31 Days of Play: January

Monday, December 26, 2011 2 comments

2012 is going to be a wonderful year! I have a couple of fun things in store for 2012 that will help us connect more with ourselves and with our children.

We're going to kick off January with our 365 Days of Play series. Each month, I'll post 29-31 activities (depending on how many days are in the month) that will put focus each and every day on playing and connecting with your kids. Connection is the heart of positive parenting, and there is no better way to connect than through play, so here's to a happy, playful new year!

I recommend printing off this list and posting it on the fridge or somewhere you'll see it every day. Pick any of the 31 activities each day and do it.

1. Have a game night. Whether it's Candy Land or Scrabble, gather around and spend some quality time together.

2. Fill some balloons with water and food coloring and let them pop them in the bath. See this post.

3. Buy a new book or 2 and read it at bedtime with enthusiasm. See this list of top 100 children's books of all time.

4. Make a sensory tub, and play in it with them! Here are some tub ideas.

5. Have a movie night at home, complete with popcorn and a warm blanket for snuggling!

6. Bundle up (if you need to) and get outside and play for at least 30 minutes.

7. Leave a special note in your child's lunchbox or on the pillow before bed.

8. Make a craft together. Here are a bunch of ideas!

9. Build a fort out of whatever you'd like; cushions, blankets, boxes. Have a snack or read a book inside the fort.

10. Have a dance party in your living room.

11. Bake and decorate cookies.

12. Play an active game indoors! Here's a fun one: Supplies: A line drawn or taped on the floor. Tissue paper snowballs.

How To Play: Set a time for 2-3 minutes. Yell, "GO"! Each team throws their tissue paper snowballs back and forth across the lines. When the timer goes off, the team with the least amount of snowballs on their side wins.

13. Let them play in the sink. No, really! Look at these great ideas!

14. Amaze them with an science experiment. An easy one is baking soda/vinegar volcanoes. Put in a couple of drops of food coloring into a container, cover with baking soda, and let them use a baster to squirt in the vinegar and watch it "explode."

15. Give your child a back rub or foot rub.

16. Before its time to go to sleep, turn out the lights and make up stories together.

17. Let them help you plan and cook dinner.

18. Take your kids on a date, either a movie, or a restaurant with a play land or game room.

19. Have an themed day. Wear your clothes inside out, or wear something really silly. Maybe have a "blue day" where you wear blue and drink blue slushies and eat blueberries.

20. Unplug from the electronics for a whole day and focus completely on play and connection.

21. Make 10 sticky notes and put them on the walls in your child's room. On each one, write one thing you love about them. If they're too small to read, draw them little pictures, and tell them what you drew.

22. Get out the water beads. If you haven't played with these yet, its a great time to get some and try them out. I think all kids love these things.

23. Paint something today. Get creative with puffy paint or shaving cream paint!

24. Play Ring Around the Rosie or Duck Duck Goose.

25. Have a karaoke night. Give your child a microphone (or a hairbrush if you don't really have a mic) and let them sing along to their favorite songs on "stage."

26. Carve out one hour. Play superheroes, have a tea party with all the dolls, build Legos, whatever your kid wants to do, but focus the entire hour on your child.

27. Make some treats together, then deliver them to the neighbor, grandparent, or friend.

28. Build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or go sledding!

29. Start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier and read a couple extra books.

30. Grab some glow sticks from the dollar store. Throw them in the bath and turn out the lights!

31. Wake them up 15 minutes earlier, and stay in bed and cuddle.

Calm Down Corner - My Way

Monday, December 12, 2011 8 comments
I saw this great idea on Here We Are Together and knew it would be perfect for our home. I don't do the traditional time-outs with my kids because they push away rather than bring closer, and connection and relationship are at the heart of this family.

But kids are kids, and sometimes they act up or get too angry and need to be removed from the situation. I know that my children's frontal lobes, where sequential thinking, logic, and self-regulation take place, are grossly underdeveloped until at least age 6, and the maturity of this region takes a long time. You can read more on that here, if you're interested. I also know that until the brain is regulated (calm), lessons I'm trying to teach my child go in one ear and out the other. So my goal is to help them get regulated (and the more I help them, the quicker they'll learn to regulate themselves!) so that I can then teach them the lesson I want them to learn.

You may have seen the "calm down corner" that America's Supernanny does. It is anything but calming! This, however, is our version of the calm down corner.

Here is the set-up. A comfy Pillow Pet to sit on and a calm down box to engage the brain out of that "fight or flight" mode and back to calm and reason.

Inside the calm down box is our calm down jar made with water, glitter glue, food coloring, and glitter. The idea is to shake the jar, and as you watch the glitter twirl around, it brings your attention onto the motion in the jar and instantly the brain begins to calm. It works for me too, and the boys love it.

Also inside the calm down box are a few books, a drawing pad and markers/pencils, and a container of rice. I made some colorful rice by adding 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring to a plastic baggie of rice and let set overnight.

Once dry, I put the rice into a container, added a few drops of lavender oil for that calming smell, and added a couple of pretty gems and spoons for digging around in.

The final result is a soothing place to go, engage the mind, and get regulated.

I know you may thinking, "What? A fun place to go when they're in trouble?" :) This is not a punishment, but a place to calm the mind. When my kids are regulated, I sit down with them and we talk about what happened and ways to improve or handle things better the next time. After all, the goal is to teach them better so they know what the right thing to do is, and they are much more receptive to my teachings when their brains are calm and regulated.

Of course, they're welcome to go to the box anytime to play, read, and draw. In fact, the more practice they get with it, the better it is for everybody. I'm sure I'll be sitting on that penguin shaking the life out of the jar myself at least once a day. ;-)

This Too Shall Pass

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 4 comments
holding hands

We all want to get this right, this whole parenting thing. We seek advice, we read books and articles, we listen to family and friends (or not), and we hope we make the right choices. We hope they grow up and make the right choices too, because we did.

And so we get all caught up in the choice-making, in the figuring it out, in the "am I getting this right?" and the days turn fuzzy, and the weeks become blurs, and one day we wake up and our child has grown 3 inches and we say "Wait! Slow down! I haven't figured the last stage out yet!"

I've had the good fortune of meeting some incredible mothers over the past year+ since I started PPTB. Mothers who have informed me, inspired me, helped me to grow, listened to my concerns, calmed my fears, and gave me incredible insight.

Perhaps the most valuable advice I've received is that *it passes.* All of it. The night waking that seems to drag on forever. The diaper changing. The toddling. The visits in the middle of the night. The tantrums. The first day of school. The messy rooms. The giggles. Tiny arms around your neck.

All of it passes.

Sometimes the stage you're going through seems like it will never end. Sometimes you get caught up in parenting and you forget to stop and take it all in. Sometimes you just want him to be out of diapers or off your hip or in his own bed or able to make his own sandwich. Sometimes these things seem like such a big deal.

But remember this. One day, he'll be out of diapers. I promise. One day, he'll be too big for your hip. One day you won't be able to drag him out of his bed. One day he just might make you a sandwich. One day, you'll walk into his empty room and give just about anything to have THIS day back, THIS day with all it's exhaustion and chaos, and laughter.

So let the little things go. Hold them in your lap. Stay and play a little longer. Connect. Make memories. Great ones. Ones worth holding onto when the little hand you're holding onto now is gone.

Watch: The Gift of an Ordinary Day

The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting - Part 3: Punishments vs. Limit Enforcement

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 5 comments

We had an interesting discussion on PPTB today under a post about non-punitive discipline, and I'm hoping to clear up some of the confusion about enforcing limits versus doling out punishments or made-up consequences.

Let me preface this with a note about connection. I've said multiple times that a strong connection between parent and child is the most important factor in positive non-punitive parenting. Let me be clear, though. Having a strong connection does not mean that your child will never push limits, never do anything wrong, never defy you, and always be perfect. That is a perfection no one will ever achieve no matter what parenting style they use. Kids are people too. They have bad days. They get grouchy. They are influenced by television, friends, grandparents, etc. They have their own minds and their own wills, and so, as in any relationship, conflict will occasionally arise. What the strong connection does mean is that your influence is ultimately greater than the influence of others and that your child is much more likely to heed your advice and cooperate with you. It also makes repairing rifts easier, and of course, the biggest perk is that, well, you are connected. If you try to use your connection as another means of control, you've done gone and missed the point. You want to be connected for the sake of a good relationship, and the bonus of that connection is your greater influence on your child.

