Editor’s pick: Where punishment, not even timeout, will have no home

“All behavior is communication.” ~ Linda Hatfield, cofounder of Parenting from the Heart

spankOutLogoToday, as we celebrate SpankOut Day April 30th — an annual observance founded by the Center for Effective Discipline (now part of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center) to bring attention to the need to stop physical punishment of children and promote nonviolent discipline — I want to encourage everyone to take this movement a step further than ending spanking as a discipline method. It’s time to talk about timeout and the detrimental effects this very widespread alternative to spanking has on children, families and society.

This week’s featured article is “Why you should never use timeouts on your kids” from PBS Newshour. It is written by journalist and parenting blogger Wendy Thomas Russell who shares what she’s learned about using timeouts and why they’re really no better than hitting our kids.

“Decades of neuroscience and social research have shown that timeouts and other methods of punishment are not only ineffective in steering the behavior of children but outright damaging,” Wendy writes.

You read that right.

The fact of the matter is all punishments are damaging. It doesn’t matter if its spanking or timeout or taking away privileges or any other punishment. Every form of punishment is harmful, as Wendy reports, because “it takes the core need of the child and uses it as a bargaining chip.”

The core need she points out here is emotional attachment. Timeout separates parents and children, using the child’s emotional needs as a trade — if the child wants that attachment, he or she has to do this certain behavior, even if that behavior compromises another need, such as hunger, tiredness, or acceptance…and even if that behavior is not even developmentally appropriate for that child.

I like how Wendy describes children’s misbehavior — that children simply do not misbehave. All they do is behave, and their behavior — as so many attached parents understand — is a reflection of their needs in combination with their biological development stage. So a 2-year-old child is going to behave differently when hungry or tired or unwell or sad or angry or scared or overstimulated or bored or happy than a 6 year old or an 8 year old or an 11 year old. And it’s our job, as parents, not to punish them for their innate, biologically driven behavior but to guide them toward behaviors that help them cope with the situation.

If we look at spanking, parents who use spanking or hitting or physical punishment are hurting their children in their attempt to teach. If we look at timeout, parents are also hurting their children in their attempt to teach — through isolation and ignoring — and this type of emotional pain is just as damaging to a child as physical pain. What children are learning when they’re in pain or fear of pain is much different than what they are learning when not afraid or in pain.

Think about if you are trying to learn a new skill. Let’s say it’s painting a picture. If your painting instructor yells at you, hits you, or puts you in a corner every time you make a brush stroke she doesn’t like, what are you learning? Anxiety mostly.

If that same instructor guides you on how to hold the brush, how to put the paint on the brush, how to sweep the stroke over the canvas — exercising patience for your skill level, without punishment — what are you learning? How to paint.

Some parents may see this as a long way from trying to teach children not to do certain behaviors, but what all parents are trying to teach are actually skills — life skills. And considering that children learn more from what parents model, the skills that parents are teaching when they spank, issue timeouts, or use other punishments is to feel anxious and afraid, to expect physical or emotional pain when they approach a behavior boundary, and to react to feeling angry by controlling and coercing others.

That is violence.

Let’s promote nonviolence. And we can do it. Many parents when faced with the alternative of not spanking, using timeouts, or punishment assume that there are no ways to discipline their children. But discipline does not equal punishment. There are far more ways to discipline a child without punishment than with, and to be honest, nonviolent discipline is far more effective than punishment in teaching children — every time.

Many, many, many parents who have done both punishment and positive discipline will tell you this. The problem is, many parents who use punishments and who criticize positive discipline have never really tried doing the latter. If they did, they are bound to learn what Sarah Clark at Mothering learned — that positive discipline works and doesn’t turn our children into brats and heathens, but rather into some really amazing kids motivated out of attachment, which is far more powerful than fear.

But it does take a definite learning curve for parents to learn to discipline without punishment. There’s a lot more at stake than simply changing their parenting behaviors regarding discipline. How each of us react when angry or feeling another strong emotion is tied into our own neurobiology shaped by how we ourselves were raised, and even how our parents were raised, as well as the generation we grew up in and the community and society we knew then. Punishment is rooted in a worldview that goes way beyond the moment a parent feels angry and strikes her child or shuts his child, screaming and begging (even if not out loud) to come out, in his room.

