August 24th, 2015
We have all heard that sentence uttered as a way of condoning what our own parents may have done or what we may also have done to our own children.
I was revisiting an interesting discussion about smacking that appeared on BBC Women’s Hour over 5 years ago. The post is still available at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s8hyy and is still worth listening to.
Five years on, the debate about smacking children still shows how polarised the opinions are on this subject. For over 15 years now, all of us at the Parent Practice have become familiar with the different views about smacking children.
The evidence is that overwhelmingly when parents smack their children they do so, not in a controlled way to discipline them, but because the parent is overwhelmed by their own emotions. Perhaps they are so overcome with fear - as in the example given in the programme - when a child runs into the street, or out of anger or frustration. Often it’s because in the moment they don’t know what else to do –they feel powerless.
Here’s the thing, though. A child that has been smacked knows full well (even if they can’t articulate it) that his or her parent has lost control. One of the fastest ways to lose your children’s respect is through using smacking as a means of discipline.
There is no doubt at all that discipline is necessary but the point of any method of discipline is to teach and smacking is the least effective of all the tools at our disposal if teaching is our goal. Children are not so open to learning if they are shocked and hurting. We are in danger of teaching them something we don’t intend if we use smacking - that when you are an adult you can use your power to hurt, that you can resolve conflict or get your way by hurting. That is not what parents intend when they smack and I would never judge a parent for smacking but it is clear that parents need to be supported in the difficult job of raising children by giving them tools other than smacking.
In the five years since this segment appeared on Women’s Hour, the movement towards Positive Discipline has thankfully gathered speed and support. We now know – through brain science - that positive discipline brings with it so many benefits. In his book, No Drama Discipline, Dan Siegel outlines the benefits as: “foster[ing] development that builds good relationship skills and improves your children’s ability to make good decisions, think[ing] about others, and act[ing] in ways that prepare them for lifelong success and happiness.” Positive discipline is a way to build a healthier brain through teaching children appropriate behaviours.
Whenever the discussion about smacking arises, Haim Ginott’s much quoted comment is essential to share.
“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.
When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility.
When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.
When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.”
Did those parents who were smacked as children (many of us) turn out all right? Maybe not if they advocate smacking as form of discipline.
To find out more about how to effectively use positive discipline, sign up for our newsletter at http://www.theparentpractice.com/signup and we’ll send you a free copy of our Positive Discipline parenting insight.
August 17th, 2015
My only child has just turned 12. For the last 6 years she has been repeatedly asking for a sibling - in the form of a dog. After years of promises and procrastination we finally adopted Ozzie, a Cavapoo puppy, and I feel like I have a new baby in the house!
Just as the parents of a new baby would stock up on all the necessities, I headed down to the local pet shop! I bought chew toys, special organic puppy food and treats … and, on the recommendation of the owner, a book called The Art of Raising a Puppy, written by The Monks of New Skete, who in addition to living a monastic life, also run a well-regarded dog training facility in upstate New York. A few pages in – with my Parent Practice facilitator hat on – I did a double take! Was I reading a puppy-training book or a parenting book? Many of the things I read were looking awfully reminiscent of things that I had read in parenting books and were equally applicable. I suddenly had a surge of confidence that I can adapt the positive parenting skills I use with my daughter in order to bring out the very best in our puppy as well!
Here are some of the lessons:
Once I hit page 145, I was right back at the beginning of my daughter’s life, nursing in the rocking chair, with my head in a parenting book! Puppies, like babies … and growing children, thrive on structure and routine. While following a schedule may not have had my daughter sleeping through the night until she was well over a year old, the Monks of New Skete have made it possible for Ozzie to sleep through the night from the very first day!
“Part of training means that you become a student of your dog and employ an approach that brings out the best in him.”
This is true for raising children as well. Over time, we become the experts in our children – we start to know what triggers their upsets, what drives them, what makes them happy, and we get really good at reading their cues. While being the expert doesn’t always mean that we consistently do the right thing, it puts us in the position to choose our approach. As Goethe wrote:
“It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.”
When we choose to use the positive parenting perspective, we are choosing an approach that ultimately makes our parenting life more joyful and inspiring … and better yet, it helps us instill in our children the values, qualities, habits and behaviours that they will carry with them throughout their lives.
“Being a benevolent leader is learning the characteristics of good training: patience, fairness, consistency, attentiveness and intelligence. Good trainers may feel impatient with a dog, but they always do their best to avoid showing it. They take a long view of the training process and don’t try to do too much too quickly, building one step at a time. They keep their anger in check when things aren’t going as planned and realize that a calm and quiet approach vis-à-vis their pup is more helpful. With that sort of self possession, a trainer can be flexible, responding to what the dog needs, instead of reacting to mistakes.”