Limits are imperative. Do set them and enforce them. I realize that the lines between enforcing limits and giving consequences or punishments get blurry. If you look at anything hard enough, it can be viewed as a consequence. It is easy to over-think it and get caught up in the semantics. The key is your intent. Positive non-punitive parenting does not mean that our kids will never experience consequences for their actions. Actions have consequences; that is just life, and it's an important lesson to learn. Just because we don't punish doesn't mean we don't parent. The "entitled brats" some speak of come from homes that are permissive, where limits are not set on behavior and where parents are not teachers. Dr. Becky Bailey, in her book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, sums it up better than I can.
The Power of Intention reminds us to use moments of conflict as opportunities to teach, not punish. If you deliver consequences with the aim of making your child feel guilty, you will focus the child on his inadequacy. Two things are then likely: 1) your child may chastise himself and feel bad about himself, or 2) he may blame others for being mean in order to defend himself against feeling bad. Neither of these states will inspire him to reflect. To govern himself, a child needs to know what he feels, not what others think he should feel. Intention depends upon attention. If you are focused on what you want your child to feel and think (or not feel and think), your goal is control. To teach, you must focus on what actually happened, those aspects of your child that you want to highlight, what you want him to reflect upon, and what you want him to learn. More often than not, problem solving is the better approach to take.
Is it making more sense now? Let's ask the big question! What do I do when my kid breaks my limit if I don't punish? Here are some examples.

Limit: No throwing toys in the house.
Scenario: Your preschooler just hurled a truck clear across the room, narrowly missing brother's head. Pick up the truck and say "Whoa! You threw this truck really far! Remember, you may not throw toys in the house." Hand the child the toy back. Say "If you throw again, we'll have to put the toy up." If he plays nicely with it, great. If he throws it again, say "Oops, let's put this toy away for now. We'll try again later." *Smile* "Let's color!"

Taking the toy was not a punishment; you were enforcing your limit. You didn't take it in anger. You kept your tone kind. You didn't shame him or call him naughty. You engaged him in another activity. Your intention was not to make him feel guilty but to teach him what is appropriate. Now, if he gets mad that you put the toy up, you will empathize with his upset. "I see you're upset about the toy. We'll try that toy again later. When you're feeling better, we'll color!" *Hug*

Or, let's say it's a nice, warm day out. You could say "Whoa, you thew this truck really far! Remember, you may not throw toys in the house. Would you like to go outside and throw a ball?" If he says "yes," let him throw to his heart's desire out there. If he refuses to go out and you give him the toy again and he throws it again, repeat the above steps.

Mmm - spaghetti sauce and rice cake for dinner

Limit: Food stays on the table.
Scenario: Your toddler is at the table eating lunch. Suddenly, you are smacked right in the cheek with a carrot. You know what works sometimes? Silly songs. In a sing-songy voice, "Silly girl, I know you're able to keep your food on the table!" If nothing else, she'll giggle and forget to throw the food. If she throws it again, you might say, "You're throwing your food, you must not be hungry" and remove the plate. If she cries that she is hungry, I'm a believer in second chances. Sing it again! "Okay silly girl, now I know you're able to keep your food on the table! Eat it up!" If she starts throwing it again, take it back and try again in 30 minutes. The game will soon lose its appeal.

Limit: No hitting.
Scenario: Brother and sister are playing. Things go awry, and brother bops sister on the head. Sister comes crying. First you tend to sister. Give her cuddles and make sure she's okay. Go to brother, but not with an Army commander attitude. He might be the aggressor, but he has feelings too. Kids who do bad feel bad. Get down on his level, maybe scoop him up in your lap. "You hit your sister, and she's hurt. Remember, we don't hit. What happened?" At this point, he may either explain his side or break down crying. If he cries, show him empathy. Yep, empathy. Bad feelings can make you do bad things. Get rid of the bad feelings and feel good again, and you do better. Once, he's regulated, it's time to problem-solve. If he told you what happened to cause the thump, you have a good starting point. "Hitting hurts. How can you make your sister feel better? What can you do next time so that you don't hit her?" If he's old enough, let him come up with solutions, like draw her a picture and walk away when he's angry. If he doesn't come up with a solution, offer him ideas. This whole process of him on your lap or close to you could be called a "time-in." You're showing him the behavior is not allowed, and you're helping him to come up with tools to handle it better next time. You're not turning him away or shaming him. Your intention was not to make him feel guilty or bad but to teach. Win-win.

Child Playing Video Games (Animal Crossing)

Limit: No video games until homework is done.
Scenario: Your 8-year-old has math homework, but he asks if he can play a short game and then do it. You say politely "You know the rule, sweetheart. You may play when your homework is finished." "But mom!!!!" "I can see you really want to play that game. It is fun, isn't it? I bet you're close to beating the game now, aren't you?!" "Yes! And I really want to get started on playing!" "I know you do. How about you get started on your homework while I put some cookies in the oven, then when you're finished, we'll have some cookies and I'll watch you play?" "Aw. OK, then."

It may not go that smoothly, obviously. Don't get involved in a power struggle. State the limit, keep your attitude kind, and stick to it. If he storms off or says you stink, tell him that was hurtful and you'd appreciate it if he didn't talk to you like that, and let him go storming off. He's not getting to play his game, so there's no need to add something to that. That would be retaliation, or punishment. Your intent then would be to make him feel guilty or bad. Right now, you're being calm, kind, and simply enforcing your limit. When he's calmed down, you can go in and talk to him about the reason for the rule and empathize with his upset about it. He'll eventually decide it's best to get it done so he can play. Once he's done, let him play his game, sit with him, and enjoy each other's company. This is repairing the rift.

Let's do one final scenario. You're visiting relatives, and your 11-year-old is being rowdy with his cousins. They engage in a game of chase inside the house, and your child bumps into a table and breaks a vase. Which route would you take:

A. Say to him, "Oh, that's okay sweetie. You didn't mean to do it. I'll give Aunt Ruth the money to replace the vase. Just be careful from now on, okay?"

B. "Young man! You get in here this instant! You apologize to your aunt right now!! I'm taking the money out of your allowance to pay for that vase, and you're grounded for the weekend!"

C. "Uh-oh. You accidentally broke Aunt Ruth's vase. I know you didn't mean to break it. It's best to run outside where there is more room. What can you do to fix this?"

If you guessed C, you're right! Option A is permissive. Option B is punishment. Option C is problem-solving. You're allowing your child to experience the consequences of his actions by holding him accountable, but you're not trying to make him feel bad or guilty.

Here's the difference.

Punishment is a retaliation. The intention of punishment is to make the child feel bad for what he did. It is usually not related at all to the "misbehavior," like grounding him for breaking the vase, and it does not teach alternatives. In scenario #1, if you'd have yelled at the child and taken the toy away for the rest of the day saying "Fine! You just lost that toy!" then that would have been a punishment. You'd be mad, he'd be feeling crummy. The intention would have been different. If in #2, you'd have said "If you can't do better than that, you don't get lunch!!!" that would have been a punishment. You'd have been mad, she'd have felt bad. In #3, if you'd spanked him or sent him to his room for hitting his sister, that would have been a punishment. In #4, if you'd taken the game away for the day or a week, that would have been a punishment. Punishment leaves the child feeling bad about himself and you feeling mad, usually. It causes a disconnect and doesn't teach.

Enforcing limits can and should be done nicely and with empathy. In #1, you were kind and gave your child an acceptable alternative (throwing outside), and you engaged with him in another activity, quickly repairing the rift. The limit was enforced, you stayed connected, you both felt good. The same is true for the other scenarios. In enforcing limits, you remain connected, teach, and everyone is left feeling good, their dignities intact.

See also:

The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting - Part 1

The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting - Part 2

What's the Deal with Consequences?

Also for your reading pleasure:

What's Wrong with Strict Parenting?

What's Wrong with Permissive Parenting?

