Tag Archives: needs

To Discipline or Disciple? – Cut it Out!

What is discipline?  One definition is to obtain obedience by using punishment and reward?  If you think that word still fits, you might want to, Cut it Out!  It might be time for a new word or at least a new twist to that word. Another view of discipline is to teach in such a way that encourages self-discipline. In that case the word needs to change to disciple.  To disciple somebody means that we mentor them by modeling respect, self-discipline and maturity: they become our disciple when they want to emulate us.  This requires awareness of our emotional states and the impact they have on our children.  Healthy mentorship also means we have clarity around our own personal boundaries and the boundaries of others.  To disciple also means recognizing that along with how we behave we must be accountable for how we communicate. To Discipline or Deciple?

Words are powerful and we can easily harm our kid’s self-esteem by labeling them, making assumptions or putting them down.  Or even when we praise them for doing something we want rather than encouraging them to develop internal values and goals.   When this happens, our kids lose touch with the ability to learn what we might actually be trying to teach them and more importantly, are derailed from the natural course of development of conscience and responsibility. Likewise, when we don’t actively listen to our children we are role modeling what not to do!  If your kids don’t listen to you start by showing them what listening actually looks like.

Effective communication is not about a set of skills and something that you “do”.  It is a way of “being” and having an awareness of boundaries.  What issue belongs to who?  Do I really have to fix this person’s feelings?  Are they responsible for how I feel and do I blame them?  Do I allow myself to project my own fearful thoughts onto them?  When we can get clear with the deeper part of communication then the skills come to us easily.    Allow yourself to have well intentioned, messy communication.  If the skill takes over, we lose our connection because we are in our head.

So keep learning and growing yourself.  Somebody needs to disciple our children!

Cut It Out Articles

The “Cut It Out” articles by Dr. Allison Rees are short, weekly one page articles that you can print and stick up on the fridge!

The Framework of Limits

At LIFE we talk about the framework of limits. Inside the framework the child takes on responsibility for himself. He is given responsibility slowly by explicit teaching and guidance. Once old enough, these responsibilities become kid issues. Children can exercise freedom of choice within this framework along with the lessons that come with these choices. Parents don’t interfere by rescuing, nagging or lecturing. As the child grows, the framework expands and contracts. Two steps forward as they push for autonomy and independence, one step back as they cling for reassurance.

Outside of this framework we as parents support limits. Limits represent safety, respect, responsibility and values. When the child crosses over the boundary, he enters into the territory outside the framework. This is where family issues exist. For example, a kitchen left in a mess by a child is a family issue because it effects everyone. A child’s messy bedroom is a kid issue as long as there are no dying hamsters or rotting food on the floor. Here is an example of what this looks like for an eleven year old girl:
Setting Boundaries - Positive Parenting Solutions

Supporting Limits

Limit setting can become clear when you break it down to two questions: What is the limit that we want to set? How do we enforce it?

Respect: “Your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins!” In other words, I will ignore some of the normal, stage related mouthiness, rolling of the eyes, defiance and so on but when you cross my personal boundaries, I will let you know. Get clear with where your nose ends! To figure that out, you need to consider the child’s age.

How do you teach respect? While a “time out” may be necessary at times, the true teacher of respect is empathy. Talking about people’s feelings and how our behaviour can have an effect on others.

If a child acts aggressively or rude we can go into the child’s feelings and find out what their viewpoint is. Why did they act that way? What was going on for them? If we put our agenda aside temporarily and really listen, we can come to a place of understanding our kids. When we do this we can often feel the judgment we have of our child wash away. In most cases when dealing with children, their feelings need to come first. They don’t have the maturity to put their needs aside if they have big feelings going on. When the child has had a chance to get those feelings out and have them reflected back then they might be ready to hear how you or the other person is feeling. This is how children learn about respect at a level that goes beyond punishment and reward. There may be a consequence in place but the true learning comes from having an honest open exchange.