All this to say that as we gently push our society toward positive, emotionally healthy relationships, we have to be patient with one another. We have to recognize how far society has come, and while it has a long way to go, we are making progress — bit by bit — through this Attachment Parenting movement. As parents and professionals hear more and more, from mainstream media especially, about the ever-mounting research of the negative effects of spanking, timeouts and other punishments — more parents will be willing to go through the hard work of addressing their often generations-deep perspectives on what it means to have a healthy relationship and to change their hearts toward parenting.

I applaud every parent who is on this journey toward a more trusting, empathic, affectionate, joyful, and peaceful family where punishment will some day have no home.

attachment is everythingEven $5 makes a huge difference to furthering the Attachment Parenting movement, which relies exclusively on donations, to continue providing free education and support to parents around the world

The root of bullying is shame

dr shefaliBy Dr. Shefali Tsabary, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of #EndShame. Reposted with permission.

There is a new “discipline” fad going around: Your kid does something “bad” — you post it on the Internet. You put a sign around their neck that defines their “crime” for all the world to see. After all, when they win trophies, we do the same, don’t we?

The Internet has taken on the form of the public shaming square. The belief is that communal shaming is far more powerful than shaming on a one-on-one basis.

The tragedy here is that responses have been “high-fives” applauding the parents for being brave to put their children’s limitations out there.

This doesn’t surprise me, given that millions just don’t know what to do when their kids’ behavior goes awry. Desperate, many are willing to try just about anything, which accounts for the popularity of many of these latest “discipline” fads.

Parents truly believe that this sort of public shaming will leave a long-lasting impact on their children, ensuring that they will never engage in negative behaviors again. Little do they realize that these reactions do little to create the introspection necessary to limit negative behaviors and all to do with creating shame, which is the true driver behind them.

When we enforce discipline on our children, we are punishing them. We may not like to admit this, but these actions in the name of “discipline” are highly punitive — not just obvious ones but also our passive-aggressive ones.

Any “discipline” that is enforced by an action that the parent does to the child is punitive on some level. It is the opposite of allowing consequences to teach our children. And our children know there is something desperately askew in this method.

Children resent being punished, on a public level or on a subtle level — resent us for punishing them. To punish only develops shame, which transforms into hostility, while further into the teens can lead to serious acting-out. In contrast, allowing natural consequences to teach a child develops self-discipline, which is what we want in our children.

Enforced discipline does the exact opposite of developing self-discipline in our children. Punishment undercuts the teaching power of natural consequences.

Oh, it’s certainly true that you can bully kids into good behavior. And not just kids. Husbands and wives, bosses at work and some of higher rank in the armed forces have long bullied to get the results they want.

The fact is, bullying works — for a time. Then it boomerangs.

When we bully someone into conforming, we might well destroy what may be the last shreds of self-worth the individual has. Because it’s only from a low sense of their worth that any child engages in bullying another child — just as this is the only reason a parent bullies their own child, a spouse bullies their spouse or a superior bullies someone of lower rank in the forces…a topic we’re increasingly hearing about in the media.

While people can be bullied into behaving a certain way for a time, human beings only live a lifetime as good people doing good things for others when they feel good themselves. Feeling good begets doing good.

It’s long been believed that humans are fundamentally flawed and that they need to be forced into doing good. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We come into the world as wonderful individuals whose greatest joy comes from bringing joy to others.

Think about a time when you felt really great. Perhaps you just fell in love, or got a new job you really wanted, or got a promotion. Doesn’t the grass look greener, the sky bluer? Doesn’t it make you want to share your happiness with the world?

Sadly, through home life, school and society in general, we soon learn not to feel too good about ourselves. The less we feel great, the more we exhibit behavior toward others that’s not all that great.

So how do you bring about a change of heart?

We change the focus.

The focus till now has always been on the child. People want to know how to get their children to “behave differently.” This is where I believe we miss the point.