The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting, Part 2

Sunday, October 2, 2011 No comments
Totem Pole

In Part 1, we discussed why the traditional paradigm of parenting is faulty and why non-punitive positive parenting is healthier for children and family dynamics.

In this post, we'll look at how to handle common situations using non-punitive parenting so you can see how it looks in action. I've already covered 3 areas in other posts.

Positive Parenting in Action: Exploration/Danger

Positive Parenting in Action: Tantrums

Positive Parenting in Action: Aggressive Behavior

Before we get into that,though,I have some points I meant to make in the first post but got cut short on time.

The first point I want to make is that tantrums are not bad behavior. Tantrums are an expression of emotion that became too much for the child to bear. No "discipline" is required. What your child needs is compassion and safe, loving arms to unload in. Yes, it may be inconvenient or even embarrassing in the grocery store, but your child is your first priority, not the judgments of onlookers. Show them how it's done.

The second point I want to make is that so often, children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes, yet we adults have them all the time! We think if we don't "nip it in the bud" that it will escalate and we will lose control. Let go of that unfounded fear and give your child permission to be human. We all have days like that. None of us are perfect, and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves. Of course you should teach your child appropriate ways to speak to people and how to handle emotions, but this again is done primarily through your relationship (which is where they learn how to navigate the ups and downs and repair rifts in personal relationships) and also through your example, how you handle your frustration and moods. All of the punishments you could throw at them will not stamp out their humanity, for to err is human, and we all do it sometimes. Give them a break and a hug.

I love this post about misbehavior versus mistaken behavior.

In regard to non-punitive parenting,I want to address a couple more common questions and misconceptions and just reiterate some things from the first post.

If I don't spank, use time-out, or take away toys, what tools do I have to discipline with? Your most valuable tools are your relationship and your example. I cannot stress this enough because it truly is the foundation for positive non-punitive parenting. The closeness of your relationship equals the amount of your influence. If your child feels connected to you, and if you have built that foundation of trust and respect, your child, by nature, will not want to disappoint you, and more importantly, because of that connection and the values instilled through that connection, he will hold himself accountable and not want to undermine his own self-concept. Your example is also a powerful tool. Children are mirrors. They imitate everything we say and do. So here is where your accountability comes in. If you swear in front of your children, leave messes everywhere, yell or smack your kids, lie to them or others, or talk disrespectfully to your child or to your spouse, you can expect your child to swear, not tidy his room, yell when he's mad, be aggressive, lie, and talk disrespectfully, and it is not fair to punish him for being like you. The old "do as I say, not as I do" bit is a bunch of bologna, and kids know it.

What about accountability? How does positive parenting teach my child to be accountable? Genuine accountability comes from within, not an outside force. You cannot control and manipulate your child into being accountable for her actions. She will learn to be accountable through life's natural consequences, with your empathetic limits, and with your loving guidance. If she leaves her bike out and it gets ruined, the consequence is she has no bike. If he throws his favorite toy and breaks it, his favorite toy is broken. That is the consequence. If you rush out and buy a new bike or toy, the lesson may be lost. On the other hand, if you punish your child for leaving her bike out or breaking the toy, you're just adding insult to injury. Allow your child to learn the natural lessons, and this will teach accountability.

This sounds great, but life is not free of punishments and consequences. If he breaks the law, they won't problem-solve with him, they'll throw him in jail. This is true, but laws and jails were made for adults who have fully developed brains and the full frontal lobe function of sequential thought and logic. Children are not developmentally there yet. Your toddler, preschooler, and even young children do not have this ability and therefore should not be subjected to punishments for wrongdoings they either didn't know was wrong or didn't have the full mental ability to stop and think it through before acting. You don't teach someone to drive by wrecking them first so they'll know what not to do.

Okay, on to the action. Here are some concrete examples of how to handle common situations without resorting to punishment. Again, I've already covered exploration, tantrums, and aggressive behavior. (See above)

1. Disrespect/backtalk/rudeness. If this is an occasional occurrence, remember we all have off days. A simple "When you speak to me that way, I feel disrespected" is sufficient. Avoid "you" statements, like "you're being very disrespectful" and use "I" statements, like "I feel hurt when you use that tone of voice with me." If this is a common occurrence, this suggests a disconnect in the relationship that needs repair. You should also investigate where he has learned such behavior. Home? School? Friends? Generally, though, a child who is feeling connected is very unlikely to be disrespectful or rude to you.

2. Lying. Lying is actually a developmentally appropriate stage that some kids go through. The link will be very informative about this, and makes suggestions of how to handle this non-punitively. This usually begins around age 4, and is really more fantasy and pretend than manipulative lying. For an older child, communication is very important. Have a discussion with her about why lying is wrong, what consequences could come from lying (like breech of trust, damage to your relationship, hurting a friend, etc.) and just open up. Explain a time in your life when you told a lie and it turned out badly. Dr. Markham says this, "I want to let you know what the research says about lying. Many, if not most, kids lie. However, kids whose parents don't punish do not lie. They have no reason to." This is another perk of non-punitive parenting. Kids usually lie to avoid punishment. When that fear is not in the equation, lying is extremely unlikely.

3. Refusing to cooperate. Let's say your son has a messy room and doesn't want to clean it up. You have 2 options here. You could say, "Wow, your room is a mess. Would you like me help you tidy up?" You ask for their help sometimes, right? You'd offer a helping hand to a friend. It's okay to extend that same courtesy to your child. There are days I don't feel like tidying up either. If he refuses to help, leave it a mess. He'll get tired of it eventually, when he can't find things. What about teaching him to be accountable? Ultimately, it's his room and his mess. You won't be in his college dorm. He will learn that it is his responsibility if you just give him responsibility for it. Here's the good news though.
When children feel their needs really matter to their parents, they can meet their parents with cooperation." -- Sura Hart
When you have that connected relationship, kids are naturally more cooperative. Read The Fool-Proof Way to Get Your Kids Cooperating. For very young children, choices will help to elicit cooperation. A responsibility chart, like the one found here, which is purely a visual reminder, might prove helpful for your child.

4. Out and About: Talk to your child about where you will be going and why, and what you will be doing while your out. Get your child involved with the shopping, helping to look for items and placing them in the cart. Bring along a "happy pack" with a doodling pad or snacks, whatever your child likes. Make sure her needs are met (she's not hungry or tired) before you go. If you're at the playground, give your child notice that time will be up soon. If she refuses to leave, say "I know you want to stay. You're having so much fun! But we have to go now" and gently scoop her up and carry her to the car. Empathize with her upset.

5. Homework struggles and school problems: Let's face it, homework is no fun. Yes, it might have to be done, but we wouldn't want to work an 8 hour day and then have to bring more work home with us either. Talk with your child about what would make getting it done easier and more pleasant? Perhaps some music playing softly would lighten the mood or doing the homework outside in the fresh air. Discuss the importance of it, but leave the responsibility on him. The natural consequence, of course, is an upset teacher or a lower grade. Of course we don't want that for our child, but if you rescue him all the time, he won't learn the natural consequences of his actions.

Positive non-punitive parenting, I believe, is the best way to raise happy, confident, secure, capable kids. Will it produce perfect children? Of course not. Does anything? Do I promise you'll never have rough patches or trials? No. That's life, and we're all just human beings. What I do promise is that you'll have a much more joyful home overall and a connected, close relationship with your child that will last through all the bumps of life. Nothing is sweeter than that.

Also read:
Is Your Discipline Raising the Kid You Want

22 Alternatives to Punishment

Thoughts on Punishment

Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites that cancel each other; on the contrary, they breed and reinforce each other." - Haim Ginott

The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting

Our goal as a parent is to give life to our children's learning—to instruct, to teach, to help them develop self-discipline—an ordering of the self from the inside, not imposition from the outside. Any technique that does not give life to a child's learning and leave a child's dignity intact cannot be called discipline—it is punishment, no matter what language it is clothed in. - Barbara Coloroso

Cullen No4

Part 1: An Introduction to Positive Non-punitive Parenting

When I first came across this philosophy of non-punitive parenting, I admit I was unsure about it. I had the same fears and thoughts many of you may be having. Don't children need to be punished for misbehavior? Isn't that how they learn? Is non-punitive parenting permissive? Won't my children take over the house and become unruly tyrants who have no manners, no respect, and no boundaries? The answer, of course, to all of those questions is no!

