try to think outside the box and make the most of those ten minutes.
When it’s just me I do the day time one on one times while Alice is napping or there’s been times where I put her in the jumperoo for ten minutes and have my time with one of the boys in the same room. The boys have been pretty generous about the occasional sharing of their time with Alice but since their relationship with her has always been positive, it’s worked out.
When we first got started we had a no exceptions to the rule on the one on one times. Even when I didn’t feel like it, I mustered up the strength and did it. And it REALLY made a difference in their behavior. The attention seeking behaviors were drastically diminished and the fighting between brothers really died down.
Then we were left with the nitty gritty of actual behaviors we needed to work on (better ways to deal with frustration than hitting, training on life skills so they could be more independent).
Once one on one time is established there are a slew of other tips and techniques you can use to navigate all the other problems you’re trying to solve. Here are my go to resources when I need a refresher course or I’m ready to tackle the next stage in my kids’ lives.
Amy McCready has a wonderful website with online courses and webinars which really dug me out of the trenches in those early months. Her courses have a price but she runs sales occasionally so be on the look out for discounts.
A beautifully laid out site that’s easy to jump on to a specific age and issue and get right to the heart of the advice.
Local mom Casey O’Roarty has a raw and refreshing take on centered parenting and positive discipline.
The thing about parenting is there will be good days and bad days. You will have days you feel like super mom, where everything goes right. Then there are the days you are tested. Positive Discipline is about finding the balance between being kind and being firm. It’s about the mutual respect between parent and child and about encouraging your kid to grow up to be responsible and proud of their actions.
A very wise doctor told Joel and I that every couple needs three important things to maintain a healthy household.
1) Each week the primary care giver needs three hours away from the kids to decompress and regroup. It can happen all at once or a little each day but it needs to happen.
2) Each month the couple needs one date night to have time together without the kids.
3) Each year the couple needs one weekend away from the kids to reconnect and reaffirm their relationship with each other.
If you are single you can still make use of this concept to reconnect with yourself and who you were as a person before the kids took over your life.
When I’m at my most stressed out I’m always tired or short tempered. It’s when I haven’t been taking care of myself. When I stayed up too late watching tv instead of getting sleep, when I’ve eaten junk instead of healthy foods, or not enough nutritious things. I do my best to keep this in mind and cut my kids slack when I haven’t been treating myself right.
I’ll leave you with two quotes that have helped me immensely in my perceptions on parenting. I was frustrated over wanting to “crack the code” on what was going to make my kids behave better and these two quotes stick with me so strongly.
“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.”
― Joan Ryan, The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son, and Their Second Chance
“Remember this is a long race, not a sprint. Set yourself a comfortable pace and hand off the baton from time to time to those you trust.” – Lorraine Newman (long time friend and a wise mother and grandmother in her own right)