In my own life, I put the focus on myself. As a clinical psychologist who sees many parents and their children, whenever my daughter exhibits less than desirable behavior, I ask what this is saying about me as a parent.

Children are a mirror of our own unresolved issues. So if a child bullies, that child’s needs are in some way going unmet. No child who feels delightful within themselves — whose emotional needs are being met because they feel truly “heard” by the parent — bullies like this.

The bullying is the child’s scream for help, not for punishment, and certainly not for shaming.

Once you realize that a low sense of self-worth — stemming from not truly feeling valued by and connected to the parent — is at the root of the bullying, to lower how good the child feels about herself even more by shaming her could boomerang in a terrible way. How would the parent feel if the child no longer felt their life was worth living?

What we need to address as parents are:

  • Where am I, as the parent, failing to connect with my child?
  • What in the child longs to be recognized but is being ignored?
  • How can I help mitigate the feelings of inferiority and shame that my child experiences?
  • And most importantly, how am I projecting my own internal shame onto my child?

Unless we begin to turn the spotlight within and ask these difficult but essential questions, our children will live in the legacy of shame which will continue into future generations. And the epidemic of bullying will continue to soar.

To spank, or not to spank?

Effie2 (2)I recently came across a social media post that opened with the following phrase: “Have to laugh at people who are against spanking.” The post stated that spanking leads to a child learning respect and boundaries with the absence of any trust issues and hatred toward the parent, and so on and so forth. It concluded with: “Repost if you got your butt smacked and survived.” I couldn’t disagree more. My feelings were a mixture of appall, irritation and sadness. And no, I didn’t feel like laughing at anyone!

In the role of parents, we are our children’s first and most important role models. We are our children’s leaders, their advocates. When leaders say one thing but do another, they do erode trust — an essential element of productive leadership. I believe that the most effective teaching by a parent is accomplished by setting a positive example for the child to witness and learn from.

Actions are more powerful than words, and our kids observe us conduct ourselves in this world. Whether we offer help to an elder crossing the street, are courteous to the cashier at the supermarket or show respect to our own parents — whether we shout profanities at our fellow drivers, mistreat those who work for us, or bad-mouth our family and friends — each of our actions signal to our kids what is appropriate and acceptable behavior.

effie teddybear for spanking postWhen we spank our child as a consequence of unwanted behavior, what are we communicating to that child? What are the messages that child may be sensing? We teach him — by our own example, through our actions — that it’s acceptable to manage anger and discontent with violence. Furthermore, we may be encouraging a cycle of violence as we are providing him with improper tools to handle his anger and other intense emotions.

There are many adults who were physically punished as children and are supportive of physically punishing their children, reasoning that they “survived.” The above-mentioned post has more than 24,000 likes, and that number keeps growing. To them I say:

  1. Good for you that you survived!
  2. Most of us don’t want to simply “survive” in this life. We want to thrive!
  3. Children can be damaged in many ways and spend much of their adult life untying the knots their parents had created for them — unleashing themselves from all the pain and humiliation inflicted upon them at an innocent, young age.
  4. I have to keep in mind that many people lack personal introspection and insight.

It isn’t easy being a parent. It is blissful and rewarding, but it is also challenging and exhausting. Once my second child became a toddler, I thought I crossed my biggest parenting hurdle: 5 years of sleepless nights and the suffocating dependency. I’m now realizing, I crossed a moderate hurdle, only to face the biggest one — thus far — namely, disciplining! With one of my kids being strong-minded and defiant, I have experienced fury and other emotions I wasn’t aware existed in me. I am flawed; I crossed the line I set twice — not my proudest moments by any stretch of the imagination. I have ample sympathy for parents who struggle with discipline — every single day!

There is overwhelming evidence that physical punishment is both ineffective and harmful to child development. Instilling fear in children serves no purpose and creates feelings of shame and humiliation. Fear has been shown to lead to an increased risk of future antisocial behavior, including crime and substance abuse. Studies show that spanking and other physical punishment techniques can create ongoing behavioral and emotional problems. Harsh, physical punishment teaches children that violence is the only way to solve problems. Furthermore, controlling or manipulative discipline compromises the trust between parent and child, and harms the attachment bond. You can read more on about Attachment Parenting International‘s Seventh Principle of Parenting: Practice Positive Discipline.