Traditional behaviour management processes like time out, removal of toys, sticker charts and rewards for ‘good’ behaviour stem from the behaviourist movement based on the work of B. F. Skinner. His theory asserts that children will behave in certain ways if they receive rewards (positive reinforcement) and that undesirable behaviour can be diminished by withholding the rewards or invoking pain (both of which are termed ‘punishment’). I believe this theory may be suitable for training animals, but not so much for raising children. The major flaw here, of course, is that we cannot change or control the behavior of any human being other than ourselves, at least not in the long-term.

Since B.F. Skinner, we have made strides in understanding child development and the importance of secure attachment between parent and child, which encourages healthy development. Secure attachment builds resilience, paves the way for how well your child will function as an adult in a relationship, and has a positive impact on brain development.

What we now know to be true is that punishment, in fact, actually increases misbehavior in children, fosters resentment and disconnection, and, very importantly, does not teach the child a better way to behave. How can children subjected to this model, be expected to learn major concepts about relationships, feelings, choices, etc when receiving an unnatural consequence inflicted on them by an adult? Punishment simply misses the opportunity for a child to learn an important concept about themselves or others. On the contrary, children who feel empowered, respected, and connected will behave better and internalize values.

If you've been parenting using this traditional model and want to make the change to positive, non-punitive parenting, where do you begin? The first big step is a complete paradigm shift in the way you think about raising children. The second step is to understand that relationships, not punishments, influence behavior. While it is true that we cannot control the behavior of another human being, we certainly can have an influence on it, but we can only have that influence through relationship. Relationship is the heart of positive parenting.

How do you foster a connected relationship, especially if you've previously used punishment?

1. Build a foundation of trust. At first, your child might think "is this for real?" If your child is used to going to time out or getting things taken away, there may be a period where your child tests the waters of your new parenting philosophy. Don't give up quickly. Once your child realizes that she is accepted and loved without conditions, you will see her behavior start to improve. All good relationships take work. Take the time to build that foundation of trust, and you will reap the rewards with a connected parent-child relationship that lasts for a lifetime.

2. Respect is mutual. Show your child the same respect you want him to show you and others. Example is the best teacher.

3. Prioritize time with your child. Dr. Laura Markham says, "In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality. You can’t expect a good relationship with your daughter if you spend all your time at work and she spends all her time with her friends. So as hard as it is with the pressures of job and daily life, if we want a better relationship with our kids, we have to free up the time to make that happen."

4. Resist the urge to be punitive. It is hard not to fall back on old habits when your buttons get pushed. Take a deep breath and focus on the goal. Remember that problem-solving, not consequences or time-outs, will teach your child.

5. Don't let little rifts build up. Every difficulty is an opportunity to get closer or create distance.

For more on building a strong connection, see Dr. Markham's post here.

"While criticism or fear of punishment may restrain us from doing wrong, it does not make us wish to do right. Disregarding this simple fact is the great error into which parents and educators fall when they rely on these negative means of correction. The only effective discipline is self-discipline, motivated by the inner desire to act meritoriously in order to do well in one's own eyes, according to one's own values, so that one may feel good about oneself may "have a good conscience." -Bruno Bettelheim

Part 2 will be Non-punitive Parenting In Action.

Part 3 is Punishments versus Limit Enforcement

Until then, you may be interested to read the following posts:

Nonpunitive Discipline ≠ Lazy Parenting

Positive Parenting is NOT Permissive Parenting

10 Things That Are More Important Than Discipline


Words Matter

Sunday, August 28, 2011 4 comments

"Be mindful of the language you use to describe your children. They will come to see themselves through that filter you design." - Lori Petro, TEACH Through Love

Words are powerful. Words are especially powerful when said by parents to their children. The words we use to describe our children become a part of their self concept, and their behavior is based on their self concept. Consider these words from this article:
Our actions have deep roots on what we think and how we perceive self. Self concept has a big influence on our behavior. Behavior pattern decides actions. Stable or unstable self concept, it is a motivating force in a persons behavior...It is worth at this moment to connect the influence of our word we use to call some little ones as ‘dumb’, ‘donkey’ etc. We just casually call and forget, but those words have big impact on little minds. Some school children study below their capacities because they have learned at home and from other members of friend circle to think themselves as dumb.
I love this article , which talks about how what we think about our children often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It says this:
If we have a positive view of our children they are likely to feel the same about themselves.
It goes on to say this, which I think is so important for parents to understand:
Children will have a much easier time valuing themselves if they are valued by their parents. Dorothy Briggs, the author of Your Child's Self Esteem, says that parents are like a mirror, creating the child's self image. We reflect back to them who we think they are and they take it in as the absolute truth. They are not critical of our evaluation of them until they get much older, when the damage is largely done.
I was in the salon a couple of weeks ago, and a mother had her son there with her. She was telling everyone in the shop how difficult and bratty he has been all summer. The boy hung his head low, and I wish I'd had the courage to tell her how she was destroying his self concept, but I didn't. I often hear parents belittling their children right in front of them, using hurtful words like "mean" or "brat." Even if they never actually say these words to their children, the way they think about their kids influences the way they treat their kids, and the children will pick up on that. From What Does Your Child Look Like:
The way we 'frame' a situation, or a person, heavily influences our interactions. If we consistently see our children as frustrating impediments in what would otherwise be a well-ordered life, then every interaction with our children will be marred by that default view. Such a view promotes a deficit-orientation towards a family. It reduces motivation on the part of parents to help their 'good-for-nothing' 'bratty' 'ungrateful' children. And unsurprisingly, such an approach is hardly inspiring for children. They feed off the negativity of parental perception and typically live up to precisely what is expected of them... which is not much.
That mother in the salon was actually feeding her son's misbehavior because she was making that a part of his self concept.

I understand we aren't perfect parents, and sometimes something may slip off our tongues that we regret saying. In those instances, apologize and reaffirm to your child your love and belief in him. Positive parenting does not require us to be perfect, but it does require us to be mindful. Be mindful not only of the words you say, but of the thoughts you think. Reframe negative thoughts and purposefully look for and appreciate the positives in your children. Tell them how kind, capable, and wonderful you think they are. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child will never be found under the Christmas tree: A healthy self concept.

“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” - Dr. Haim Ginott


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The Benefits of Laughter

Friday, August 26, 2011 No comments

"If you have children at home, there is no reason you shouldn't be laughing all through the day. Don't get so caught up in the pressures of raising your children that you don't take the time to enjoy them." - Joel Osteen

If I could give you only one piece of advice for raising your children, cultivating strong relationships, and creating a pleasant home atmosophere, that advice would be simply this: Laugh.

Too often, we get so caught up in the stresses of daily life, the pressures of our jobs and childrearing and housekeeping, that we forget to laugh. There are many benefits of laughter! Studies show that people who laugh often are healthier, more creative, live longer, and are happier overall. Laughter also brings us closer. It's a connector. Because positive parenting is all about the connection we have with our children, laughter is a powerful tool to connect us and make us more in tune with each other.
An article on The Benefits of Laughter says this:
But of all the elements that contribute to the warm atmosphere of a good relationship, there is one that seldom gets translated into advice or even therapy, yet is something that everyone desires and most people would like more of: Laughter.

- Strengthens relationships.
- Attracts others to us.
- Enhances teamwork.
- Helps defuse conflict.
- Promotes group bonding.

Think about these benefits in relation to your parenting! If you want your children to listen, laugh with them! If you want a strong family bond, laugh together!

This article gives more insight into the benefits of laughter.
Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.
Not only does laughter bond us when we're feeling good, but it protects us in times of adversity!

The article goes on to say:
Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:

- Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
- Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
- Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.
- Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.

My challenge to you (and myself) is to make time every single day to laugh with your children. Act silly. You don't always have to put on a serious face and stern voice in order to be an effective parent. In fact, the opposite seems to be true! The more open and silly and spontaneous you are, the more effective you will be! Play games, tell jokes, dress up, chase each other, make goofy faces, watch a funny movie, and just enjoy each other. Watch your relationships blossom, your stress diminish, your child's behavior improve, and your happiness soar!

