Gentle Discipline - AKA 'Damage Control'.

I have a toddler and a pre-schooler. Discipline is a daily, if not hourly, part of my life. So when I heard that the Attachment Parenting Edmonton Society was bringing renowned Canadian speaker and author, Judy Arnall, to Edmonton to speak about gentle discipline, I bought a ticket to the event immediately.

Because I need help.

I don't spank my kids, but I have smacked hands and I have tried time outs, reward systems, 123 Magic and my biggest tool-my voice. Yes, I am a yeller. And now, both my kids are turning into yellers.

It typically goes down something like this. Mommy lets herself get to the point of anger and then yells at preschooler to do/not do something, preschooler sees this and then yells at toddler to do/not do something, toddler yells back at preschooler because she is frustrated and them Mommy yells at everyone to just STOP YELLING!!

You see the problem here right? VERY bad modeling of the desired behaviour. And trust me I see it too, I see it as it is happening and I don't know how to stop it!

At least I did not know until tonight.

Judy does an amazing job of breaking down kids into age groups and the reasons for why they behave the way they do and then gives some very simple and basic tools and rules for how to deal with said behaviour.

I have ordered her book (and a few others that she recommended) and until it gets here, here are a few of the take home points that I got from tonight's presentation.

  • Discipline means self-control and THAT is what we need to be teaching our kids.
  • You can't solve the problem, whatever it may be, until everyone is calm! Most of all YOU.
  • Children often need a parent to help them calm down, this is called a 'time-in'. (So, all the time I have been sending C to his room until he calms down--not really the best idea!)
  • When you learn to handle your anger, your children will see this and learn to handle theirs. **This was a big A-Ha moment for me!
  • Don't punish a toddler for having a tantrum, they are thinking it through and working it out the only way they know how.
  • From age 0-3 our job as parents in basically Damage Control. As in control the environment and control the situation, but never the kid. At this age they do not 'get' the rules or have any sense of self control.

And her lists of tools to use for each stage of the game:

  • For Babies 0-12 months - Use substitution, distraction, redirection and and prevention to handle discipline.
  • For Toddlers - Plan ahead, give attention, use positive commands, allow child his/her space, model the behaviour and in the end learn to accept it-it really is just a phase.
  • For Pre-schoolers - Use 'time-ins' and stay with your NO. Gives choices, make it a game, pick your battles and try to connect with your child first and then redirect them.
  • For School Age Children (where Judy says most of our parenting work really gets done) - Use 'I' statements, as in "I feel frustrated/sad/upset when you.....", model the desired behaviour, use active listening and acknowledge their feelings, clarify expectations and know when to walk away from a power struggle.

The biggest take home message for me tonight was that it all has to come from me. I am the one who needs to be calm in order to discipline my children effectively. Judy's last slide of the night said that the best discipline tool ever has good modeling and comes from a place of love. That any teaching we do sinks in only after everyone is calm and that this gentle way conveys unconditional love and sets us up to have honest, open and respectful relationships with our kids for a long time.

Tomorrow is a new day and I am going to go at this with a totally new mindset. I am going to try to be zen mama, I will find my calm before I attempt any kind of discipline (so this may mean some 'time-outs' for me) and hopefully we will start to see some changes around here, in terms of the yelling at least!

I'll keep you updated and let you know what is and what is not working for us!

Stay calm Mamas (and Dads), even in the stormiest of times.