“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse?” – Jane Nelson, Author of “Positive Discipline”
When we react to our child’s ‘misbehavior,’ we may respond in ways that can make our children feel much worse about the situation, and even themselves – and we then often feel worse about ourselves as parents. (And yes, I am speaking from personal experience.)
I recently experienced how ‘discipline’ can actually lead to deep connection with our children. When we can approach discipline as a way of ‘teaching’ rather than ‘punishing,’ we can keep all of our dignity in tact – and actually open our hearts…
The other morning (luckily a weekend, so we were not rushing), my son was greeted with a “No” to a request that he made. Well, not just a “no”, but a “No!” with an explanation. He was not happy and pushed his chair. He asked again, same answer. This time, he kicked his chair and over it fell with a loud crash. He looked at me and I at him… both frozen for a moment. I remember feeling shocked and angry, my face was hot and I imagine a little red.
“Let’s go,” I called out – to be honest, not completely sure what I was doing. “To the living room. Now.” I had a chance to collect myself as we walked down the hall. We got to the living room – I still wasn’t sure what I would do. Instead of lecturing, finger-wagging, or any of those other things we promise we won’t do as parents, I scooped him up and held him on my lap in a huge hug. I noticed how, at first, he wouldn’t look at me; he was likely feeling both surprise and shame about what had happened.
We must have sat there for 10 minutes, just hugging and rocking, both of us calming down all the while. I didn’t mention a thing about what happened during that time. We both felt good.
I imagine that recently reading Dan Siegel’s new book, No Drama Discipline had helped – in particular his notion of “connect before redirect.” Once my son and I had connected, our bodies and brains had settled, we were able to talk about what had happened, and possibilities for alternatives in future, when strong, mad feelings come around.
No one got ‘dissed’ and instead we connected. I feel (and hope) this gives him the message that I love and accept him, no matter what strong feelings he shows and no matter what he does.
Good practice for the much bigger challenges that will inevitably come …