My reminder on my kitchen wall. :)

One day, a chicken walked into a library. He said, "Book, book!" and the librarian said, "I know you want a book." So she gave the chicken a book and it walked out. In two minutes he came back, got another book and went again. This happened for two days non-stop. On the third day, the librarian followed the chicken, past the zoo, past the shops, to the park and to the pond. In the middle of the pond, on a lily pad, sat a frog. The chicken offered the book to the frog saying, "Book, book," and the frog replied, "Read it, read it!!"

"All you need in the world is love and laughter. That's all anybody needs. To have love in one hand and laughter in the other." -August Wilson

What is Misbehavior? - Guest Post by Kelly Bartlett

Friday, August 12, 2011 2 comments
This is a guest post by Kelly Bartlett.

"Children don't misbehave, they simply behave to get their needs met."

This quote comes from Dr. Thomas Gordon, but other psychologists and parent educators have said the same thing. Dr. Jane Nelsen devotes a whole section of her book, Positive Discipline, as well as lessons in her parenting classes to understanding children's mistaken goals of behavior. The underlying concept is that behaviors like crying, whining, tantrums, lying, hitting, destroying property, etc. all stem from a child's unmet need. There is something that child is needing that they're not getting, so they behave in a way to try to meet those needs. Dr. Nelsen calls them "Mistaken Goals" because the child is often mistaken about how to behave in a way to meet their needs.

Last week, I saw a lady who set her full cup of iced coffee next to her on the bench near where her 1-year-old daughter was toddling around. The little girl kept going over to it and picking it up, wanting to turn it over. The mom continually called her "naughty" and asked if she needed a time-out. If this mother understood the relationship between needs and behavior, she'd know that her daughter was not being naughty and that a time-out won't solve anything. At one year old, this child's need is to explore her environment using all of her senses; she is not misbehaving, she's doing exactly what a one-year-old needs to do.

We all behave in ways to get what we need. If I need something to eat, I'll go to the kitchen and make myself some food. If I need some order in my life, I'll clean my house. If I need a renewed sense of community, I'll turn on my sociability as I make an effort to connect with friends and neighbors. If I 'm feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated, I might subconsciously distance myself from others as I attempt to carve out some alone time for myself (if I don't realize what I need), or I might just say, "Hey, I need some alone time," (if I do).

Kids aren't as astute at knowing how to meet their needs as we grownups are. Sometimes even we don't behave in the most appropriate ways to get what we need. A child is much less capable of identifying and articulating what they need, and instead they reach out through their behavior. What looks like "misbehavior" is actually a child's misguided attempt to fulfill a need that's not being met.

As any parent knows, hunger and sleep are two of the most common needs that, when unmet, trigger all kinds of "colorful" behaviors in children. Other needs children have that they will work at meeting are:

- Empathy; children need validation and acceptance of their thoughts and feelings
- Belonging; children need to know that they matter and that they have an importance place in the family
- Autonomy; children need to have choices and independence
- Connection; children need to be heard and understood

The most common "misbehaviors" we see in our children are most likely the result of one of those needs not being met. I see it in my own kids. Just a few days ago, my daughter Elia (age 6) was acting extra whiny and clingy, and I was getting frustrated wondering why. But after a weekend of fewer household projects and more of my focused attention, she got the connection she needed (and I hadn't noticed she needed), and the clinginess subsided.

And I know that sometimes my son JJ (age 4) can't/ won't/ doesn't want to do anything to help around the house; he acts like his contributions don't matter. He thinks that he doesn't matter. But when John and I break down tasks and help him get through little jobs, he sees and feels his own success. He understands how much he does matter to the family, and he gains a needed sense of significance and belonging.

I strive to remind myself that misbehavior isn't really what it seems and therefore doesn't require "discipline." As a Positive Parent, my response to my kids' "misbehavior" is less about applying appropriate disciplinary action and more about meeting the underlying needs. It's proactive. It's respectful. It's loving. It's a reminder that misbehavior isn't malicious, it's human nature.

Looks like someone needed to see if the cake was cool!

Misbehavior? On the contrary, purposeful destruction that meets JJ's need for tactile stimulation.


Kelly Bartlett is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator, a freelance writer, and a contributing editor on the topic of positive discipline at The Attached Family magazine. She blogs about her family's endeavors in positive discipline and attachment parenting at Parenting From Scratch (www.parentingfromscratch.wordpress.com) and is a contributing blogger for API Speaks.

Discipline with L-O-V-E and C-A-R-E

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 5 comments

There is tons of discipline advice out there. If you're new to positive parenting, it can be especially daunting to figure out how to handle certain behaviors. But discipline doesn't have to be complicated. You don't have to remember dozens of techniques, tips, tricks, and methods. All you really need is L-O-V-E.

L - Look for the reason behind the behavior. Take a moment to think about what could be behind your child's actions. This will be important information going forward. Is he tired? Jealous? Needing instruction?
O - Open your heart. Remember that you may not like what your child has done, but you do like your child. Instead of reacting, make a conscious decision to pause and breathe, open your heart, and allow compassion and love to help you respond.
V - Validate feelings. Again, the way your child expressed his feeling may be wrong, but the feeling itself is never wrong. Let your child know that you understand how he is feeling, and empathize with him.
E - Explore solutions. Focus on teaching your child appropriate behaviors rather than punishing. Get your child involved in the process of making it right. Problem-solving is a skill that teaches your child responsibility for his actions and gives him a great tool for life.


You may feel certain behaviors warrant consequences. In this case, after you've disciplined with L-O-V-E, discipline with C-A-R-E.

C - Consequences. If problem-solving is not enough, a logical consequence may be appropriate. Your intent should be positive (to teach) and not negative (to get even or hurt). Ideally, consequences should be related to the behavior. For example, if your 4 year old throws a toy and it hits his sister, it is logical to take that toy away for a while.
A - Act with fairness. Again, the goal here is to teach your child how to do better next time. Taking away video games for a week is more likely to build resentment than to teach anything. It may help to wait until you are calm before issuing a consequence.
R - Reconnect. This is crucial for your relationship. Hugs, kisses, I love yous, and play should resume once it's over.
E - Enjoy. Don't bring the incident back up or nag your child about it. Reconnect and move on. This teaches your child how to make amends, and there is no need in dwelling on the past. :)

Here are a few other ideas to encourage good behavior:

- Let your child hear you say good things about him to others; never say anything bad about your child in front of him.

- Don't label your child with words like "mean," "naughty," or "lazy." Your child will internalize these words, and they will become part of her self concept.

- Notice the good things your child does. I'm not talking about lavishing on fake praise, but just a genuine, kind appreciation for things such as being nice to a sibling or completing a task will reinforce those positive behaviors.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. - Lao Tzu

Educated, Scientific, Effective Parenting

Sunday, August 7, 2011 3 comments

This is what my mom said to me once in reference to my decision not to spank my children. "That is just a bunch of new-age nonsense. Children have been raised that way for thousands of years." My answer to that was "And look at where we are."

Positive Parenting is not some kind of new-age trend. This is effective, educated parenting backed by years of research from leading psychologists and neuroscientists who all concur that the traditional methods of discipline are harmful and ineffective and that loving, consistent, kind, responsive parenting makes healthier, happier, better behaved, morally sound children.

Please do NOT confuse Positive Parenting with:

- Permissive Parenting

- Lazy Parenting

- Mollycoddling

- No Discipline

- Over Indulgence

If traditional methods of parenting (spanking, grounding, yelling, controlling) really work so well, why is our society filled with intolerance, violence, hate, and crime? Do you think spanking will keep your kids out of prison? Think again.
The best-kept secret in child psychology is that children who were never spanked are among the best behaved." -Murray Straus, Ph.D.

Our children are facing a mental health crisis. In his book, Spare the Child, Philip Greven notes:
"Punishment in childhood has always been one of the most powerful generators of depression in adulthood." p. 130
"Depression is often a delayed response to the suppression of childhood anger that usually results from being physically hit and hurt in the act of discipline by adults whom the child loves and on whom he depends for nurturance and for life itself." p. 132
And it's not just hitting that is harmful, we now know yelling and shaming to have lasting psychological effects.

