Get your child to behave better…now and forever

So it’s been one of those days where your proactive parenting has gone out the window. (What’s proactive parenting you ask? Read all about it here But, you have remembered to connect with your child and validate their feelings after they have:

• Kissed your freshly-painted, white wall with mummy’s red lipstick (happened in our house!)

• Said very mean things out loud about another child in public (that’s us too…)

• Grabbed a toy off a much younger child and refused outright to share (you got it- us too….)

(Can’t remember that connect bit? Read it here So what do you do next? The No Drama Discipline people call this next part 1-2-3 Discipline.

1 definition: Remember that discipline is about teaching. Not punishment.  For example, when my daughter pushed me over in fury about not going on a walk with me, I waited until later to have the conversation with her about it. After I had connected with her, acknowledged her feelings and she was calm. Then at bed time, I asked her ‘How d’you think it made me feel when you pushed me over?’ I could see her little conscience kicking in and a guilty look on her face. ‘Yay’, I thought- that’s exactly what I want to see. Guilt can be good! Natural guilt from thinking about what you did & how it made someone else feel.

2 principles: Wait until your child is ready & Be consistent but not rigid.

Let’s find out what these are. #1 Wait until your child is ready So when your child misbehaves, their upstairs, logical brain is temporarily unavailable. Lecturing won’t work! We have to wait until they have calmed down. And this might mean waiting until tomorrow.

Ask yourself ‘Is she ready to listen now?‘ If not, wait.

Say ‘I’d like to wait until we’re really able to talk and listen to each other. We’ll come back and talk about it in a while.

Or you can say ‘I’m too angry to have a helpful conversation about it now. I’m going to take some time to calm down. And then we’ll talk later’.

You can start the conversation by saying: ‘I’d like to talk about what happened yesterday at the library. That didn’t go so well did it?’

#2 Be consistent but not rigid.

This means having some definite non-negotiables like physical safety. Like your toddler isn’t allowed to run around alone in a busy car park. Or your school aged child isn’t allowed to swim without adult supervision. And then there can be some exceptions. They give the example of having a rule of no devices at dinner. But if you’re having dinner with another couple, you might decide to let your child play games quietly on your phone so you’ve a chance to talk. The idea is that you’re consistent but flexible when circumstances change.

Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson who wrote No Drama Discipline say to use do-overs. Let’s say your child says something disrespectful to you. You can teach them how to speak respectfully by saying ‘I bet if you tried again, you could come up with nicer way to say that’. They need practice to get it right; not punishment or a lecture.

3 desired outcomes

#1 Insight

When you connect and try to work out what’s going on for your child; you get insight into their inner world. And they develop insight into how what they do affects you and other people. Eventually this insight will help them control themselves better; their words and their actions. You can say things like

  • When she took away the doll, it looked like you felt really mad. Is that right?
  • I was watching before you lost it with your brother. It looked like you were getting more and more annoyed when he was at you. Is that what you were feeling?

#2 Empathy

Developing awareness of other people’s feelings. Seeing things from another people’s point of view. Thinking about how what they did made someone else feel. You can do this about real incidents but reading together and watching cartoons together gives great chances for chats about feelings. Asking questions like:

  • See she’s crying? Can you imagine how she might be feeling?
  • Did you see his face when you yelled at him? That must have been hard for him especially when he likes you so much.

In the book, the focus is on behaviour that upsets others, but you can do this for positive things too. Like I saw how delighted Katie looked when you gave her a big hello.

# 3 Making things better

Asking questions like: What can you do to make it better? What do you think needs to happen now? Saying sorry isn’t always easy! They say that sometimes it’s okay if you actually deliver the apology for your child. The two of you can agree on the wording beforehand. That’s better than a fake apology any day!

So that’s the No Drama Discipline way. The short version is:

  • Be proactive and spot trouble before it begins.
  • Connect before you direct. Our job is to make them feel safe and secure; that we are there to guide them through the hard stuff
  • Acknowledge what your child is feeling
  • Get below their eye levle to be less threatening
  • Wait until you’re both ready to have a useful conversation
  • Give them chances to practice saying things nicer and make things better.

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Let’s get talking,


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