The concept of positive parenting has many parents feeling baffled.
There’s no strict manual. No “if this, then that” list of appropriate consequences.
Even parents who are on board with skipping time outs or grounding scratch their heads and ask, “What do I DO instead?”
Positive parenting doesn’t always call for us to “DO” anything.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of “BE”ing.
Being calm and confident, being present while your kids feel their feelings, and being a guide to the behavior you want to see.
Ok, that seems complicated.
Let’s break it down using an example:
You can feel the tension rising in the house – and in your body.
At this moment, many parents would go one of 2 ways –
- You’d either put your foot down, demanding respect and yelling that she get her homework done “this instant, young lady.” Then, grounding her, removing a privilege, or sending her to her room for a timeout.
- Or, you’d feel hurt by her words, which may lead you to ignore her behavior, let her skip her homework and hope these big feelings end soon so peace can return to the house.
Here are 9 alternatives.
- Turn Off Your Own Alarm – Before you jump into any kind of response, get your own emotions in check. Her language and response may be extremely triggering for you. Acknowledge you own feelings. Notice your knee-jerk reaction to respond using punishment or withdraw from conflict. Do what you need to do to be calm and connected, ready to support her through these big feelings.
- Empathize – Obviously, something happened at school, and even though you’re not thrilled with the way she’s taking her feelings out on everyone in the house, you can relate to needing to let off some steam after keeping it together all day. So you say, “Wow, rough day today?”
- Pause – Firing questions to gain insight into what happened probably won’t help. Instead, make a conscious effort to give her some space to transition, think, explain, or cool off. Shift your focus to another child or another task temporarily. Sometimes a child will open up during this pause, which means you need to be ready to listen.
- Look Beyond the Behavior – Her angry words and actions seem to be saying, “Stay away from me!” But, if you look deeper, she may actually be saying, “I’m hurting so much, and my feelings are really big and scary. Help!” Offering a hug, giving a knowing glance, or being patient (instead of forcing her to “calm down”) may provide the support she really needs.
- Set Limits – Sometimes, though your child may ramp up their behavior, even though you have responded empathetically. Keep the boundaries in place for your child using kind and firm language. “It’s ok to have a bad day, and in this family, we do not call each other names.”
- Stay Out of the Drama – Even with a boundary in place, she may feel so hurt inside that she continues to act out. Rather than joining her dysregulation and jumping into a power struggle, focus on being a calm, confident, mature adult. “I can see you are still upset. I’m here when you’re ready to talk about what happened at school.”
- Change Your Expectations – Sure, you’d like her homework to be done right away, but right now, engaging in a power struggle is not going to get the job done. Temporarily set this request aside. Maybe going on a bike ride or getting a snack takes priority right now, until she can calm and focus on what needs to be done.
- Teach Later – Your instinct may be to set her behavior straight in the heat of the moment, usually by launching into a long lecture, yelling, or both. Unfortunately, the lesson you’re trying to teach is lost on your child. Waiting until you are both calm will allow you to teach — and both of you to listen — in a way that leads to behavior change.
- Problem Solve – If she’s able to engage in a dialogue with you, it’s time to brainstorm solutions. “I know you had a rough day. I’m wondering if we can think of a different way for you to unload those big feelings when you get home?” Again, going back to empathy, you join her in her stress, but help her see that there are options besides snapping at you.
Sometimes, one or two of these responses will be enough.
Sometimes, you’ll need all 9.
In fact, you may need to repeat one (usually empathy) a few times as you guide her back to calm.
Many parents want a quick fix to their child’s behavior challenges. Positive parenting may feel like an eternity if you’re used to having a simple response like sending your kids to timeout or taking the ipad away for a week.
There’s a method to the slowness, though.
It’s more about “BE”ing what your kids cannot “BE” until they are able to “BE” that on their own.
In other words, you can be calm, kind, and empathetic when they are dysregulated, upset, and unable to make a better choice in the moment.
With time, maturity, your guidance, and practice, they will become more regulated. They will be able to explain how they feel using relatively calm words, instead of calling their brother a mean name (even though that thought still went through their head).
It’s a shift in how you think about discipline.
Are you ready to “BE” for your kids?
Want to Learn More?
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