By contrast, Positive Parenting has many benefits, such as a reduction in power struggles, stronger relationships, better behavior, resilience, and high emotional intelligence.

Positive Parenting is backed by research on attachment and its effects on the developing brain by leading researchers such as Allan Schore, Dan Siegel, Bruce Perry, and Murray Straus.

Positive Parents:

- Are educated about their child's developing brain.

- Understand the importance of attachment and relationship.

- Set clear boundaries.

- Enforce limits consistently.

- Discipline their children.

- Are kind, gentle, and respectful.

You don't have to make your children feel bad to teach them lessons. In fact, children are less likely to retain information when they are upset. Your secret tool is your relationship with your child. Attachment is the key to effective parenting. Daniel Siegel, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development at UCLA, and author of the seminal book The Developing Mind and Parenting from the Inside Out, specializes in the study of attachment. He describes it as something of a magic bullet when it comes to child development.

While genetics, experiences, temperament, and many other factors contribute to a child’s personality, Siegel says, secure attachments lay the foundation for it all. Attachment “shapes children’s interactions with their peers, their sense of security about exploring the world, their resilience to stress, their ability to balance their emotions, and their capacity to create meaningful interpersonal relationships for the future.”

Having this foundation, or lacking it, Siegel says, affects everything from school success to the ability to form friendships. Self esteem, social skills, emotional intelligence … even who a child eventually picks as a life partner, can all be traced back to attachment, he says. (Source)

Dr. Laura Markham has this to say about Positive Parenting:
Why Positive Parenting? Because it works, from toddlers to teens. Positive parenting raises a child who WANTS to behave.

Strict Parenting raises angry kids who lose interest in pleasing their parents. Permissive parenting raises unhappy kids who test their parents. In both cases, the child resists the parent's guidance and doesn't internalize self discipline.

Positive parenting -- sometimes called positive discipline, gentle guidance, or loving guidance -- is simply guidance that keeps our kids on the right path, offered in a positive way that resists any temptation to be punitive. Studies show that's what helps kids learn consideration and responsibility, and makes for happier kids and parents.

Ignoring all of the attachment and brain development research is like ignoring the research on smoking. Just as some people will continue to smoke despite the known risks, some parents will continue on with traditional discipline. Just as some smokers will not get lung cancer, some children raised with traditional discipline will not have lasting psychological damage. The question is, are you a gambler? And how much are you willing to risk?

Bottom Line: There are a lot of misconceptions about Positive Parenting, from it's permissive to indulgent to lazy. The fact is that Positive Parenting is educated parenting. Positive Parenting is actually less lazy than traditional parenting. We don't just give a swat or send our kids to corners and expect that to teach them appropriate behavior. That's lazy. We teach. We come up with solutions. We give our children the tools they need to do better, and most importantly, we create secure attachments.

Be strong enough to be gentle. Too many parents equate being gentle with being weak or passive when nothing could be further from the truth. Gentleness requires great control, active connection, and intense calm. So, when your child needs discipline, remember that an iron grip isn’t the only way to go. You can accomplish great things by being the calm voice of authority and reason in your home. - Hal Runkel, ScreamFree Parenting

Boys are NOT Stupid!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8 comments

Per Wikipedia, "Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women." Equal being the key word here.

I am ALL FOR equality.

I am NOT for boys being left in the dust. In her article Feminism Shames Young Boys, Pelle Billing says this:

The effect of teachers bringing feminism into the classroom, whether they are feminists themselves or simply instructed to do so, is that young boys hear the message: “Girls are good, boys are bad.” Due to their cognitive development, this is the natural interpretation of feminism for young boys (and girls). This creates a sense of shame at a very deep level, and could quite conceivably affect the self-esteem and healthy development of these young boys.
She goes on to say this:
Let’s have a passionate gender debate amongst adults, but leave children alone, and stop telling them that there’s something wrong with them simply because they were born male.

Christina Hoff Sommers tackles this issue in her book The War Against Boys, and one commenter on the book said perfectly what I was trying to articulate myself.
The problem with feminism is not that it has fostered achievement for women. Rather it is feminism's attempts to demean the roles and achievements of men and "feminize" boys that are problematic. To the extent that feminism has encouraged girls and women to strive for excellence, it should be lauded. To the extent that it has used our institutions, particularly our schools, as a vehicle to establish a so-called "new feminist order" at the expense of our sons, it is shameful.
Of great concern to me, as a mother of 2 sons, is that boys are falling behind in education. From elementary schools to high schools, boys have lower grades, lower class rank, and fewer honors than girls. They’re 50%more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school and one-third more likely to drop out of high school.

What I also find to be beyond troublesome is that boys are now being marketed to be stupid. The apparently popular book "Boys are Stupid. Throw Rocks at Them" has this product description on Amazon. "Girls, here it is—everything you need to know about boys: 1. Boys come from the Stupid Factory. 2. Boys are pretty much smelly and useless. 3. It is possible to have fun with boys, however..... 4. If you decide to keep a boyfriend, he will need to be housebroken." It is described as "edgy freshness." I think it's garbage. How will MY sons feel if they see a girl wearing this shirt?

But is feminism really to blame here? In an article in Dissent from 2006 titled The War Against Boys, Michael Kimmel points out:
If boys are doing worse, whose fault is it? To many of the current critics, it’s women’s fault, either as feminists, as mothers, or as both. Feminists, we read, have been so successful that the earlier “chilly classroom climate” has now become overheated to the detriment of boys. Feminist-inspired programs have enabled a whole generation of girls to enter the sciences, medicine, law, and the professions; to continue their education; to imagine careers outside the home. But in so doing, these same feminists have pathologized boyhood. Elementary schools are, we read, “anti-boy”—emphasizing reading and restricting the movements of young boys. They “feminize” boys, forcing active, healthy, and naturally exuberant boys to conform to a regime of obedience, “pathologizing what is simply normal for boys,” as one psychologist puts it.
However, he goes on to say:
Perhaps the real “male bashers” are those who promise to rescue boys from the clutches of feminists. Are males not also “hardwired” toward compassion, nurturing, and love? If not, would we allow males to be parents? It is never a biological question of whether we are “hardwired” for some behavior; it is, rather, a political question of which “hardwiring” we choose to respect and which we choose to challenge... By contrast, feminists believe that men are better than that, that boys can be raised to be competent and compassionate, ambitious and attentive, and that men are fully capable of love, care, and nurturance. It’s feminists who are really “pro-boy” and “pro-father”—who want young boys and their fathers to expand the definition of masculinity and to become fully human.

So who caused this problem? I don't know, and the truth is, I don't care. It doesn't matter who I pin the blame to, it doesn't solve the problem. And what I want are solutions. What I want is for my boys to have the same equal opportunities as your girls, and vice versa. What I want is for NO ONE to be left behind. What I want is for my boys to not be subjected to this kind of garbage.

What I want is for my boys not to be shamed just because they are boys.

I don't have any overnight solutions. I know we can not feed it by purchasing the garbage I've pictured here. I believe conscious parenting will have an effect. The more children raised with respect, compassion, and empathy, the more respect, compassion, and empathy will permeate society. We need to be conscious of the messages were sending to our children, conscious of what messages they're getting from the media. We need to discuss these topics with our chidren when it is age-appropriate to do so.

As one mom put it in the video Do Boys Get a Bad Rap, "Instead of putting the emphasis on "feminism," we should be putting the emphasis on "humanism," as in "all human beings should be treated with respect."

This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 6 comments

There has been a lot of buzz about how spanking affects children. It got me to wondering how spanking affects the spanker. I turned to my friend and Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting, for her thoughts on this topic. Her words are in bold type.

1. When a parent hurts her child, the parent has to deaden her natural empathy. We know, for instance, that watching a violent image reduces our empathy. To actually engage in a violent act ourselves is much worse, we must disconnect from our own compassion not only for our child but for anyone.

Yes, spanking is a violent act. Even if you do it "out of love" it is still violence because you are physically striking another human being to deliberately cause them pain. To deliberately inflict pain on you own child, you have to disconnect from compassion and from empathy.