The Gift of Owning Feelings – Allowing children to own their feelings and in turn owning our own, develops healthy emotional boundaries. We provide structure by setting limits on behaviour which harms others; we provide nurture by accepting a child’s feelings. Children need both. This isn’t easy if we grew up in families that didn’t accept negative emotions in children. “Say you’re sorry.” Is a classic line that tells children to feel something other than what they are really feeling. Rather than reflecting their true feelings of frustration or anger, we are telling them to feel remorse. When children can have anger or frustration validated, they will often come to a genuine place of feeling sorry and express it sincerely. We can say, “It is absolutely not okay to hit your brother even if you feel really, really angry. Come and tell me how angry you are.”

Telling children what they should enjoy or when they should be hungry is another way of insisting that they feel the way we want them to. “What do you mean you didn’t have fun at the birthday party? There was cake and balloons and lot of kids to play with.” Everyday in many ways we can talk children out of their feelings, which sadly chips away at their own inner guidance and sense of self. The discipline for the parent is to learn to let go of this emotional control and replace it with acceptance and understanding. This kind of respect will guide children to a deeper level of moral development.

How do you teach responsibility?: One of the best ways to teach responsibility is to let kids experience the bumps and bruises of real life consequences. Of course we are there to support them emotionally but they need to learn to pull their own wagon. That means getting clear with kid issues and stepping out of the framework. If it is a kid issue, get out of there! An eleven year old needs to forget his homework and experience the embarrassment or frustration of not having it – forgetting lunches, sleeping in and missing class – smelling bad and having a friend tell him or being cold without the coat. Parents take that learning away too often and the end result is that they (the parent) will be blamed when something goes wrong. Get out of there!

Kids need to learn that when they take responsibility they create freedom in their lives. Freedom is exactly the consequence that you use to teach that. When we all chip in with the Saturday morning clean, we can all take off and have some fun. When, then. Use the positive consequence of giving freedom to a child who has taken responsibility.

“Because you come home on time and let us know where you are if you are going to be late, we can be flexible with your curfew.”

“Because you got dressed on time this morning, we can stop at the park on the way to pre-school.”

The flip side is that when they don’t take responsibility, there is less freedom.

Take time to teach -Remember to take time to teach your child to take responsibility so that they feel confident. We have outlined four stages for taking responsibility on:

Level 0: The child is too young to have the responsibility but the parent includes them by explaining what they are doing and letting the child help. The age depends on the task.

Level 1: This is a time of explicit teaching and practicing. Let your child know they are at this level and explain we are all level 1’s when learning something new. This can apply to anything such as washing dishes, riding a bike, being home alone, babysitting … the list goes on.

Level 2 : The child has learned the skill involved and now needs some guidance and perhaps a reminder. Some people feel their kids stay stuck at this stage and that may be true with family issues but if it is a kid issue, they can progress the next level.

Level 3 : No parental intervention or nagging! This disciplines the parents more than anything to stay out of that framework. Let the child take over the task. Natural consequences will teach him here, you can let go.

How do you teach values? : We come into parenthood with all kinds of values from how we sit at a table, manners, style of dress and much more. These values were probably learned in our own childhood and we learned them from our parents. Many of these values need to be examined carefully. Do we really think a three year old should sit at the table for half an hour and say please and thank you while keeping her elbows off the table? If we do, we could have many power struggles on our hands. Sometimes values need to be challenged and our children will be the first ones to do so. For example, why is it okay for girls to wear hats inside and not boys? These kinds of values will be challenged and if they don’t make sense, perhaps we need to relook them. This requires flexibility and a willingness to take an honest look at our own belief systems.

Values are taught by our modeling and while children may rebel against them, they will often come back to them as adults.

How do we enforce safety? : Safety is the one area where logical consequences need to be discussed ahead of time and carried through with. Matters that concern safety such as riding a bike with a helmet, a limited number on the trampoline, not playing with sticks or driving a car responsibly are the types of limits that need to be supported by a parents willingness to take action. Taking action means simply following through with the agreed upon consequence. It doesn’t mean yelling, lecturing or getting angry. As a matter of fact, when we do that, we take away from the consequence. It becomes “all about your anger” versus “a bad choice made by the child”.