In our Being in Charge class, we ask our clients to come up with qualities and characteristics they believe inspiring leaders posses. The common responses are things like: motivating, kind, trusting, patient, charismatic, visionary, and calm.
When we are calm we are able to access all our positive parenting skills. We are able to use positive rules to consistently reaffirm our family values; we are able to use descriptive praise to build motivation, cooperation and confidence; we are able to be emotion coaches to help our children handle upsets and disappointments; and we are able to use positive discipline so that our children can make mistakes and learn how to fix them.
Another thing parenting and raising a puppy have in common is that it is most effective to take the long-term approach to training our children in the habits and behaviours that will last a lifetime. We can get our children to do things out of fear of punishment, but this doesn’t teach them to do the right thing because it is the ‘right’ thing to do. When we can look upon our children’s mistakes as opportunities for teaching and learning rather than as deeply rooted deficits, we can approach them in a whole other way – with compassion, kindness and a focus on solutions rather than blame, anger and judgment.
One of the benefits of positive parenting is the constant creation of meaningful relationships with our children. As our new addition has his mid-morning nap (lunch is in 20 minutes!), I know that he will teach us all a thing or two as well!!
August 10th, 2015
What parent does not dread that question, when travelling on a hot sweltering day, when the kids are screaming and squabbling in the back of the car and every other comment is interjected with that question in a whining voice? That is such a button pusher for parents.
“ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?”
We know sticking them in front of the i-pad in the back of the car is a quick and easy fix, but there are downsides to that and it may leave us feeling a bit guilty. We then complain about them always asking for more screen time on holiday and wonder from where this habit developed?
We think by now they SHOULD be able to recognise that Mum or Dad need a tranquil environment to drive the car and why can’t they just entertain themselves nicely and recognise that everyone is in the same position and that by now they should have learnt how to occupy themselves and not rely on us to be their entertainment director?
Sound familiar? The reality is many children may find a long car journey boring and depending on age and stage of development their ability to entertain themselves will be limited. We do need to support them and be creative, as the more we nag and criticise and scold or tell off the worse their behaviour will become.
Here are 8 top tips for how to have a successful long car journey:
August 03rd, 2015
How many times have you asked your children to do something – put the milk back in the fridge, hang up a wet towel, brush their hair … the first response you’ll hear back could be any of the following … ‘just a sec’, ‘I already did it’ - as the milk remains on the counter, the un-brushed breath still horrendous!) The truth is that when we ask our children to do something, we have an underlying expectation:
I expect that she will do it
THE WAY I WANT HER TO DO IT
EVERY SINGLE TIME
FULL OF GRATITUDE THAT SHE WAS ASKED IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Now, let’s say, you’re getting dinner ready and your child calls down for help with homework. What is your likely first response? I’m just guessing that it’s not to put everything on hold and race upstairs. You’re more likely to shout up a ‘Just a minute’ or ‘Be there in a sec”. We are just as unlikely to drop all that we’re doing – the important things on our own agendas – and immediately run and do what has been asked of us (unless it is a serious emergency).
It’s just the same with our children. Our children also have their own agendas. They have their heads in a good book, or that Lego construction is almost complete, the puzzle only has 5 more pieces to go, they’ve nearly finished that level of Minecraft … and we jump in and expect that they will drop everything and happily do exactly what we’ve asked, to our standards!
Now, I’m not suggesting for a second that our children don’t have to do what is required. There is however, a really great way to ensure that it gets done in a positive way … without the nagging, cajoling and shouting … and in just three easy steps! These steps assume that your child has a clear understanding of your family rules and knows what is required of them. Let’s say one of your rules is ‘Dinner is at 6pm.’
Step One: Go to your child. Rather than shouting from one room (or floor) to another. This is a no brainer … especially as your kids might not hear you otherwise. You save yourself the frustration of shouting. Engage with them in whatever it is that they’re doing. ‘What are you reading?’ ‘Where are you up to?’ ‘Wow, you’re almost finished the whole puzzle!’ ‘I can’t believe you got so much of the Hogwarts set built’, ‘That game looks amazing’.
Step Two: Give the instruction. It’s 6 o’clock. You know what that means, right? That’s right … dinner! And you’ve looked at me –thank you. Two more pieces and we need to go. Ask them to tell you what they have to do.
Step Three: Follow through. Stay in their space and acknowledge small steps in the right direction. Empathise with any resistance that comes up.
It IS possible! I used it just tonight as my daughter was next door, drawing with her friend. I went to her, had a look at what she was drawing, told her that it was 6pm and that dinner was on the table. She asked if she could go back after dinner. I told her that as she was already heading to the door of course she could go back!
Three easy steps! Give it a go!