2. When we spank our child, we MUST justify it in order to live with ourselves. So we begin to see our child as bad, as deserving of punishment.

Wow, that's big, isn't it? If you did NOT see your child as deserving of punishment, you would see no need to spank, would you? If you viewed your child through a compassionate lens, as a tiny person who will make mistakes along the way because he is human, who deserves to be taught in a loving, gentle way, you would never strike him. You spank because you believe your child deserves it. Why? Who deserves to be hit?

3. When we see our child as needing to be physically hurt in order to learn a lesson, we may become less protective. We certainly are more likely to spank harder next time.

Research studies have shown that you must escalate your punishments for them to continue to work. Studies also show that you hit your child 40% harder than you think you do. Furthermore, 2/3 of all physical abuse cases start out as regular spankings that get out of hand. Prof. Wolpert said his research suggests that people's inability to actually gauge how hard they are whacking others means that parents who try to spank no harder than they remember being spanked may well over-hit.

4. When we spank our child, we "wall off" our own inner child, who feels vulnerable. In fact, our desire to cut off that vulnerability is one reason we spank. But it walls off our hearts and makes us less capable of feeling love.

Less capable of feeling love. If you need to heal your inner child, click here.

5. When our empathy for our child is reduced, we feel less connection to him. We are therefore less likely to say things to him in a way that helps him hear them.

When you spank your child, not only does it cause your child to disconnect from you, but you're pulling away too. This is detrimental to your relationship and creates a cycle of disrespect and resentment.

6. Studies confirm that when we're angry, we can calm down if we disengage. If, instead, we interact either verbally or physically with others, we tend to lash out with our words or bodies. Lashing out actually makes us angrier. So the act of spanking actually makes the parent angrier. That's one reason spanking keeps escalating, because the parent has to spank harder and longer to "vent" her anger.

Every time you spank, neurons on firing in your brain. I'm no neuroscientist, but what I have read and understood about neuroplasticity is that your actions and thought patterns create neural pathways that make you more likely to act and think that way in the future. You have to break the pattern.

7. After we spank our child, we experience a temporary release of the "fight or flight" neurotransmitters that have flushed us with rage. That relieves us. We feel better. The problem is that we associate feeling better with the spanking. So we are more likely to spank in the future in order to feel better when we are angry. Spanking is actually physiologically addicting to parents.

Are you an addict?

8. Any time we "give in" to our anger and have a tantrum (and spanking is a parental tantrum, as is yelling), we set ourselves up for a cycle of remorse and guilt, which lowers self-esteem.

Once your "feel better" is over, do you start to feel bad? Guilty? If you are a spanker, pay attention to how YOU feel after you've spanked your child. Don't sweep your feelings under the rug or brush them off. FEEL them.

9. When we hurt our child physically, it ruptures a bond of trust. Children only "behave" because they love and trust us, so they stop behaving. The effect on the parent is a feeling of hopelessness, like whatever was rewarding about parenting is gone.

Ah. And here is heart of why spanking doesn't work. Your child, feeling disconnected and resentful, acts out more. You begin to dislike your own child. Once your bundle of joy, now the joy is gone.

Oh, it does work, you say? Your child stops acting out? If that were true, you'd never need to spank your child more than once.

Some children deal with the pain in a different way. Instead of acting out more, they internalize the pain. You're fooled into thinking it worked because the behavior stopped, but there are harmful effects you may never see until years later.

10. Research shows that when we depend on spanking as a way to manage our child's behavior, we become less creative about finding other solutions, and our parenting is less effective. That in turn undermines our confidence and damages our self-image.

"If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." - Abraham Maslow

The harmful effects of spanking on the spanker:
1. Reduced empathy.
2. Distorted lens through which you view your child.
3. Walls off your heart and makes you less capable of feeling love.
4. Broken connection.
5. Tendency to be angrier.
6. Addiction to the "feel better" after the release of the "fight or flight" neurotransmitters that have flushed you with rage.
7. Lower self-esteem.
8. Loss of joy in parenting.
9. Lowered confidence.
10. Damaged self-image.

If you were spanked but "turned out okay" and use that as justification to spank your child, then I urge you to watch this eye-opening video.

For more truth about spanking, read Plain Talk About Spanking.

"Children ought to be led to honorable practices by means of encouragement and reasoning, and most certainly not by blows and ill treatment." - Plutarch, circa 45 -120 CE, "The Education of Children," Vol. I, Moralia, Ancient Greece.

Always a Bundle of Joy

Thursday, July 28, 2011 4 comments
Cutest Baby

Remember when you first held your newborn in your arms? So sweet. So precious. Your little bundle of joy. Recall the first time you gazed into her eyes. You remember fondly the first time your baby smiled, rolled over, and began to crawl. Your heart fluttered the first time she said "mama" or "dada." You cheered him on as he took his first step. Everyone gushes over babies. They're so innocent.

Then your baby becomes a toddler, and suddenly you're flooded with warnings. "Uh-oh! Watch out now!" "Look out! Here come the terrible twos!" In the span of a few short months on Earth, children go from innocent to trouble.


Somehow, the innocence has already been lost. Now they become almost an adversary. They start manipulating us with their tantrums! They begin testing our authority! If you're not careful, they'll even try to run the house!

Do you think this common perception of toddlers and preschoolers skews the way we view their behavior from the get-go? Do you think all the labels we have pinned on young children, such as "brats" and "terrible twos" and "tyrannical threes" may have distorted our lens through which we view them?

What if it's all wrong? What if there is no manipulation? What if innocence is not lost? In Dr. Becky Bailey's book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (which I adore, by the way), there is an entire chapter on positive intent. Here is an excerpt from that chapter.
When you attribute negative intent to others, you subtly attack them. Your attempt to make them feel bad about themselves and their choices is a form of assault. You actually implant a feeling of danger in others every time you try to make them feel bad, wrong, or responsible for your upset, and this sense of being in danger usually creates conflict, as the other person becomes defensive, not cooperative. The conflict mounts if you proceed with your own agenda without inspiring the other person to cooperate. When you learn to attribute positive intent to other people, you possess a powerful skill. It is the skill you need to transform opposition into cooperation.

Trouble in Zilker Park

The majority of "problems" we have with our young children are due to us attributing a negative intent to their actions. We perceive that they are manipulating us through tantrums. What if, instead, we perceive they are overwhelmed with emotions and need comforting? We perceive that they are testing our authority. What if, instead, we perceive that they are attempting to get a need met in the only way they know how? What if we perceive that they are developing autonomy instead of defying us? What if we can let go of negative perceptions and stop attributing negative intentions on their behavior? Dr. Bailey says a very powerful statement:
By attributing negative motives to him, you highlight character flaws that he, in turn, incorporates into his self-concept.
Of course we don't want our children to have a negative self-concept. We want them to believe they are caring, compassionate, accepted, and loved. We want them to have confidence. We want them to have a positive self-concept! How we do ensure that they do? By attributing positive intent to their actions. By providing care, compassion, acceptance, and love to them without conditions, just as we did when they were newborns.
"Misbehavior in children is an attempt to communicate, when all else has failed. Children have a drive to love other people and to be a contribution to the people around them. It is time for all children to be recognized as the magnificent people they are, and accorded the dignity and respect that is due every human being. We must establish a new way of seeing children." - The Kids' Project
Leave behind old perceptions. Change your lens. Look deep into the eyes of your 2, 4, 8, or 12-year old. Those same eyes you gazed into that first day. Look for the innocence. Look for the kindness. Look for the positives. If we choose to perceive them to be, then they will always be our bundles of joy.

Time-Outs: Helpful or Harmful?

