Quit Spanking & Time Outs... Give Positive Discipline A Try!
Like a lot of parents, I feel like I've tried everything possible in terms of discipline. I'm ashamed to admit it, but for a long time, I felt in order to create discipline, I had to create a fear in my child... and I did. I yelled. I spanked. I gave time-outs. And, I hated every minute of it. I knew in my heart this wasn't the "right" thing for me to do. I was responsible for bringing up a young person into the world, and I wanted to raise a free-thinking, creative, compassionate individual - not the empty shell of where a curious child once lived.
This young child who has grown to trust me, who I've spent every minute of every day nursing, holding, loving unconditionally, and creating such a strong bond of love with... I was now supposed to... well... treat like crap. I grudgingly attempted to turn off that kind mother in me, and tried to create this demanding, tough-love persona. It didn't work. Well, it worked in the fact that I was most certainly learning to be an a**. But, in terms of creating that well-behaved, obedient child, I failed horribly. I read numerous books about discipline, but nothing worked. I was lost, and I didn't know what else to do.
And, one day while watching an episode of Oprah's Lifeclass online, everything changed. The show was about how you become what you believed... and I had a huge breakthrough. My son was becoming what he believed he was. He was becoming what I told him he was... a bad, mean kid who couldn't behave, couldn't listen, etc. So, I changed how I started treating him.
My first step in changing Phoenix's behavior was to change his self-image. I started doing positive affirmations with him in the car. On the way to the library, I would have him repeat after me things like:
I share all of the toys.
Sharing makes everybody happy!
I love sharing.
It's ok if somebody else plays with toys.
I love being nice to my friends.
The toys are for everybody!
We keep these very up-beat and fun. I always use an excitement in my voice, which Phoenix always mimics as well. It's an amazing exercise. And, I've found through trial and error that these positive affirmations play a huge role in Phoenix's behavior. I'll even do them at home. Whenever I feel he needs them, we do them. Best of all, he loves doing them too!
The other day, after we just finished a round of positive affirmations in the car, Phoenix said, "Thank you, mom."
"Thanks for what?" I asked him.
"Thanks for talking to me," he replied.
"You like doing those?" I asked him.
"Yup," he replied.
It's good to know that he loves doing these. The positive affirmations make him feel great about himself, and his behavior has improved tremendously as a result.
Talking & Understanding
Another trouble spot has always been leaving somewhere where he was having fun. I had been that mom who threw her toddler over her shoulder... screaming at the top of his lungs when we had to leave the library... but, not anymore. Now, when he tells me he doesn't want to leave, I calmly tell him that I understand.
"I know you don't want to leave sweetie, but we need to go home so we can see Daddy and eat lunch," I say to him in a kind, loving voice. Then, I reassure him that we'll be able to go back another time. Then, I tell him to wave goodbye to _______, and say, "We'll see you later." I walk out, and he follows right behind me. It works like a charm.
Another change that I've made is simply that I have started listening to him. Instead of telling him to just be quiet and dismissing his feelings, I find out why he's upset, and walk him through what's going on. It works, and he likes being treated like a person with thoughts and feelings.
We've tried using time-outs quite regularly for a long time, but we rarely use them anymore. I think that when a child misbehaves, it's a sign that they need you more. They need you to be their parent - to listen to them - to talk them through things. They need you to help them deal with the complex emotions their feeling. They need love, not abandonment.
So far, I have been tremendously happy with the way this positive discipline has been working out for us. Most interestingly, I have really noticed Phoenix's compassion, thoughtfulness, and kindness really surface. Our house is peaceful. We speak kindly to each other. We're patient and understanding. Our family has found it's groove, and it's an amazing thing to be a part of.
It recently came to my attention through a new book called Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way by Mayim Bialik, PhD that a lot of the parenting I do is actually called "attachment parenting". It sounds needy, but is actually quite amazing, and feels right to me as mom. To learn more about positive discipline & attachment parenting, check out http://www.attachmentparenting.org
What do you think of positive discipline? Leave a comment.