When I made the decision to try something different in our home for discipline, the first thing I did was talk to the hubs. He agreed that things weren’t exactly going swimmingly and if we could figure something else out, that would be great. I’m not sure he bought into the whole concept (I think he pictured me going full granola… hairy armpits and all!)
I started with the book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, bought a couple more books and started blog hopping feverishly. I can honestly say I don’t totally agree with everything I read, am not 100% bought into to everything that goes along with attachment parenting, and frankly some stuff just wouldn’t fit our lifestyle. But I thought I’d put together my basic top three list that could be used as a starting point for those just thinking about starting gentle discipline in their homes. None of these things are particularly hard to do, or way out there. I bet if you try them, you'll want to investigate and try some more things.
1. Listen to your child. And I don’t mean just hear the words they are saying, listen with your whole self and really try to understand where they are coming from. I work with many adults whose greatest challenge in life is not listening to other people. I’ll give you a hint, if you are thinking of your grocery list, thinking of the next question you are going to ask, forming an opinion about what the other person just said, you are not listening.
Here are some tips to start with for this one. When your child has something to tell you, get on their level. Either bring them up to you, or you get down on your knees so you are eye to eye and neither one of you has a more dominant physical presence over the other. (Imagine living in a world where everyone was 3 feet taller than you!) Try to clear away the thoughts racing through your brain, and then tell your child you are listening. Use some good active listening techniques. Repeat back what you just heard them say, ask questions so you can understand things a bit more clearly, maybe even ask how what happened made them feel. I've never used parroting (repeating back exactly what you just heard) much with adults, but for my 4 year old it really keeps the conversation going. You’d be amazed at how much more kids are willing to share when someone is listening.
2. Play with your child. Children experience the world through play. It’s how they learn, how they express emotions, how they bond with other people. When I started my GD journey, I took stock of how much “fun time” I had with my kids and realized about 90% of my time with them was spend herding them out the door, nagging them to pick up toys or eat their dinner, or scolding them for running around and being silly. In contrast, a big portion of my husband’s time with the kids was spent playing and being fully in the moment with the kids. And his relationship was stronger with the kids too!
This is hard for me, because I’m a planner. I know how many things are on my to do list and just how much time there is to do them. And I work 40-50 hours a week outside of the home, want to feed them nutritious meals, keep things neat and tidy, spend quality time with my husband, etc. So, I had to add “playtime” to the top of my to do list every day. Selfishly, I find that when we get in a few good giggles together, it’s not so difficult when I do have to herd out the door, etc. And I can certainly tell by the behavior I get back from my kids if they’ve had their quota of funtime with Mom and Dad that week or not. Recently, I found this great post about games to build the connection with your kids: http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/connection/play-child-emotional-intelligence
3. Empathize with your child. To empathize means to try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand what they are going through. How would you feel if you were happily ensconced in a riveting game of angry birds, almost ready to crack the next level, when someone came and told you you have to brush your teeth, go potty, comb your hair, put on shoes and socks and get in the car. You might whine a little bit too. And if nobody listened to your protests, you might squeal in frustration, because now you have no say in what’s going on and nobody is listening to how you feel about it.
I made a few changes when I started looking at things this way. I tried to schedule a few extra minutes into our routine, so that I could look for natural breaks in play. I’d sit with my four year old while she finished a puzzle, and then softly let her know that it’ll be time to get in the car soon and we both have some things to do to get ready. We also got a big timer, kind of like a kid’s version of a kitchen timer. I’d let Samantha know that in 10 minutes it’ll be time to go to bed. She soon learned the art of negotiating and would ask for 2 more minutes for this or 5 more minutes for this. With the timer we can stick to our agreements. She’d keep it near her so she knew how many ticks she had left. If you think about it kids have very little control over their own schedule, so by being more conscious about their feelings in the equation, transitions can be a lot smoother.
That’s really it that we started with. Nothing earth shattering, took some retraining on our part and a bit more patience (mostly with ourselves), but right away we started seeing results. We also banned time-outs from our house (more about the alternative later this week) and other “punishments”. So, if you are looking to try something different hopefully, these ideas will get you started on the right foot.
Please join us all week, June 25-June30, 2012, as we explore the world of gentle, effective parenting. We have new posts each day by talented authors providing us with insight into why gentle parenting is worth your time and how to implement it on a daily basis. We are also giving away several parenting book and other goodies from our sponsors this week. Please stop by and enter to win! This year's beautiful motherhood artwork is by Patchwork Family Art. Visit the store to see all her work.