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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Positive Parenting: What? Why? How?

"There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation in the way we raise our children." - Marianne Williamson

POSITIVE PARENTING:

WHAT?

The message of Positive Parenting is reaching far and wide. More and more parents are understanding that a change must be made in our child rearing practices. It is exciting to be part of this growing movement, which I honestly believe will better society.

For those new to Positive Parenting, my friend, Dr. Laura Markham, explains beautifully what it is in this post. Here is an excerpt:


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.


Positive Parenting isn't a method, a set of rules, or a "style." Positive Parenting is a belief, a way of living. We believe children should be treated with respect, free from fear of violence and shame, and guided with loving encouragement.
It is better to bind your children to you by a feeling of respect and by gentleness, than by fear. - Terence


WHY?

There are many benefits of positive parenting. Most importantly is the 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 have a positive impact on brain development, just to name a few.

Let me get scientific on you for a second. The brain is not fully matured until we're in our 20's! The first 3-6 years are crucial for brain development. Check out this interactive model to see just how much your child's brain is growing and changing in those first years!

Take a look at this model by TEACH Through Love.*



The "survival center" of the brain is the only section fully developed at birth. This is responsible for regulating autonomic functions, etc. It is also the center for the "fight, flight, freeze" response.

Between birth and roughly age 4 (development is unique to each child), executive functions come online as kids develop this mid brain function. By age 3, their brains are highly organized but very inefficient. They have some access to their higher brain around age 3, but it is the efficiency that we need to help them work on.

By 5-6 they are able to have some level of self regulation; they can pause reflect but not always. This is a process that matures for the next 20 years.

Another thing is the brain won't keep connections that aren't reinforced and utilized. If not engaged in coping skills, creativity, and empathy, the brain will prune away weak neural connections. Immature brains need special handling! Under stress or fear, we all lose access to executive function.
- Special thanks to Lori Petro of TEACH Through Love for her contribution to this section of the post!

What am I getting at? Children are not biologically capable of understanding and following all of our rules. Most times, misbehavior is NOT a matter of defiance, but of cognitive ability. This is where the paradigm shifts! We know so much more now about child development, so it is time our practices catch up to our knowledge.

We now know the harmful effects of spanking. We now understand why time out is not a desirable method, and we know that punishing children really doesn't teach the lessons we want to teach.

Okay, so what CAN I do?

HOW?

The very first step in becoming a positive parent is to adjust your thinking. This is the hardest but most important part of PP. Look for a blog post coming soon dedicated entirely on changing your mindset! Discipline, in PP, doesn't mean to punish, it means to teach. There are many ways we can teach our children morals, values, and what is acceptable!

MODELING
This is so, so important. Behave the way you want your children to behave. They learn by watching your example! Let them see you being compassionate and kind. Speak to them respectfully. Each interaction with your child is teaching her something. If you want her to learn not to interrupt you in conversation, model by not interrupting her when she speaks as well. If you want him to use his manners, use yours. When you yell at your kids, you teach them to yell. Adversely, when you speak gently, you teach them to do the same.

PLAY
Play is vital to childhood. Children learn openly through play. I believe this is when they learn best! Their brains are engaged, receptive, absorbing everything! This is a wonderful opportunity to not only connect with your child, but to teach valuable lessons! Here are some ideas to teach through play:

Make a game! My 4-year-old son and I made a manners game during craft time. One box was used for appropriate behaviors, and the other for inappropriate behaviors. I wrote down several behaviors/manners on stars, and I let him choose which box to put each star in. He enjoyed this game, and he got every single one right. ;)



Puppet Shows! It doesn't have to be a big production. Make some sock puppets if you'd like. Use the puppets to act out a scene and teach a lesson. This can also be done with toys. You can use bears, dolls, or transformers (like us!) and act out different scenes. Kids REALLY do listen and absorb lessons through play!

Role Playing! Be your child, and let your child be you. Show her what is appropriate in certain situations. We have role-played eating at a restaurant, how to sit quietly in Bible School, how to handle various situations. The kids have a blast, and they always remember!

Daily Words! We have a daily word that I post on the refrigerator. I explain the meaning, and we will act out what it means. This not only builds vocabulary, but words such as empathy and gratitude teach wonderful values!



Story time! Of course there are lots of children's books that teach morals and manners, but we like to make up our own stories here too! My youngest prefers to look through books, but my oldest really likes to listen to made-up stories. Throw in some good life lessons in there ;-) They're listening!!




VISUALS!

I wanted to find a way to teach my almost 5-year-old some responsibility. Playing "beat the timer" worked great for a while, but he is the type of child that is helped by visual cues. So we made this little chart for him.



There are no rewards involved. This is purely a visual reminder for him. :)

You can also do routine charts, such as this one found at zazzle.com.



These charts remind children so YOU don't have to! Be creative! Get your child involved in making the chart. You can clip pictures from magazines or use pictures of your child doing various activities to glue to the chart. Visual reminders can also help children become more organized and independent. For even more ideas, click here.

SOCIAL INTERACTION!
A day at the park, a few hours at the library, play dates with friends, life IS learning. What if your child witnesses another child being inappropriate? This is an opportunity for you to talk about what happened and teach appropriate behaviors.

EMPATHY!
Teaching our children emotional intelligence is an important part of parenting. We must accept all of our children's feelings. This doesn't mean we must accept all the behaviors that come with them, of course we must teach healthy ways to channel those feelings, but ALL feelings are acceptable. Being empathetic with your child will help him regulate his big emotions, like fear and anger, more quickly and model for him how to be empathetic with others. For more on empathy, read Dr. Laura Markham's post, Empathy: The Foundation of Emotional Health.

TALK IT OUT! Talk WITH your chidren. Listen when they talk. This is a great way to connect, and connection leads to cooperation!



Our children aren't born knowing our rules. Punishing them for bad behavior doesn't teach them good behavior. We have to give them the tools to do better before we can expect them to do better.

CONNECTION. EXAMPLE. TEACHING. RESPECT. EMPATHY. LOVE. These are your best parenting tools.

In the next post, I'll get into what to do specifically for troublesome behaviors. Look for that in the next few days!






*DISCLAIMER: Three Areas of the Brain model used with permission. No copy may be reproduced or posted online without written permission from TEACH through Love.



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