In any event, I don’t need experts or studies to tell me that inflicting physical pain on my kids is wrong, on so many levels — I view it as common sense. The key principle I impart on my kids is: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.” It’s fundamentally the way I would like my kids to carry themselves in our home as well as in the world. Hence, I don’t hit my kids — spanking is just a label for a form of hitting — as I don’t enjoy being hit myself.

Needless to say, the parent is the authority figure in the family, but that still doesn’t justify acts of aggression.

We don’t exist in a Utopian world and there are the occasions when — sadly — aggression and violence are necessary in society, but this is another conversation. But aggression and violence does not have a place in the home: the one place children ought to feel secure, loved and protected — not shamed, not humiliated.

The goal of discipline — the word’s Latin root meaning “to teach” — is to change behavior. It’s a sign of strength to examine ourselves and our parenting approaches, striving to improve and evolve. So, let’s lead our kids and teach them to adjust their behavior with a gentle approach and maybe, just maybe, we the parents need a dose of discipline, too.

You can do it: You are strong enough to stop spanking

Editor’s note: April 30 was Spankout Day, an international observance designed to encourage parents to stop spanking. Attachment Parenting International‘s Seventh Principle of Parenting: Practice Positive Discipline advocates against physical punishment and further supports parents to move away from the punishing mindset.

i-love-you-795734-mThere is another way.

You don’t have to spank your kids to discipline them. Or hit. Or smack. Or swat. Or slap. Or give a good whoopin’.

You don’t have to do timeouts. Or threats. Or counting 1-2-3.

You don’t even have to yell.

Yeah, you’ll still get angry with your children. But you don’t have to do the cultural norm to raise your children to be respectful, well-behaved and with good character and moral values.

There is another way.

For parents brand-new to the idea of positive discipline, it may seem really intense at first. You have to learn a whole new way of seeing your child, your child’s intentions, yourself and your childhood — not to mention a whole new way of looking at discipline and, for some parents, child rearing as a whole.

But, wow, is it ever worth it.

It’s like stepping out of the matrix, or stepping into an alternate reality — one of freedom from the status quo, of freedom from anger and fear and the surge of emotion that comes around right before you spank your child.

Eons ago, when I was a new parent and I tried spanking, it at first seemed like the way to go. My child just ran out into the street. I yelled at her to stop, but she didn’t. I felt fear, but also anger at her “defiance.” A quick spank seemed like just what was needed at the moment. After all, I justified that my child needed to learn to listen and obey out of safety. And that spanking did get my child’s attention. She was terrified.

My daughter wasn’t scared of running out into the street, though. She was actually scared of me — her mother.

That’s really stressful for kids and their development. Children are wired to require attachment to their parents for survival. Feeling consistently scared of a parent and being securely attached to that same parent is not possible. That’s how insecure attachment happens: Infants and young children alter the way they behave around their parents in order to maintain some sort of attachment, out of a need for survival, even if that type of attachment isn’t ideal.

Secure attachment is ideal. Secure attachment means that children trust that they can approach their parent with any of their emotions, even anger or sadness or “defiance,” without fear of rejection. In insecure attachment, a child has learned that a parent’s reaction to the child’s emotions, including “defiance,” is scary. The child may react by avoiding the parent in stressful situations, becoming withdrawn or overly anxious, or developing another learned pattern of indirect and emotionally distressing behavior to cope with that fear. Insecure attachment can make for a stressful parent-child relationship over time, with more acting-out, anxiety, withdrawal or other behaviors as the child grows older. But the effect of insecure attachment doesn’t stop there: This way of attaching is how the child will respond in stressful situations in every relationship throughout his life, including marriage, parenting, even on the job.

When parents spank, it “works” because the kids are scared of the parent. That’s not the same thing as respect. But there are many parents who spank and are OK with the idea of their kids being scared of them and reacting to situations out of fear. And there is no law (in the United States) against spanking.