This is where you get to practice what we call “dead head responses”. This is how it might sound with a seven year old:

Parent: “Gee son, I’m sorry to see you riding without your helmet, we discussed this and now I am going to have to remove your bike privileges for three days.”

Child: “Oh come on, give me another chance. I’m going to look like a geek if I don’t have a bike.”

Parent: “Maybe so.”

Child: “My friends will all leave without me and I won’t have anything to do.”

Parent: “Maybe so.”

Child: “Fine, be like that. You are the meanest dad in the world.”

Parent: “Maybe so.”

Having a dead head answer stops the parent from “biting the bait”. It gives the parent a little safety line to hang onto instead of jumping in and getting into an argument.

Temper Tantrums

Many normal, wonderful preschoolers have intense and frightening temper tantrums as a way of dealing with frustration, anger and telling the adults in their lives that they aren’t the boss of them!

I remember when my son was about three, we were in a kid’s clothing store. Jarryd was playing on his own with some toys when another boy came up to join him. Jarryd freaked out and started screaming and throwing toys. I had to pick him up and carry him out of the store, my own mother trailed behind with my new baby, Lexy. Jarryd pulled on the skin of my neck so hard that he drew blood. My mother watched in disbelief as she felt completely helpless to do anything at that moment to help. When I look back, I can see that he was going through a phase that seemed to last for months. The intensity of the tantrums and their frequency did pass but if someone came up to me to tell me it was just a stage, I might have had my own temper tantrum. It was scary and I thought for sure that I was raising a “future criminal.”

Now I can look back and see the contributing factors. Jarryd has a cautious approach and he liked to play on his own or know somebody well before playing with them. We had a new baby and he was feeling the stress from that. Anytime he was tired or hungry he could easily be triggered into a very intense fit of anger. This really was a phase and there wasn’t much I could do to stop the tantrums other than protect him and give him space to cool down.

I am frequently asked what parents should to when their children are engaging in such behaviours as tantrums. My answer is that it is what you don’t do. When I look back at those experiences I am grateful that I didn’t hit him, scream at him or join him in a tantrum of my own. I avoided putting him down and making him feel like a bad person when the tantrums were over. I didn’t withhold my love or hold it against him. Sometimes I needed space to cool down so I could control my behaviour and avoid doing those things. Discipline meant, self-discipline and having to stay as calm as I could.

We may not be able to connect with our children in the heat of the moment but chances are that your ability to teach your child anything during those adrenaline peaks would simply backfire. You teach your children about emotions, and expressing them appropriately over time through your role modeling and through your connection with them. In that connection, you can identify what needs aren’t being met or where their stress might be. In that connection with you they can express more subtle feelings and start to build a feeling vocabulary that will be used more and more as they mature.

This takes time and when children are very young they have difficulty with feelings. My son couldn’t come up to me and say, “Hey mom, this kid is making me feel uncomfortable. By the way, I feel stressed about the new baby too.” Even being able to tell me he was hungry or tired would have been a tall order back then. So instead of articulating feelings, they feel them! They scream, pinch, kick, bite, and throw things.

Today, my son is coming up to his sixteenth birthday. He is a gentle, kind hearted person who wouldn’t dream of hurting anybody. He is still fairly intense and still feels more comfortable in familiar settings with familiar people. If somebody could have handed me a crystal ball and given me a peak, I would have relaxed and just gone about the business of loving him and helping him get his needs met. I may not have smiled through the tantrums but at least I would know that he was going to be just fine, not a criminal and not an aggressive, mean person.

How to Deal with Temper Tantrums

What can you do?

* Make sure your child is safe and free from harm.
* Stay calm and stand firm if this is a reaction to not getting their way.
* Remind yourself that it is important for your child to learn that she can’t have everything she wants when she wants it.
* Praise positive behaviours with specific feedback.
* Explain limits and expectations when feelings are calm and people aren’t angry.
* Use time out as a cooling down period for either yourself or your child.
* Ignore the tantrum as much as you can.
* Teach your child about their feelings and how to handle anger as they mature.
* Be a good role model yourself.
* Look for triggers to behaviours; hunger, fatigue, time of day, place, events, temperament or how your behaviour affects your child.