Sunday, July 24, 2011 7 comments
Not a happy end

Here's another one of those controversial, confusing topics that even the experts don't agree on. Some positive parenting experts (Dr. Sears, for one) encourages the use of time-outs, starting at the age of 18 months. Dr. Sears says, and I quote:
This all seems so sensible, but remember, children may not think logically until around age six. If you can't sell your child on time-out, invoke your parental power. Give your child the message that he is going into time-out no matter what, so he might as well do it, get it over with, and get on with the day. For the child over five, add extra time for resistance: "Five extra minutes for protesting," announces the referee. If the child still refuses, pull out your reserves: grounding and withdrawal of privileges (such as TV for the rest of the day or week)—whatever has worked in the past. Give the child a choice: "You can either stay in your room for ten minutes or be bored the rest of the day."
Here's my question. If children may not think logically until around age 6,then why use it on a child under 6 years old? Plus, what are you going to do when it's not so easy to "invoke your parental power," on, say, a 15-year-old, and you have to keep escalating the punishment? I can see where he's going with this...you need to show your kids who's boss. What about attachment, Mr. Attachment Parenting? Not that attached parents can't give time-outs and be attached, they can (I did), but you do have to make a repair because most likely it did cause a disconnect. But I digress. He goes on to make this point:
Time-out gives your older child a chance to reflect on her deed, and it also gives you a chance to cool off and plan a strategy. While your child is in time-out, judge whether the misbehavior is a smallie that's over and done with and needs no further discipline or a biggie that needs more intensive care. If it's a biggie (she hurt another person), after giving her a few minutes to cool off, say something like: "I want you to think about what you did. How would you feel if your friend hurt you?" Some children know intuitively the mental exercises to go through during time-out, but many do not. This is not a time for preaching or haranguing, rather matter-of-factly tell your child how you expect her to spend the time-out period. The most lasting impression is made when the child realizes the consequences of his actions on his own. That's self-discipline.
I can understand how a time-out could give an older child a chance to cool off, but I don't know how much reflecting they're doing. It all depends on the child's termperament, I would think. A more timid or intuitive child may reflect; a strong willed child may stew. On the other hand, it seems to me there would be a more productive way of instilling self-discipline than by imposing parental control, which doesn't so much come from "self," but hey, I'm no doctor. Source.

On the other hand, we have this post, which happens to be one of my favorites and makes some very valid points, like these:
When you separate yourself and your child, you are instantly demonstrating to them that your relationship is not important. When your child is misbehaving is when they need you the most, and your relationship with them is vital. You need to listen and empathize and bring them close to tell them that you still love them, but want to understand what they are feeling. Children will open up very quickly and explain the root cause of their actions when they feel loved, and secure with their parents.
"Demonstrating that your relationship is not important" seems a bit much, doesn't it? I can't really argue with the rest of this one though. It goes on to read:
For children under age 4 to 5 years old, did you know that they don’t understand consequence at all? Their brains simply aren’t yet developed enough to understand cause and effect – so any kind of discipline similar to time-outs is being completely lost of them! Their left and right brains up to the age of 4 to 5 years old are essentially operating independently. They are unable to think logically, and with compassion or empathy. They are almost primarily governed by impulse and emotions and will act selfishly when playing with others. Concepts such as sharing are foreign to them, though they may mimic or parrot this kind of behaviour back to you if driven home repeatedly.
Now that is some food for thought, isn't it? Neuroscience! Hooray!

But wait! Doesn't all that love and empathy reward them for the misbehavior? Can you ever really go wrong with love? What would make you think so? Have you ever messed up? What did you need? Scolding? A lecture? Would that help? Or what about some empathy and understanding? Do teach your child appropriate behavior! Please do! But do it in a way that leaves her dignity intact and your relationship positive. You'll need that close relationship!

Aletha Solter has this to say about time-outs in her article.
Even so, while spanking is on the wane in the United States, the withholding of love and attention has persisted as an acceptable means of control.
She also says:
According to many educators and psychologists, however, time-out is not as innocent as it seems and is, moreover, an emotionally harmful way to discipline children. In fact, the National Association for the Education of Young Children includes the use of time-out in a list of harmful disciplinary measures, along with physical punishment, criticizing, blaming, and shaming.
She drives it home with:
From a child's point of view, time-out is definitely experienced as punishment. Who wants to be isolated from the group and totally ignored? It is quite likely that children view this form of isolation as abandonment and loss of love. And while parents are often careful to provide reassurances of their love and to distinguish between the child and the unruly behavior ("I love you, but you need to go to your room for five minutes because what you did is not acceptable"), their actions speak much louder than their words.

Children under the age of seven simply do not have the capability to process words in the same way that adults do. Concrete experience and perceptions of reality impact more strongly than language. Being isolated and ignored is interpreted as "Nobody wants to be with me right now. Therefore I must be bad and unlovable," and no loving words, however well intended, can override this feeling of rejection.

Nothing is more frightening for a child than the withdrawal of love. Along with the fear come insecurity, anxiety, confusion, anger, resentment, and low self-esteem. Time-out can also cause embarrassment and humiliation, especially when used in the presence of other children. In the child's realm of experience, time-out is nothing short of punitive.
Three views. One states they are needed; one that they are harmful, and one ranks time-outs right up there with spanking and abandonment.

If you've ever used time-outs, raise your hand. *Raises hand* Okay, put them down. I used to do it by the book. If my child hit or did a "biggie" he'd go to time-out for 1 minute per each year of age. I'd explain why and then do the "hugs and kisses" afterwards. Well, I tried. Time-outs were a complete failure here. He didn't want to sit and it was a case of getting up and putting back, getting up and putting back, tears, screaming, my blood pressure rising, and a big ole power struggle, lose-lose situation. I then, however, moved to bedroom time, which we called "rest time" where he went alone to "cool down" and was allowed to play with whatever he wanted to in his room and could come out when he was "ready to be respectful." It worked pretty well, actually.

When I did time-outs, I certainly didn't feel like I was abandoning, isolating, shaming, or withdrawing my love. At least, it didn't feel that way to me. How did it feel to my child, though? I'm not sure. Perhaps like Aletha described?

I don't know that I'm ready to jump on the "isolation and love withdrawal" bandwagon, probably because I'm guilty of using time-outs myself before, but that feels a little extreme to me. Certainly time-outs *can* be extremely harmful if overused in a negative home. It's not always so black and white though, is it? My completely non-professional, not-very-experienced mommy opinion is that an occasional time out for a biggie in an otherwise very loving, positive environment isn't likely to do lasting harm. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it's not likely to do any lasting good either. Given our wonderful neuroscience information and understanding that they don't truly get it, especially under age 6, then it becomes more of a training technique than a teaching technique, doesn't it? That isn't horrible, but it's not really optimal either, when you look at the big picture.

Let's say Sally grabs Jenny's doll. Jenny starts to scream. Mom immediately grabs Sally and puts her in a time-out spot for "not sharing" or "snatching" and sets the time for 3 minutes (because Sally is 3). What is Sally thinking in time-out? Mommy is mean. Mommy is mad at me. I really want that doll. Why should Jenny have the doll? I'm bad. Who knows what Sally is thinking? But she probably isn't thinking "Boy, I wasn't considering Jenny's feelings at all when I took that doll. I was selfish and that was uncalled for. I must apologize to Jenny right now. I see the error of my ways."

Now let's say that Sally grabs Jenny's doll but this time Mom goes over to Sally and says "You really want that doll." (Acknowledging intent) Sally nods. Jenny was playing with that doll, and you took it. Look at Jenny's face. She's crying." (Teaching emotional intelligence) "How can you help Jenny stop being sad?" (You've got her working on problem-solving skills) If she doesn't come up with giving the doll back, and she probably won't, then maybe say, "I think it would make her happy to have her doll back." (Working on developing empathy here) If she doesn't hand it over willingly, say "Would you like to hand it back to her, or shall I?" Either let her hand the doll back (Yay, Sally!) or gently take the doll and give it back to Jenny and apologize for Sally to model a sincere apology. Then redirect Sally to another toy.

Which scenario taught Sally the most?

Of course, there are alternatives to the traditional sit in a chair for x amount of minutes approach. There is the time-in, which is what I now use on occasion. Other variants of time-in include a cuddle corner or cool down spot where parent and child go together. Plus, let's be honest, some kids like or need to be alone to calm down. If they prefer this, fine. The key things to take into consideration are:

1. What is the lesson you want to teach?

2. What is your child's temperament?

3. What is your intent? A positive break from the action (like in a ballgame) or punishment?

FINAL ASSESSMENT: I'm not ready to put time-outs in the "evil" category just yet. I'm going to file them under "unnecessary." Problem-solving, having the child be involved in righting the wrong, is always more a valuable lesson than sitting in a chair.