This summer, things have gotten a little unruly in my house. Perhaps it's the lack of structure that summertime brings. Perhaps it's the staying up late and subsequent over-tiredness. Perhaps it's being gone out of town on vacation a few times that has thrown us off. Or perhaps my parenting has gotten a little too lax. Whatever it is, I was overcome by an urgent desire to buy a parenting book, late one night after a particularly challenging day. My sister had taken a parenting class based on the principles of the book "Positive Discipline" and she'd spoken highly of it, so I decided to give it a try.
I have purchased many parenting books over the years, and most of them have been helpful in one way or another. But none have felt as overall right as this one does. Jane Nelson's approach really resonates with me. I started a running list of my favorite techniques. I thought I would share my list here, in case any of these principles are helpful to any of you. (I recommend the whole book, of course, which gives the context, examples, and the "why" behind all these ideas, but meanwhile even just this brief list might be helpful.)
Here is a sampling of the techniques I find myself using most often, so far:
Decide what you will do, not what you will make them do. Example: Instead of nagging the kids to roll closed the cereal and cracker bags inside the box, I simply decided to confiscate all boxes found open. They can leave them open all they want, as long as they are willing to lose access to those foods for 2 days afterwards. Problem solved. This technique is supposed to help us avoid power struggles with our children.
Don't get involved in sibling conflict. My new standby phrase: "I'm looking forward to hearing how the two of you work this out." The idea here is that the conflict becomes less frequent and less intense when the kids figure out it doesn't gain them any attention or sympathy from mom. Jury's out on whether this will work over time, but I'm optimistic based on what I've seen so far.
Hold a weekly family meeting. When an issue comes up, I write it on the agenda hanging on the wall. I don't try to resolve it in that moment, if emotions are running high. I just put it on the agenda, and we discuss it during family meeting when everybody is calm.
Go to your calm place. When the kids get angry or upset, I'm asking them to go to their calm place instead of sending them to a time out. The idea is to identify a pleasant place that they like to be, giving them a chance to calm down so we can then discuss what happened and how to solve it.
Focus on solutions rather than punishment. My new catchphrase: "How can we solve this problem?" I love the mindset that conflicts and behavior issues are rooted in a problem, and that problem can be solved. When an issue comes up, I'm asking each person to propose a solution, and facilitate a process where everybody listens to everybody else's proposed solution. We go back and forth until we have a solution that everybody can agree on.
As I read deeper into the book, and re-read and better absorb the material, I'm sure I'll add to this list and perhaps post again. It's really helping me to have some new tools in my toolbox. Hope something in the list proves useful to you too!
Have a great week!
Have a great week!