How can I get my other half to engage in a positive parenting style ?
This question comes up a fair bit in workshops, and it’s been on my mind recently. What can I get my husband to read so that he can see positive discipline isn’t just a hippy thing ? How can I persuade my kid’s teacher that punishment isn’t the answer ? Arrgh, my mother-in-law is driving me crazy by telling me that letting a baby cry is good for their lungs/smacking never did my son any harm...
And my first answer was « well, you just model it and then they’ll see how great it is and it’s as easy as that ». But I was in training this week, and the trainer gave me another take on it. So here goes, 4 thoughts..
1) « Hey – pot calling the kettle black ! Are you a perfect positive discipline mum ? » You know what, yesterday morning before the training, my son went into his brother’s room and turned the light on, which woke him up (there’s no school on Wednesdays in our town). Brother comes downstairs and complains, so I immediately launch into a rant at eldest son about how selfish he is, while he protests that he didn’t do it on purpose. Yeah right, I say to myself as I keep on telling him off, send him to his room and then physically pursue him cos we enter into a power struggle..
So, rather than trying to change those around us, isn’t there enough work to do on ourselves ? I came home last night and began the process of fixing my mistake by saying sorry for not giving him an opportunity to speak. Then I asked if he was ready to talk about it again and find solutions. He’s not, and so we agreed we would find some time to talk about it on Friday, before the next potential lie-in morning. Then we went on to talk about a problem the day before (where, guess what, he felt like I hadn’t given him an opportunity to talk..are you noticing a theme here ?!!).
2) So that leads me back to my original thought – model it. If I’d like my other half to pick up a different parenting style, then they need to see it in action. In our case, I went along to a parenting workshop in January 2015, and started putting some things in place, including family meetings. They weren’t perfect, they didn’t happen every week, but they did happen. Last year, during our travels in a motorhome, we had family meetings every day ! In our workshops, we talk about Giacomo Rizzolatti and the effect of mirror neurones. When we see someone reaching for say peanuts, the bit of the brain that controls our arm will activate as well, even without us moving our arm. It’s what makes us yawn when others yawn, it’s how we learn most of our behaviour. And if we believe our kids can learn from us modelling behaviour (such as taking ourselves off to feel better when we’re feeling angry) then we can have hope for the other adults in our lives too. Don’t forget, they may have some unlearning to do as well..
3) Be gentle in how you speak to those around you. Don’t do what I did. My mum and I had been talking about positive discipline for a while, and one time she came out with « So, basically, what you’re saying is, everything we did for you as a child is wrong ». My response, being the sensitive/caring daughter that I am « yes mum, you got it » !!!
Luckily, my husband was involved in the conversation, and quickly leapt in with « No, that’s not it at all. Every parent loves their children, and wants to do the best for them. It’s just that neurosciences have taught us new things about the brain and how it works. So we’re doing the same as you, it’s just that the experts at the time didn’t understand about what happens, for example, when a baby cries.. » A really interesting discussion followed about Dr Benjamin Spock, bottles, feeding on schedule, etc.. Be my husband, Not me..
4) Think about how they learn – do they want scientific papers, a podcast, would printing something out and putting it up on the wall help ? Having physical tools that you use with your kids will automatically mean that people who come into your home will see them, and something might pique their curiosity. Be the best student you can be of your other half, and help them to learn in a way that suits them.
What have you tried that works, or doesn’t work ?
And if it would help, sign them up for one of my free taster workshops - it's easier when it's someone else who's doing the explaining!