But be careful. Once we start hitting our children, our empathy is removed a bit. We don’t see them the same. It’s way easier to spank the next time, and to spank harder and multiple times. It’s way easier to let that anger in ourselves grow, so that we’re quicker to get angry, quicker to react in anger. It’s way easier to allow that anger, fed by the quick release in spanking our children, to take over our lives.

Spanking is a release of our, the parent’s, anger. Anger needs an outlet. It doesn’t just disappear. It’s either got to find a way out, safely or not, or it will sit in you and fester. It’ll destroy a person. That’s where anger management problems come from, but also sometimes depression or other emotional issues. Mismanaged anger, whether released or stuffed inside, is like cancer of our emotions.

When I did spank, eons ago, I found that anger did take over my life. Outwardly, to others, I was just as happy and outgoing. But when I was with my kids, I found it way easier to spank, way easier to spank harder, way easier to give more than one spanking at a time, way easier to yell, way easier to punish, way more tempting to do other types of physical punishments. And way harder to just enjoy them and accept their uniqueness and to feel empathy toward them and compassion for their strong emotions, including anger or sadness, and to see them in a positive way and to just enjoy being a parent.

So be careful with your anger.

Anger is not a bad emotion. It’s natural. It’s OK that you as a parent gets mad. It’s OK that your kid gets mad. It’s OK that your spouse or boss or friend gets mad. What is not OK is what we might do with our anger.

I stepped out of the matrix. I found my way out. Anyone can do it, too.

You’ll need to learn to control your own anger. You got to live your life the way you want your kids to live theirs. You got to be very careful to avoid hypocrisy, especially in how you handle anger and conflict resolution. Kids live what you model. In everything.

You’ll need to learn how to be an expert at emotion-coaching. You got to learn how to identify and name your emotions. You got to explore the real reasons — think back to your own childhood or life biases — about why you feel angry or fearful or embarrassed or disappointed in any given situation. Check out Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.

You’ll need to learn how to let your creativity out. Positive discipline is hugely about a secure parent-child relationship, but also hugely about problem-solving. Read all manner of positive discipline books to learn the, literally, hundreds of ways to discipline your child without spanking. My favorites are Attached at the Heart by API Cofounders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, Judy Arnall’s books Discipline Without Distress and her new Parenting with Patience, and Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

Here’s something that is critical, for anyone learning a new skill: Find a mentor — someone who has been using positive discipline for years, preferably someone who has older kids whose behavior is that you admire — and lean on that mentor day in and day out for questions, for modeling your parenting approach and for reassurance that your kids don’t need to be spanked to turn out to be great kids. A local API Leader is a great person to give support in this role.

I know from experience that stopping spanking can be hard. It can be challenging to change habits, and it can be difficult to trust in positive discipline when the only experience you have is spanking and punishments. But you can do it. You are strong enough.

Obeying out of fear

“A child who obeys out of fear will only do so as long as he or she is scared. A child like this never develops an internalized sense of right and wrong without being policed by a more powerful authority figure.” ~ Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma by Nancy Samlin

stephanie petters 2How do you feel about this statement? Did you find this to be true for you? Do you see this in those children around you?

For me, even though I was raised to obey out of fear, I still developed a sense of right and wrong because of the religious upbringing I had. But I do know that being punished meant that when I was younger I would hide things from my mom and that she and I didn’t develop a close connection because I was afraid of her and her reactions to my behavior and questions.

As parents, my husband and I don’t use punishments while setting boundaries for our daughter. We strive to be respectful in our discipline and to include my daughter in the process of problem-solving and guidance.

My daughter has a close connection with me but still hates to disappoint us. I have learned that you can set behavior limits in a loving way that isn’t the same as demanding obedience out of fear — that instead keeps the parent-child relationship intact — and still have your child learn right from wrong.

350691Editor’s note: Join this and other discussions on Goodreads through the API Reads online book club. You can read along in your own copy of Love and Anger, or even if you don’t have the book, you can follow the discussion and take away bits of parenting ideas to try in your home. Learn more about the API Reads program or join for free directly at Goodreads.

