Please excuse all the hiccups my computer is having…something is very wrong with my keyboard…..
So, in our last “back to basics” post, we looked at how to develop a framework in order to look at guiding our children in a loving way. Another post that may help stimulate some thought on this topic is this back post regarding how parents view children as “defiant”. You can find that post here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/
When using gentle discipline, the question becomes what tools does one use to guide? Here is a handy list of things to think about!
1. Your Own Inner Work/Physical State. If you are exhausted, running ragged, not going to bed, not eating well, not exercising, not dressing yourself and looking pretty, I can almost guarantee that things on the home front will not be going well. Please, please, step back from everything outside your family and home for a week and get your house in order as much as you can, go to sleep when your babies go to sleep, arrange some help (yes, you must ask! I know how hard that is, but people love you and it gives people a chance to give to you!). You must have something to give to your children, and that starts with you. There are many, many posts on here regarding parenting exhaustion and parenting burn-out and what to do. Please use the search engine on this blog with those terms and see what comes up that resonates with you.
2. Attachment and connection are key. This is why I write so much about attachment on this blog. We have recently been going chapter by chapter through the book “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate, and perhaps that will give you some background and inspiration.
How do you connect with a young child? A young child is in their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart. Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable. I have written several posts on the “love languages” of children that you can go back to and look at. What is the love language of your child? Do you know? How do you use this EVERY DAY to help you?
Your relationship with this child is what carries the discipline. Please do not use “discipline” as an excuse to squash your child’s will and personality. Understand your child’s temperament and use that to help and guide you.
Use your words like the pearls that they are!
3. Imitation – Rahima Baldwin Dancy says this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”: “If you want to teach a certain behavior to your child, one of the best ways is to actually do it in front of (or with) him. This demands that we as adults get up and actually do something, rather than giving the child orders or directions.”
4. Humor – Lots of parents take parenting very seriously. But please don’t take every word that comes out of your small child ‘s mouth so seriously and feel whatever they say is in deep need of serious explanation and weight.
Distraction – this is a viable tool for all children under 7, and even children that are 7 or 8 can still be fairly distractible. However, this takes creativity in the heat of the moment to think of an appropriate distraction. Distraction is not a bribe; it is a way to change to scene to your advantage.
Distraction can also show itself by changing the environment. Some children just need to be outside when they are upset!
6. Using your words to paint a picture in the consciousness of your small child under the age of 7. This is a Waldorf tool that is very useful with small children. Instead of pulling children into their heads and into a thought-decision kind of process, try using phrases that paint a picture instead. This can be anything from “Turn that siren down!” for a noisy little one or “Hop like a bunny over here for some food.” You are re-directing behavior into something more positive through the images that arise from these types of phrases. For those interested in more about pictorial imagery, please do see Donna Simmons’ bookstore and look under her audio downloads for her CD entitled, “Talking Pictorially” at www.christopherushomeschool.org. There is also mention of this with examples on the free Christopherus Audio Download about Waldorf Education as a therapeutic education.
I have written an entire post on this subject here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/
And here is a post regarding talking to the seven and eight-year-old: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/26/how-to-talk-to-your-seven-and-eight-year-old/
7. On the subject of words, try limited choices, less words or no words at all – Sometimes just a look suffices more than a hundred words. Try just helping your child get into their coat while you sing a song that you usually sing when you go outside. Try just handing your child their toothbrush after their bath instead of a whole book about the necessity of dental hygiene.
8. Time-in. According to Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting,
“Sometimes parents are advised to use a time-out instead of spanking their kids – as though these were the only two options available. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means. If we were forced to choose one over the other, then, sure time-outs are preferable to spankings. For that matter, spanking kids is preferable to shooting them, but that’s not much of an argument for spanking.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 65-66.
“Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 26-27.
So, consider the value of time-in instead. Some families have a place where adults and children can sit together until they all calm down, some mothers just have their child sit near them while they do some sort of rhythmical work.
9. Ignoring –yup, you heard me right. The Gesell Institute books routinely recommend turning a blind eye to some of your child’s behaviors if it is not hurting others or themselves (or just driving you plain crazy!). There are times to draw a line in the sand, but if you nit-pick every behavior, you are on the verge of demanding, and not commanding as an Authentic Leader.
10. Physical follow-through – If you say something to a small child, you should expect to have to physically help them follow through. You should expect to have to physically hold an upset child if they need it. The physicality of life with a small child is always there – hugs, kisses, a lap to sit on and help to do things as needed. The child’s respect and dignity always needs to be respected, so you need to be calm when you are following through, but please remember a young child under 7 is probably not going to function well on verbal directives alone.
Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”: “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to authority that is expressed only through the spoken word without being accompanied by actions. With the preschool age child, you need to correct and demonstrate again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it. Their memories simply aren’t that mature yet.”
11. RESTITUTION – How does the child make this right? No moralizing, no lecture, just what ACTION can they take to make it right? Do this AFTER a time-in, after everyone has calmed down!
11. FREEZE! One of the best tools in parenting is learning to take that quick pause in your mind’s eye and ask yourself if what you are about to do is going to help your child be the adult they were meant to be; is it going to escalate or de-escalate the situation, is it going to teach your child something or is it just a moment of anger for you that will pass?