Saturday, January 30, 2010

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline

I just finished this book and highly recommend it. The ideas for disciplining ourselves as parents before we turn to our children with related tools and techniques are powerful but require a bit of a paradigm shift. At the end of the book is a seven-week program to help make that shift.

Dr. Bailey has divided self-control into seven aspects.

  1. Power of Attention -- We reinforce behavior by paying attention to it, even by saying "Don't". Better to stop and think of what you want the children TO do, then tell them that in clear, assertive language.
  2. Power of Love -- choose to see the best in others and assume they have a positive intent or misguided goal behind their actions, then help them find more socially acceptable ways to get what they want
  3. Power of Acceptance -- don't wear yourself out or rev yourself up thinking about how things SHOULD be. As Dr. Bailey says, "This moment is as it is" -- so relax, and stay present by noticing concrete details
  4. Power of Perception -- Our feelings follow our thoughts and our internal dialogue. Pay attention to what your thinking or telling yourself, and if it's not helpful, change it. Especially watch for blaming language.
  5. Power of Intention -- Choose to see and use conflict and misbehavior as an opportunity to teach
  6. Power of Free Will -- recognize that just as no one can "make" you do anything, the only person you can really change is yourself. Instead of asking how you can "make" your child do what you want, think in terms of how to help them be more likely to choose to cooperate.
  7. Power of Unity -- Be on our children's side instead of taking opposing positions in a battle of wills, and nourish your connection through play and encouragement

Similarly, there are seven tools or techniques that she highlights:

  1. Maintain your composure.
  2. Be assertive, clearly and directly stating the limit or what you want done, and using physical gestures to demonstrate or assistance to make it happen.
  3. Offer choices, but make it two different ways to do what you want done rather than a choice between doing it or not.
  4. Encourage by describing concretely what your children do and providing a "virtue" tag. For example, "You put away the dishes without a reminder. That was helpful."
  5. State the goal the child was trying to acheive with their misbehavior, why their action doesn't work/isn't acceptable and what to do instead. "You wanted the crayon now, so you hit your brother. Hitting hurts, you may not hit. Instead, say, may I have the crayon?"
  6. Empathize by describing what you see their body doing, what you hear them saying, and how it seems to you they might feel.
  7. Consequences follow poor choices and are intended/designed to teach rather than make the child feel bad. Lectures, rescuing and overly punitive responses all reduce the child's ability to fully feel the consequence of their choices.

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