National Spank Out Day – Positive Discipline Resources

April 30th is National Spank Out Day, which was established to promote non-violent discipline of children.

Today, we aim to raise awareness about physical punishment for children, as well as educate parents about effective discipline practices that do not involve hitting and spanking.

Here, we’ve listed some of API’s resources on positive discipline, as well as information from other trusted sources. These can serve as a starting point on the path to implementing positive discipline in the home, or those familiar with positive discipline may find new tools to deepen the understanding between the parent and child.

We offer these resources to let parents know that there are alternatives to spanking that work.

From Attachment Parenting International:

“What is Misbehavior?” API Speaks

“Toddler Ten Commandments” API Speaks

“Tips to Dealing With Acting Out Behavior” The Attached Family

“The Man in the Yellow Hat Exemplifies Positive Discipline” API Speaks

Attachment Parenting International’s Effective Discipline page

The Truth About Spanking: What Parents Must Know About Physical Discipline [Teleseminar]

From Other Sources:

10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child Ask Dr. Sears

“How to Use Positive Parenting” Aha Parenting

“The Power of Touch” San Diego Family

“Connection is Key” Parenting from Scratch

Alternatives to Spanking” Positive Parents

“No More Timeouts, No More Tiger Moms” Tips on Life and Love

AP and Spanking Don’t Mix

Many parents, even many of those who are focused on creating a secure attachment with their child, spank as a form of discipline.  They may say things like…

“I only spank when….”

“I only spank after I’ve tried [XYZ] first.”

“Spanking is OK when it’s done [a certain way], but not [a certain other way].”

“We did attachment parenting when our kids were infants (past tense).”

“We follow AP, but believe in strong discipline for obedience.”

“We are AP, except for spanking.”

Attachment parenting is about raising children using parenting methods that strengthen relationships, foster empathy, and teach nonviolent communication. Spanking may elicit appropriate behavior in children, but it is a technique that, no matter how it is administered, does not support a secure attachment; it does not meet kids’ emotional needs, and it functions against the goals of AP (communication, connection).

Attachment parenting has no end date.  It is not a stage or a phase, but a mindset.  It’s a perspective that permeates the relationship between a parent and child and all of the interactions they have together.  So, the parenting goals that AP moms and dads have when their kids are infants are the same goals they have when their kids are older; communication, connection, respectful relationships.

Just because children outgrow infanthood, doesn’t mean they outgrow those needs.  And just because parents may be focused on teaching their kids appropriate behavior doesn’t mean they should ignore the principles that drew them to AP in the first place.

The goal of attachment parenting is connection, not obedience.  There is simply no attachment-promoting way to spank.

There are, however, attachment-promoting ways to discipline; to teach children those necessary elements of behavioral limits, expectations, and accountability, while still prioritizing the parent-child relationship.  Positive discipline accomplishes this.  The tools of positive discipline fit well within the context of attachment parenting because they follow the “And” principle…

  • I want to teach my kids how to behave appropriately and I want to prioritize our relationship.
  • I want my kids to be accountable for their behavior and I want to respect them (their autonomy, their development).
  • I want to parent with firmness and kindness.
  • I want to let kids know what is expected of them and I want to stay connected to them.
  • I want to teach my kids respect and I want to facilitate communication between us.

It is common to equate positive parenting with permissive parenting.  As children outgrow the AP practices of infanthood, parents frequently believe that they must “establish control” of their children, expect obedience, and enforce boundaries.  For without limits and authority, children “rule the roost,” right?

Yes, children certainly need limits.  Yes, they need clear boundaries.  Yes, parents must communicate their expectations and hold kids accountable for their behavior.  And yes, parents can teach kids these things without punishments, without threats, without inducing fear, and without spanking.

At the start of her 7-week Positive Discipline classes, author and parent educator Jane Nelsen asks parents, “How many of you would try one other parenting tool before you spanked?”  Inevitably, every hand goes up. She continues and asks, “How many of you would try two things before spanking?”  Hands stay up.  “Three things?  More?”  And still, the hands stay up.

