Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings Chapter 6 and 7: Reason and Sharing

This is the latest installment in the Round Table that Natural Parents Network is doing for Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham. Head on over for other reflections and reviews!

Sharing the magnifying glass to inspect their new friend, Caterpilly.
Chapter 6, entitled Why Can't They Just Share? Why Kids Fight Over Possessions, is pretty short and concise. The gist is this: the views most parents have on sharing are flat-out wrong. They aren't actually fair and they don't work in real life.  My own example: Kid A is playing with a light-up laptop, making things flash and making his own music and giggling and dancing. Kid Rock wants to play with the laptop because it looks SO DANG FUN! Mama June says "oh, Kid A, Kid Rock wants to play with that. Why don't you let him play for a while?" She reaches in and slides to laptop over to Kid Rock. Or, in some cases, Kid Rock reaches over and grabs the laptop for himself and Mama June affirms this behavior with the same line as above.  Now let's make the kids 15 years older. Kid A is working on a real laptop mixing his newest album and Kid Rock wants to make his own album. If Kid A were forced to stop working so Kid Rock could work, everyone would think Kid Rock was a giant asshole. In the real world, Kid Rock would have to wait until Kid A was finished or get his own damn laptop. 

Play is the Serious Work of Childhood. 

If we want to raise respectful humans, we need to start respecting them from their first breath. 

Alternatives to interruption and disrespect?

"Hey, Kid A, when you get to a good stopping point, let Kid Rock have a go, ok? Thanks!" 
"Hey Kid Rock, Kid A is playing with that right now, but when he's finished you can definitely have a turn. Promise." And if there are a lot of kids, you can add: "Let's start a list, so everyone gets a turn." If the kids get the concept of time, you could even set a timer so there's an even rotation. 

Working together to build a new rocket toy. 
Dr. Markham recommends that everyone get a copy of It's Ok Not To Share and give it a good read.  If you want a read-along for that, Amanda Morgan at Not Just Cute participated in one last year. She has some amazing insight. (And for the record, hers is one of my favorite blogs. I highly recommend it as a resource. Her First Friday Q&As are my favorite. Even if the topic isn't immediately relevant, there is always good information in her answers and resources.) Janet Lansbury is also a good resource for the topic of sharing. I especially like this one, as it has a very helpful video and explanation following it. 

Chapter 6 leads nicely into Chapter 7: Easing the Competition.  

This chapter addresses some things I just don't identify with (yet?): children feeling like you prefer the other(s) over them, you actually having those feelings, lots of competition and bickering, resentment, grudges, hurt feelings. Perhaps my children are still too young for these things - in fact, I'm almost certain they are and that one day in the not-too-distant future I'll have to help arbitrate resolutions. 

They each get their own cart at the store -
something I emphasize is a privilege that can be lost
if they are too crazy with it -  and they have learned to work together
to make sure neither cart is too full or too empty.  
The gist of the chapter is this: if you have conversations with your children wherein you explain your reasoning for your decisions, your children will understand. Maybe not immediately, and they most certainly won't always be happy, but they will understand. Making explanations and conversations a habit will help you to raise reasonable human beings who can function well in society. 

Kids can come to "fair" decisions all on their own sometimes once they've had the groundwork laid. For example, my boys like to race around the apartment like caged animals and sometimes Walter, who is just not as fast as Baz gets upset that he can't keep up. The first time this happened, I sat them both down in the living room and said something to the effect of "Honeys, Walter is having a hard time keeping up and that's making him sad. His legs just aren't as long as yours (Baz) are and so it's harder for him. He has a shorter stride so he covers less distance." Baz responded with something like "Well, I like winning." And then we had a conversation about how your can't win all the time and really, in this situation it's not even about winning because that takes some of the fun out of it....and remember how when they kept freaking out because they would race to the front door and would sometimes not be first so I made them walk slowly with me instead of running and that was less fun...and if we couldn't find a solution for this, then I would put the kibosh on running in the apartment.  

Baz, who enjoys the physics-heavy show Blaze and the Monster Machines, had a solution: If Walter gets a head start, then he can have a boost and build up momentum faster and they'll get to the other end of the apartment at the same time. His actual explanation was flawed, from a physics aspect, but the intent was awesome. 

So if you give them the building blocks for reasoning, a world of conflict can be avoided. At least, until hormones and romance enter the picture. Then all rules go out the window.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Chapter 5: Teaching Conflict Resolution

This is the latest installment in the Round Table that Natural Parents Network is doing for Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham. Head on over for other reflections and reviews!

This is our Get Along Cart... ;-) 
So she opens this talking about those horrible Get-Along shirts and calls them what they are: at best another punishment, at worst they're encouraging sneakiness (we'll hide the behavior rather than change it) and bullying (the larger kids pushes around the smaller kid.)

"[Using the shirt] is like saying 'They'll put themselves to be if they get tired enough...I'm going to bed.' It's reneging on our responsibility as parents." - p95

Parenting is work. The goal is to front-load as much as possible so that you can step back sooner rather than later. Form good habits early means less stress and more fun later. Similarly to how you put all of your electives off until your senior year so you can spend that year not worrying about your GPA. It's important for parents to intervene, rather than waiting for things to blow up and resolve themselves, but it's equally important that the parent (or caregiver) act as an arbiter and not take sides or try to resolve the issue for the children.

