Positive Discipline Lesson Five, Part One

Welcome to lesson five! If you are new to this series, the links to the first four lessons are on the left in the sidebar (six technically, as lesson four had three parts). If you’re not new to this series, then you have been patiently awaiting this installment and I love you for it.

This lesson focuses on how to use a few tools we have already learned about (and of course, explains the ‘why’ behind them). ‘Connection Before Correction’, natural and logical consequences and focusing on solutions through the family meetings and the wheel of choice. I have mentioned before that I feel the right balance is between this book, the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, and your own common sense and knowledge of your child and each situation. I totally agree with the connection before correction reminders in this lesson, I still agree with all the little reminder cards, however I do not always agree with the examples of natural and logical consequences outlined in this book. I absolutely agree with the concept of natural and logical consequences, just not necessarily the examples given. Having said that, we of course have the freedom to choose how we implement these ideas. Once we are done with this book, I will go over How to Talk… and then try to explain the balance I aim for in our family.

Shortly after I started this series, I made reminder cards to share with anyone practicing Positive Discipline, you can get them here. Two of the cards are ‘Connection Before Correction’ and ‘Anger Wheel of Choice’. Both of these concepts sounded so dorky to me before I started implementing this way of life and now I can’t imagine not using them!

The beginning of this lesson reviews a few key concepts, to make sure you have a firm grasp on them, and that you understand how important they are. The first is that a child’s primary goal is to belong and be accepted, and that focusing on making sure your love gets through to them in each situation should be your primary goal! We are given six ways to make sure your message of love gets through:

1. Get down to eye level with your child, or even have them stand on a chair to get up to eye level with you. I remember first doing this long before I knew about Positive Discipline, everything I read told me to crouch down to my son’s level, but I got him standing on the kitchen chairs to get up to mine and the simple act of feeling bigger went a long way to diffuse some difficult situations. It is hard for children to connect when they are being looked down on by an adult, often times they feel ‘small’ in self as a result of feeling small in size.

2. Listen to your child before you speak to them. This is so crucial because there are so many times when just listening before you freak out and jump to the wrong conclusion can stop an incident before it even begins. Even if you come to discover that everything you assumed about the situation is correct, allowing your child to tell you what’s going on does not only the obvious job of ensuring the child that you know what really happened, it tells the child that you care about what they have to say.

3. Without trying to fix the problem, validate your child’s feelings about it. Whether the problem at hand is something easily fixable or not, take the time to stress to your child that how they feel about the situation is perfectly ok. It is alright to be angry, or sad, or upset. Think about any time you were told you were overreacting, not a great feeling.

4. Show your support while allowing your child to really feel the consequences of their choices. This can be so hard. It can be something totally benign like mourning the loss of a forgotten melted popsicle, but it can be as hard as breaking a favorite toy or as tricky as being hungry after not eating dinner. Children need to feel the consequences of their choices to help them make better ones in the future, so without swooping in to ‘fix’ the problem, just make sure they know you love and support them while they go through it.
Note: It is important to have some ground rules in place for the end of the spectrum things like being hungry after dinner, it’s harder to fall asleep and can leave kids with mixed feelings especially since there is a good chance they really were full after dinner. A quick PB sandwich or even a glass of milk and plain bread would do the trick.

5. Give everyone involved some time to calm down before brainstorming a solution. Heated tempers in frustrated kids are not going to get you the best responses. Allowing everyone to take a breather and revisit the situation once everyone has calmed down helps your child not just learn this essential life skill, but also helps them to feel important in the moment instead of more stressed out.

6. HUGS!

It is stressed at this point in the book, and I feel it is a good time to be reminded, that Positive Discipline tools do not work until children feel belonging and significance. So, until you have ‘connection before correction’ down, all of the tools in this series will take that much longer to really work. The overall concept is gently guiding our children to be wonderful, well adjusted adults, right? Keep that in mind when you think about connection, allowing anything to get in the way of that connection, (like anger or frustration), will make the correction feel like punishment, even if it isn’t.