So, many parents are, indeed, aware of the limitations of spanking.  Many parents spank because they are exasperated with their child’s behavior and want it to stop but don’t know what else to do.  This is exactly what Positive Discipline classes do; they give parents new tools for disciplining effectively and non-punitively, while fostering and maintaining an emotional connection with their children.

As children outgrow the practices of AP such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping, they grow into other ones.  Different techniques accomplish the same attachment-oriented goals: connection, security, respectful communication. It is possible to fill parenting toolboxes with a supply of non-punitive, connection-enhancing alternatives to spanking.

There are many.  Some are in-the-moment reactive, while others are primarily proactive.  All are able to accomplish the same results as spanking (setting limits, expecting accountability, teaching kids appropriate behavior) but with the important element of respect.  These are just some (very condensed) examples taken from the set of Positive Discipline Parenting Tools:

  • Positive time out—both parents and children can take take time to cool off and access our rational brains.
  • Focus on solutions—move from thinking, “What can I do to get through to you?” to “What can we do to solve this problem?”
  • Wheel of choice—brainstorm solutions to everyday conflicts to give kids choices in problem solving.
  • Distract and redirect—turn a “don’t” into a “do.”
  • Eye to eye—communication becomes more respectful when you look into your child’s eyes.
  • Hugs—for children and parents alike; we all do better when we feel better. Physical affection restores brain chemistry to a calm, rational state.
  • Limited choices—provide small steps in shared power.
  • Listen—your children will listen after they feel listened to.
  • Use mistakes as opportunities for problem solving, not punishment.
  • Validate feelings—don’t fix, rescue, or talk children out of their feelings, and have faith in them to work it through.
  • Agreements—brainstorm with a child to find a solution everyone can agree to.  If the problem occurs, remind the child, “What was our agreement?”
  • Connection before correction—when emotional connection is in place, the need for correction is greatly minimized.
  • Break the code—misbehavior is an external code for an internal problem; get at the root of the problem and the behavior will change.
  • Empower your kids—share control to help kids develop skills to have their own power.
  • Natural consequences—allow kids to experience the natural consequences of their choices without interference from you.
  • Encouragement—a misbehaving child is a discouraged child and needs to be encouraged rather than made to feel worse.
  • Use nonviolent communication—Speak in acknowledgements, “You feel hurt and you need someone to understand,” rather than in judgments, “When will you ever learn?”
  • Take time for teaching—teach kids what to do and be patient with the learning process.
  • Special time—schedule regular one-on-one time with each child.
  • Curiosity questions—ask questions to understand the child’s intentions, motives, feelings and needs.
  • Show faith—have faith in children to handle their mistakes.
  • Sense of humor—turn discipline into playful parenting.

And there are even more.  Not all tools are applicable to every situation, and some tools work better in combination with others. Every situation is different with every family.  For more information and explanation on the tools, you can take a class near you or get the Positive Discipline Parenting Tool Cards.

Parenting non-punitively is definitely more time consuming than administering a spanking, but it is infinitely more valuable.  A trusting, encouraging, secure relationship is possible with our newborns, grown-up children and every age in between.  It affects how they see themselves and how they relate to the world, and it starts now.

Redirection as a Discipline Tool…For Parents!

Victoria Parsons
Victoria Parsons

victoria 2

The beautiful little girl in these pictures is my niece Victoria. I will never forget the day Victoria’s mom called me and I could hear the panic and anger in her voice. As the story unfolded I could also tell that she called me as a means of protecting her daughter from the anger she was feeling more than anything else. She was mad. And although she asked for advice, that was secondary. She needed redirection. And I don’t blame her! Oh the mess!