"It's not parental intervention that's the problem. It's taking sides. The trick is regulating our own emotions so that we can stay calm, empathize with both children, and resist our impulse to decide who's right. That creates the foundation for children to learn how to work things out with each other without hurt or resentment." -p.99

On the next page, so lists 10 reasons children bicker and follows with tips for aiding resolution and situational examples.  The reasons are what you would expect - everything from temporary annoyances to deep-seeded resentments and imbalances.

The tips:

"*Stay calm, connect with both kids, and empathize.
* Describe the problem without judgment.
*Interpret by coaching each child to express their feelings without attacking the other.
*Restate the rules.
*Coach kids to problem solve." - p.101

 She covers teasing, aggression, intervention, and how to repair the relationship after a fight - rather than forcing an apology.

"Focus on helping children communicate rather than on the ritual of apology. IF you follow the practices of helping children express their wants and needs, listen to each other, and restate what they hear their sibling say, children will begin to heal their conflicts at a deeper level, so that apologies often become superfluous, just as with adults." - p. 143-144

When in doubt: instigate manual labor.
In this case - chalkboard paint on old cookie sheets
 which will be used as chore charts. 
I don't really have any examples, except to say that I DO make the kids apologize for the same reason that I make them say "thank you" - it's a cultural ritual we have that acknowledges the other person. In the case of "I'm sorry" - it acknowledges that what you did caused harm, whether intentional or not. In the case of "Thank you" - it acknowledges a kind act from another person. We have conversation around both, so that it's not just a thoughtless reaction and is instead full of meaning. Be actually grateful, and be actually sorry. I don't make them hug-it-out, either. I'm not a big hugger, so why should they be? The entire point of this whole exercise is teaching empathy and respect. The end.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings - Chapters 3 and 4

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

Apparently I vastly over-estimated how much writing time I'd have on vacation. I did manage to get a bit of reading and note-taking accomplished, but it means this is 2-2-two posts in one! (Wasn't that from a commercial?)

My sister and I at Southfork Ranch...sometime in the 80s.
So Chapter 3 - What Causes Sibling Rivalry and How Parents Can Make it Better starts with a focus on sibling spacing. I'm going to just chat about this because it's THE question from parents who know they wants more than one but have no idea what the "ideal" spacing is.

In my experience, this is 2.5 years. Or as close as possible. In my cousin's experience (I assume, I didn't actually ask her flat out, but based on her spacing with her sister and the spacing of their children...) it's about 5 -6 years.

But more than that - it's important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of them.

"Your job - and it's a big one - is to take care of yourself, so you can meet the needs of [your] children...that's what allows you to develop a positive relationship with each child. And that's the foundation that supports your children to develop a happy relationship with each other, regardless of their spacing." -p.59
Reassuring your children that each of them has equal space in your heart - and that your heart just grows and grows rather than splitting and splitting - does more good than almost anything else.
"Research shows that if you have a positive relationship with each of your children, they're much more likely to have a positive relationship with each other." - p.61
Regarding that: what my cousins, my sister, and I all have in common: strong, positive individual relationships with our parents. My mom and my sister hold twin spots as my best friends. My best friend's  brother is 13 years younger than her, and they have a strong relationship with each other and their parents.

So plan some dates, each parent with each child - one on one - where you do something you both enjoy and bond over shared experiences. (I read somewhere, not sure where, that it's easier to have "bonding" conversations with boys if they're physically occupied - like if you're working on a car together or pitching a tent or something. Getting their muscles going helps get their mouth going. So keep that in mind when making your plans.)

For more Chapter Three goodness, follow this link and then follow those links!

Just a little sibling picture of my recent graduates.
Moving in to Chapter 4 (please note that I am skipping over SO MUCH good information and you should definitely read this all for yourself) I want to skip straight to the end and talk about Tattling.

Chapter 4 is entitled "Coaching Kids to Communicate and Problem-Solve" and, again, I am skipping over so much good information that you really should read.

Dr. Markham's opinion on tattling, once you get past their desire to make themselves look good by getting their sibling in trouble, is that it is a child coming to you for your help navigating a situation they don't know how to deal with on their own. As parents, this is what we want. So that instead of reacting (often poorly) they can reflect and act appropriately.

"So when your child comes to you 'tattling' about how her siblings acted toward her:
1. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that your child is trying to make things better the only way she knows how.
2. Restate the situation to be sure you understand...
3. If the "offense" was against the child who has come to you, empathize, then support her to look for solutions...
4. Ask her if she wants you to do something about the situation, or if she just needed to talk about it...
5. If your child comes to you about her siblings when she's not involved in the situation, empathize, say thank you if that's appropriate, and take action...." -pp91-92

Markham wraps the chapter with a focus on safety versus basic rule-breaking-- the given example is of a child reporting that her sibling is climbing out the window, and one in which the sibling is playing video games - and how to handle each.

"Empathize with your child's concern and assure him that you'll handle it...if it's happening in real time, take action...then talk to the rule breaker in private, just as your always would when a child breaks the rules." - p92

Obviously, this puts a rosy picture on things, because what happens in the aftermath when the rule-breaker discovers that his sibling is a turncoat? Luckily, Chapter 5 addresses conflict resolution.

See you then!
Wrapping up with another picture of my sister and I, at my First Communion.
(Also, note my very trendy-before-its-time flower crown.) 

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)

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.
Related Posts with Thumbnails