My Top Ten parenting tools
Positive Discipline offers a wide range of tools for parents to use - 52 at the last count. That's because you, as parents are the experts in your own family. I wanted to give you my current Top Ten - the ones we use in our house ALL the time, and why I think they're so great...
So, without further ado, here they are
1) Understand the Brain. Understanding (a bit) about how my and my kids brains works has been a revelation to me - when I 'flip my lid' then I can't physically access my rational brain. So first I need to take care of myself and feel better, before I can then find solutions. Dr. Dan Siegel explains his model in this video, or you can find versions for kids here (Casey - for older kids) and here (my favourite for younger kids)
2) Connection before Correction. When my child is doing something I don't want them to do, then first I need to connect with them, by getting down on their level, making physical and eye contact, and then explaining what I do want to happen. And, in a similar way, when I want someone to set the table, then I need to go find them in their room and ask them, instead of shouting at them from downstairs! Don't you hate it when your kid calls out 'Mum' from another room and expects you to drop everything, just so that when you get there, they can tell you they ate green beans at school today!! Guess what - our kids learn from what we do (that's more 'Understandthe brain' knowledge) rather than what we say - and they imitate our behaviour. So I need to set the example.
3) Family Meetings. These are the key tool in our house for solving difficulties. We have an agenda up on the wall so everyone can add things to it, we start by sharing encouragement, we brain storm solutions to problems we're having, and we use it for planning outings/holidays. At the moment, Sunday mornings work for us for holding our meetings, over second breakfast.
In 2017, we travelled round the UK in a motorhome (here's our blog!) and so we held them daily - when you live in 11m2 with 5 people, there's lots to talk about!
4) Wheel of choice. I use these both at home and in the classroom. This is a way to empower kids - allow them to choose their own solutions. So in a classroom setting we will talk about ways to feel better when we have 'flipped our lid', and then put 7 or 8 of those onto a Wheel of Choice that's available in the 'feel-better' space. They might include 'breathe, count to ten, walk away'. For more ideas, you can look here. At home we also have a wheel of choice for jobs - it's a way of making choosing jobs fun!
5) Belief behind the behaviour. I will come back to this one because it deserves an explanation all of its own. But in one sentence - when trying to understand my child's behaviour, I look at my own reactions to help me understand what the 'reason' might be for the 'misbehaviour'. Told you it needed its own page!
6) Jobs. Adler teaches us that we all seek 'belonging and significance' and one way we show our kids that they are capable is by trusting them with jobs - from folding the laundry to bringing in the mail, from setting the table to gardening - they get to contribute on a regular basis to our family life. It helps them to belong, and gives them responsibilities - they learn that we need them. Coming back to that motorhome - I have kids who learnt about angles by pitching awnings, who can wire in electricity sockets, and who are great at washing up and tidying! It doesn't mean that they love doing chores (that's where follow through comes in ) or that they're great at them from the get-go (we need to take time for teaching new skills) but it does mean they're a non-negotiable part of our family life. And no, they're not linked to pocket-money. However, if you need more of an argument to start putting this tool into place, long-term research by Marty Rossman of the University of Minnesota shows that involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life - responsibility, self-reliance, self worth, even higher paid jobs!
7) Problem-solving. If you've ever heard me presenting in a conference, I probably started by explaining that I came across Positive Discipline thanks to my children's school, which was implementing it. Nathanael, probably aged 4 or 5, explained to us one evening that he'd had an argument with his older brother. And instead of asking us to punish him, he came up with a list of possible solutions. My jaw dropped, I stopped what I was doing, and started learning more about Positive Discipline! So, what does it look like. For us, when we're in family meeting and somebody puts a problem on the agenda, we go round in a circle suggesting possible solutions to the problem. ALL our suggestions are noted, and then we decide on the best solution.
At this point, I decided to check in with my husband, and see which ones he thinks we use lots at home - It amused me to discover we only had one 'Top 10' in common - Understand The Brain'!! I don't know if this shows we use lots of tools, or if we parent differently, but here are a couple of his favourites:
8) Limit Screen time: Currently we have an agreement that works out at 30 mins screen time per day, for each child. For some of you, that'll seem like too much, for others, not enough. That doesn't really matter. The important thing is the word 'limit'. We as parents decide the amount of screen time our children will have. We agreed with each child what that looks like (so for some it's 1 hr one day, 15 mins another), and our agreements are written up and stuck on the wall for all to see. We use alarms/ visual timers to enforce the limits, because (I speak from LOTS of experience!) allowing them to manage their own limits doesn't work with something as addictive as video games.
9) Positive Time-Out (a feel better space). My littlest has a special box with a bunch of tools in it for managing her emotions - including a cuddly toy, felt-tips, pictures of different emotions faces, sensory bottles (like this, but they're fun to make too). When she's feeling mad about something she goes under the stairs and finds her box, to find something to make her feel better. The older two might listen to some music, go lie on their bed, or read a book.
10) Mistakes are opportunities to learn. I guess this underpins, for me, the major difference between what I learnt as a child (from school, home, everywhere), and what I want my children to know. I want my kids to know that it's ok to make mistakes, that we need to make mistakes to grow and learn, and that when we make a mistake, we fix it (by saying sorry/cleaning up/repairing) and then we (all) move on..
Bonus). I thought you'd like to know that the tool that is my biggest challenge is 'Don't Back Talk Back'.. Yup, still working on that one! I haven't yet let go of needing to have the last word ;-)
If you want to find all fifty+ tools, they're over here - on the Positive Discipline Association blog..