No Drama Parenting Tactics that Promote Peace

April 30th, 2015 by Dionna | Comments Off on No Drama Parenting Tactics that Promote Peace
Posted in Consensual Living, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting

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No Drama Parenting Tactics that Promote Peace

Recently I wrote about “changing the shark music,” and how my attitude in approaching my children’s behavior sets the tone for the entire interaction. The authors of No Drama Discipline expand on this idea in their very practical chapter on “addressing behavior.” I want to share some tips from this chapter that have been helpful in my own parenting lately.

Ask Two Questions

The authors of No Drama Parenting talk a lot about engaging kids’ “upstairs brains,” the part of the brain that uses logic, communicates, and learns from discipline. It is the “downstairs brain” that explodes in anger, cowers in fear, or runs away from conflict. You can read more about the upstairs and downstairs brain in Name It to Tame It, Poking the Lizard and in the NPN wrap-up post on the chapter about Your Brain on Discipline.

So when you’re getting ready to discipline, one of the questions to ask yourself is whether your child is ready. Is she in a place that she feels connected and ready to engage with her upstairs brain? (For more help here, check out Connection Helps Calm the Chaos and Moving Kids from Reaction to Reception.)

And just as important, you must also ask yourself whether YOU are ready. When your emotions are high and you feel more reactive than responsive, that’s when you are more likely to discipline out of fear or anger, not out of love and a desire to teach. It takes practice and discipline (<-- ha, see what I did there?) to breathe, to pause, to wait until you are calm; but “when your kids have messed up in some way, you want to redirect them back toward their upstairs brain. So it’s important to be in yours, too.”1

Is it difficult to remain calm in the face of stress? Is it easy to keep your cool when your toddler is screaming and flailing on the floor, when your preschooler hits you, when your 8 year old lies to you? No. It’s not. It takes practice and patience. The authors make this point:

When your three-year-old is throwing a tantrum, remember that she’s only a small child with a limited capacity to control her own emotions and body. Your job is to be the adult in the relationship and carry on as the parent, as a safe, calm haven in the emotional storm. How you respond to your child’s behavior will greatly impact how the whole scene unfolds. So before you redirect, check yourself and do your best to keep calm. That’s a pause that comes from the upstairs brain but also reinforces the strength of your upstairs brain. Plus, when you show abilities like this to your children, they’re more likely to learn such skills themselves.

Be Curious. Describe, Don’t Preach

Reframing the way you approach your children’s behavior gives your children the benefit of the doubt. Instead of being accusatory, be curious. Ask questions. Assume the best intentions. When children feel defensive and accused, it is harder to connect.

Imagine that your child wrote all over your walls with markers. You could get angry and yell. But yelling will alienate your child and distract both of you from the lesson you are trying to teach – that writing does not belong on the walls.

Instead of yelling, you could start by asking questions. Be curious. “Why did you write here? Tell me about your pictures. Can you think of other places we could draw instead? How do you think we can get this off of the wall?” And then engage your child while you clean it up together. Get some paper out, tape it on the wall and turn the wall into an easel. Make it a moment of connection.

Related to curiosity, another approach parents can use is to describe the behavior they are seeing. Describe your child’s emotions – remember that naming the emotions is one step to taming them.

When describing what you see, keep in mind that parents tend to over-talk. Kids don’t need lectures on their mistakes. They generally know what behavior is not desirable. So give a one or two sentence description of what you see happening, then invite your child to calmly tell you what’s going on. Your child may be able to help clarify something that was not obvious to you.

After you’ve worked together to describing the problem, engage your child in helping you find a solution to the problem.

The goal here is to let you child know that your default response is not to get angry, accusatory, or to yell or punish. We want our children to know that the default response is to connect, to visit, to give them opportunities to explain, and to gain insight.2 This kind of connection, this feeling of being heard, will lead to more cooperation.

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If these tips resonate with you, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of No Drama Discipline at your local library or on Amazon. This book has been so helpful to both me and my husband in reteaching us parenting strategies to connect with our kids.

What are your go-to parenting strategies to develop cooperation and trust from your children?

Photo adapted (cropped, words added) from Daria with permission via Flickr Creative Commons.

  1. No Drama Discipline at 168.
  2. No Drama Discipline at 180.

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