There is a slightly hokey exercise in this lesson. I do not expect you to actually do it as much as I want you to play it out in your head and at least get the feel of the point they are trying to get across. It is called the Thermometer Exercise and it’s purpose is to use the concepts of hot and cold temperatures as a metaphor for feeling hot and cold in terms of temperament towards others. The experiment has you working with another adult, with you role playing the part of your child. Essentially, you are to stand near each other and role play some situations. Every time the adult uses words that are discouraging, you are to take a step back from them, and then of course each time the adult uses encouraging language, you are to take a step closer. I’m sure you see where this is going (and really, can be related to any relationship in your life), the more encouraging you are, the closer your connection to your children. Just also remember that while yes, we are all human and make mistakes, the more discouraging or sloppy in your interactions with your children, the more you grow apart. <3 As for natural consequences, there are many people I see in my day to day life trying to do this and frankly, it gets messy. This is one of the times when having implemented ideas from How to Talk changes the situation, many of these situations will not even come up once How to Talk is working it's magic in your family. There are some natural consequences that are pretty much no-brainers, but I see this played out in ways that are a little unfair. If you are going to allow your children to experience natural consequences (which I totally agree with), make sure you are not setting them up for failure. I have seen children as young as 5 or 6 miss out on activities because they forgot to bring something they needed (ballet shoes or a sport uniform, for example). This only works if there is a system in place to keep them accountable and they totally spaced on it. You might have a chart by the door reminding everyone of what they need before they leave (my husband and I do this for ourselves and we are adults). If there is a chart that you have helped them form a habit to check before they leave and they still forgot something important, it's on them. If, however, there is no system, and especially if you yourself are a little chaotic, it is not a teachable moment, it’s just an unfair expectation. There are also some personal lines to draw here. In the book the examples of ‘if you don’t eat, you’ll be hungry’ and ‘if you forget your coat, you’ll be cold’ don’t sit well with me. Carrying an extra sweater and some snacks in your bag to give a child who didn’t realize how much the temperature would change is not spoiling or rescuing.

It is very important to avoid what they call ‘piggybacking’ in addition to the the natural consequence your child has to face. Saying, ‘I told you so’, or scolding your child are examples of piggybacking. The reason that this is an issue, aside from how mean spirited it is, is it forces your child to focus on the blaming and shaming coming at them instead of on the natural outcome of their choices. So a perfect time for a child to learn through natural consequence to do (or not do) something is ruined by an adult’s show of force.

Showing empathy and understanding about the situation is the best way to go about it and allow it to be a teachable moment. Connecting with your child about it goes a long way too, if a toy was broken as a result of not putting it away, you could say something along the lines of, ‘I know it is sad and frustrating that your toy is broken, I’ve had things I care about broken too because they were not put away’. Don’t lie if you can’t relate though, even a simple, ‘I can see you are very upset about your toy getting broken’. Just any validation that is kind and genuine will help them understand that this is not a punishment, it is just what sometimes happens when the choice to not pick up after yourself is made.

The next topic dealt with in this lesson is logical consequences. This is another area where I am not 100% in line with Positive Discipline. It is worth visiting though, and letting you in on how I tweak it a little. If you are also using How to Talk, a lot of these kinds of things would not even happen in the first place, so since I am coming from that mindset it is hard to view these consequences as logical, when to me, logical would just be to help your children learn to not get into these messes in the first place.*

Logical consequences are different than natural consequences because they require a parent to happen. The examples given are breaking a window, bringing a toy to school (assuming there is a rule against this), missing the bus and not putting your clothes in the hamper. The logical consequences given for these examples range from expected, in my opinion, to a bit much and border on (what I would consider) mean. However, the logical consequences given in this lesson are not the only options for these situations and frankly I wouldn’t choose any of them. I would still use logical consequences, just not the suggested consequences. The idea is that when there is absolutely no consequence for a given action, it is reasonable for an adult to intervene and create a teachable lesson where perhaps there was not one.

  

Deciding on a logical consequence should follow this little formula, they name is a little silly, but helps you remember that you need 3 Rs and 1 H. If any of four are missing, it is not really a logical consequence.

The Three Rs and an H of Logical Consequences

1. Related

2. Respectful

3. Reasonable (to everyone concerned)

4. Helpful

I really look at Positive Discipline as treating my children like actual people and not ‘less than’. So much of Positive Discipline breaks down that way, so when I think about consequences, I think about how it would turn out if I presented it to my husband or my best friend. If the situation would make me feel petty or mean, I’m not going to use it with my child. We will all have different ideas about what is reasonable and helpful, so naturally we will not all apply the same consequence to a given situation, but that’s ok as long as we all follow the model as well as we can and use it to teach.

We need to remember to focus on the solution, a good logical consequence will actually solve your problem, whereas a consequence that isn’t logical at all will just feel like punishment and not help the situation at all.

The lesson goes on to underline the importance of family meetings and really using them as a way to grow together and help each other, not an opportunity to micromanage your family. It also gets more into the Wheel of Choice, and I will give that it’s own post next Sunday so it doesn’t get buried here.

*The given examples of breaking a window, bringing a toy to school, missing the bus and not putting laundry in the hamper are either covered by How to Talk or by the routines we all have in place from previous lessons on Positive Discipline. Breaking a window is an accident that can happen to anyone, but in How to Talk, an open dialogue about dangerous behavior and even potentially dangerous behavior is always ongoing. It is totally natural for a child that is growing up in a How to Talk home to either already have an established safe place to play or to ask about where to play a new game. Our morning routine example did not include getting ready to go to school because we homeschool, but when we did go to school, checking backpacks was part of the evening and morning routines. For a child to take a toy to school, they would have to either talk to you about it, or deliberately be sneaky, which is a whole other situation. Missing the bus would fall under the morning routine of getting ready to leave, and not putting clothes in the hamper is covered by the tidy up part of the evening routine. How to Talk addresses things like staying on track and gentle reminders.

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