My brother, Victoria’s dad, and his family had only recently moved into their new home. They had picked new paint colours and a vibrant pink was chosen for Victoria’s room. The cans of paint were left in each room waiting for the time when mom would get around to painting the walls. As you can see Victoria couldn’t wait. My very clever niece used a kitchen butter knife to pry open the paint and went to work painting the room herself. A smaller knife with a sharp edge is the perfect in-between knife for children 6 to 10 years old. Their hands aren’t quite large enough for a full-sized knife, but they have the hand-eye coordination required to yield a real knife blade. A paring knife might seem like a good transitional knife, but its dainty size doesn’t allow enough clearance between handle and a cutting board for tiny hands. A brightly colored knife, and one with a sheath for covering the blade, is a beautiful way to create a sense of ownership for your tiny chef. You can also check out the best knife reviews before buying. There’s no got to wait until they will argue with us to urge the ball rolling. Giving kids responsibility for his or her actions, their belongings, and their home helps combat the prolific creep of entitlement so evident in much of today’s society. One of the foremost difficult hassles to affect is an insect infestation within the home. Among the various insects which will enter your house, pesticide for roaches and ants are the foremost despised. Just one roach can cause you to want to tear your hair out. And if ants find food in your kitchen or within the remainder of your house, you’ll quickly find yourself with many them marching in and out.

When her mom discovered the mess she called me. “What do I do?” she asked desperately. My reply was “take pictures.” She was a little taken aback at my reply. But it only took a short while to convince the photographer in her that this was worth shooting. So she did. And I’m ever so grateful she did. These are treasures.

Of course she did have a conversation afterwards with Victoria about what she was thinking and why she decided to paint her room. And her reasons were quite logical. First of all, her mom hadn’t yet. Plus, she wanted to play “Trading Spaces” a HGTV home decor show where neighbours decorated a room in each others homes. Her brother refused so she went ahead herself and got started. Perfectly logical in the mind of a 3 year old! The show was a favourite of mom’s and the kids enjoyed it as well. In fact, mom later sent them off to the Life Network where they gave such joy there that my niece was rewarded with a t-shirt from the network!

In the course of all this, many people would suggest that my niece should have been punished. In traditional discipline I cannot imagine what would have happened to a child who had gotten up to such mischief. In fact I suggest that many of us, as children, would have been severely punished for this sort of thing. I’m sure I would have. But what would that have truly accomplished that wasn’t accomplished by a different reaction? My niece understood by the severity of her mother’s emotions when she was discovered that she had done wrong. She didn’t need punishment. She felt bad enough. Even though she was eventually photographed and fussed over, at just under 4 years old, she understood that this was not something she should attempt again. She watched her parents pull out the carpet in her brand new bedroom and work to remove paint where necessary and repair the damage that was done. She understood and she felt remorse.

And the parents, particularly Victoria’s mom is probably much prouder of her reaction at the time than if she’d lost control and spanked Victoria instead of calling me first to talk her down. Who knows how that would have gone? In such an angry state, hardly anyone would have blamed her for using corporal punishment, but not using it took greater self-control and strength and that is something to be very proud of.

And what of Victoria? Without punishment has she gone into a life of destruction? Is she a vandal now, wreaking havoc wherever she goes? Of course not. She’s a wonderful, well-behaved, well-loved and loving child. She’s delightful and sweet these many years later. She has not repeated the behaviour at all. She felt remorse, learned a lesson and I’m confident she will not repeat this or similar actions. Even without punishment! Imagine that.

We speak of redirection for children when they are young, to remove them from the temptation to do wrong, steering them gently in the direction we’d have them go, instead of allowing them to hit a playmate or snatch a toy.

As parents we need sometimes to redirect ourselves. We need to grab a cup of tea, go for a walk, call a friend, or grab the camera to help us through those angry moments when we’ve lost our tempers and feel like lashing out at our children for their antics. Long term the memories will be happier, the final outcome will likely remain unchanged, but the most important thing is that our relationship and attachment with our children is undamaged by our behaviour in the heat of the moment.

Do you have any examples of ways you redirected yourselves when tempted to slip back into the punishment style of discipline? They don’t have to be quite as dramatic as my neice’s little escapade!

Carolyn R. Parsons is a writer. She is married to Kent Chaffey and they have four daughters, aged 3 to 18. She blogs at BreezeDaze. Her first book, a poetry collection called Wind Rhymes will be published at the end of September.

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

© 2008-2022 Attachment Parenting International All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright