Friday, July 15, 2011

Positive Discipline

Learning to be parent has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life. I was never baby crazy growing up, but I always dreamed of being a mother (I think it was the teacher inside of me). I come from a very close knit family but we are LOUD. We do everything passionately-including getting angry. This has turned me into what I always feared of being: A YELLER! To make matters worse, I have been blessed with a difficult child. I love "A" and can see so much potential in him it hurts (he has compassion, a amazing awareness of emotions, and is smart beyond believe), but to say he is a challenge would be an understatement. This has led to a strained relationship, where I am desperately trying not to be so hard on him, but at the same time set boundaries. Here are some discipline techniques that I try that seem to have some positive implications to "'A's" behavior:

This is one of my favorite discipline programs out there. We use this in schools and I found the book for Early Childhood extremely helpful. Love and Logic is teaching children that they have choices with natural consciences. It is letting them being accountable so you aren't the bad guy, but they see the disciple as a choice that they chose. It is has you as a parent teach them what choices they have, but that we also need to show them empathy and understanding. By following their technique I find that my anger has little time to surface. Here is an example of how Love and Logic looks from their website:

Dad: "Oh, no. You left your bike unlocked and it was stolen. What a bummer. I bet you feel awful. Well, I understand how easy it is to make a mistake like that." (Notice that the parent is not leading with anger, intimidation, or threats.)

Dad then adds, "And you'll have another bike as soon as you can earn enough money to pay for it. I paid for the first one. You can pay for the additional ones."

Love and Logic parents know that no child is going to accept this without an argument, but Love and Logic parents can handle arguments. Jim Fay advises "just go brain dead." This means that parents don't try to argue or match wits with the child. They simply repeat, as many times as necessary, "I love you too much to argue." No matter what argument the child uses, the parent responds "I love you too much to argue." Parents who learn how to use these techniques completely change, for the better, their relationships with kids and take control of the home in loving ways."

 1-2-3 Magic is similar in some respects to Love and Logic but it uses a counting technique to help get the kid focused that consciences are near. Kids are kids and this allows them time to switch gears. The trick is to count with even tone and no emotion, arguing, or lecturing (again similar to Love and Logic). I really like both of these but it is hard to implement things consistently when spouses aren't on board. Inconsistency kills a discipline plan that is for sure.

Focusing On the Positive
One of my biggest fears is that as "A" enters kindergarten no one will see how amazing he is, just the behavior he is displaying. The sad truth of it is on bad days I only see his behavior myself. I knew something needed to change and I needed to be reminded of how great of a kid he can be. I got an idea that I felt I could stick with from Teach Mama's blog. I went to Dollar Tree and bought a glass vase, three bags of decorative glass rocks (two of small rocks and one of large rocks) and stencil stickers. Total investment: $5.80 including tax. After putting "A's" name on the vase in the middle we talked about how he could earn "gems" (we've also called them jewels). Little gems will be earned anytime I catch him doing something positive. Ways he could earn small gems is for being nice to baby, being a first time listener, staying with me out in public, not showing me negative attitude, helping around the house, etc. If he does especially good I may give him more than one gem. An example: "A" saw my soda and he went to grab it without asking (a huge problem we talk about numerous times). He caught himself, stopped and asked if he could please have a drink. So I responded, " Wow, that must have been really hard stopping yourself from drinking my soda. I am so proud of you. You may have two gems for asking before taking." To earn the big gems he needs to go above and beyond. These are meant to be hard to earn and I am focusing on things that are especially hard for him right now (wiping without asking for help, doing chores without asking, being good in a restaurant, etc). One major rule is he can never ask for a gem. This has proven to be very hard and many gems have been lost because of this. The rewards: When "A" reaches halfway (the bottom of the letters on his name) he can go somewhere free (like the park) or get something at Dollar Tree. When the vase is full of gems he can have either a toy with a $10 limit or go to a bigger place like Kids Club, Children's Museum, or the movies. Also a unforseen reward is that it turns into a beautiful piece of art. We have the vase displayed on our fireplace mantle among other pretty things. Everytime "A" places a gem in the vase he comments how beautiful it is. Reward for me: I am seeing my son in a positive light again! I was amazed how in the first afternoon he had earned EIGHT gems. I had no idea he was good that often! Sadly, this is not a joke! It hasn't miraculously fixed everything-in four days he has not earned on gem for being a first time listener (not once!), but there is definitely something to be said about focusing on the positive!
Looking down into vase with a pic of my sweet boy in background

Gems waiting to be used (notice size differences)

Do I still yell and lose my cool? Every stinking day! I hate it!!! Logically, I know how wrong it is but in that moment-logic is nowhere to be found. It is fighting a natural instinct that has been ingrained into me since childhood. I'm gonna keep trying to fight it, though....for however long it takes!

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