Discipline without Damage
I picked up a new book recently because the title it's self grabbed me. It says everything we "Big People" worry about most. Are we damaging our children with our parenting?
Every parent worries if they are doing this whole "parenting thing" right. Am I being too strict? Am I not being too soft? Am I going to ruin my kid?…. No one is perfect but we all have the ability to grow and learn. We can learn from our experiences and be mindful of how we react to situations. That being said the Author Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, R.Psych warns that most-championed discipline methods not only don't work they are actually harmful to our children. She breaks discipline down from a science perspective and starts with an understanding of child development. How children's brains are actually forming and what we as "Big People" can do to support them.
Our need for discipline stems from our adult perspective that children will eventually need to function in the grown up world. We try to form our children into little minions who fit a perfect societal mould. "Unfortunately developmental science doesn't support this theory… Developmentally children are very different from big people. The frontal and prefrontal cortex in their brains are comparatively immature, and as a result, children have a lesser capacity for self-control". (Dr. V.Lapointe pg. 18-19). Children will eventually grow into adults and join this so called "grown up" world. We should not be using our ego's to sway our parenting choices. It is our own misconceptions of what a child should be that upsets us when they misbehave.
When our children misbehave we need to slow it down. Be mindful of our own feelings. Reacting with your first impulse in anger will generally lead to a parent-child power struggle. Taking a minute to connect your feelings to your environment and then connecting your child's feelings to their behaviour will help you to approach the situation with a much more level head. For example: you've gone out to dinner as a family. You've placed your food orders and your two children are busy colouring their kids menus. All of a sudden your daughter breaks her red crayon. She wants her little brother to give her his because "he isn't even using it". Of course he won't because "it's his". Sibling fighting commences. Restaurant patrons are staring at you. Your husband is looking like he's going to morph into "Hulk Dad" and take the kids right out of the restaurant!! what do you do? Well…every child is different so underlying personalities play a crucial role in understanding what to do. However I can give a few simple steps based on Dr. Venessa Lapointe's new book.
#1: respond with connection: allow your children to understand that you have their best intentions in mind.
#2: stay low: be calm and compassionate
#3: give an immediate simple direction of what needs to happen
#4: hold your ground but be kind
#5: give no explanations: you do not need to explain yourself to your child
#6: pick your battles (you don't always have to be right or control the situation)
#7: exit gracefully if you have picked the wrong battle. If you realize after taking your stand that "this really wasn't worth it" find a way to exit without making your child feel they "won".
#8: keep relationship the bottom line. Never do or say anything to damage the relationship you have built with your child.
#9: Once the incident is over debrief. Children just like big people have a fight or flight response. When this response is triggered the brain stops processing cognitive thoughts and is a reaction only state. Once all involved are in a calm state then go over the incident.
Discipline is a part of parenting. It is crucial for our children to have boundaries and have respect for their parents. However it is just as important that parents realize that their children are just being kids. That our societal views of the "poster" child are unfair. By respecting our children and providing discipline from a place of love and respect we are helping them along their developmental journey.
"Discipline without Damage" is a must read for parents. It simplifies the scientific studies of child development while explaining what discipline actually is. Today's current methods are focussed on making bad behaviours go away quickly. What Dr. Lapointe points out is that contemporary science understands that once Childrens physical needs have been met, "the most important influence on child development is that children feel they can count on their parent to take care of them emotionally. As part of this, the universal fear of all children is that their parent will abandon them-physically or emotionally. What does this tell us about how we should be disciplining our children?" (Dr. V.Lapointe, "Discipline without Damage".,pg.206)
A common item I am seeing on parent surveys is that they do not believe their children are being stimulated to grow in all areas of development (some surveys are marking 2 & 3 out of a possible 4). I think this is more a misconception of "how children learn" than "if they are learning".
Here is an example of an activity I did this week which engaged children in all areas: social, emotional, physical and language.
activity: a walk around our neighbourhood. The children were encouraged to look for things that interested them. They then took turns becoming a photographer and took pictures of these interests.
PHYSICAL: walking, running, skipping, stopping, jumping (kids don't actually "walk" while on a walk)
SOCIAL: taking turns, being the "leader", participating in an activity together
LANGUAGE: we explored the neighbourhood. While exploring and looking at our interests we talked about them.
EMOTIONAL: some had a harder time taking turns and sharing. We needed to connect their feelings to the situation and come up with a solution. Self control, coping skills, focus and patience.
we will further develop these skills as we continue our neighbourhood study next week. The images taken by our "photographers" will be printed and I will add descriptions/"quotes" from the children's words. from there who knows where the children will take this learning journey.
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