In my previous article, Why Connection is the Parenting Key, I discussed the separate roles of the upstairs and downstairs brain. We know now that children learn best when they feel calm and connected. We understand that upset, out of control children have little to no access to the part of their brain that houses logic, reasoning, and sequential thought. They simply cannot “think about what they did wrong” when they’re locked in their downstairs brain. Therefore, shaming, isolating, punishing, spanking, and yelling only serve to keep them locked downstairs. To help them learn the lessons we want to teach, we must first engage the upstairs brain, and we do that through connection. This simply means we meet them where they are and let them know that we hear their frustration and understand their feelings.
But won’t this reward the misbehavior? The answer is no, and here’s why. If your child has a tantrum over a cookie, and you empathize with her feelings and then give her the cookie, the cookie is the reward. If your child has a tantrum over a cookie and you empathize with her feelings but don’t give her the cookie, she learns boundaries yet feels understood and valued. Spoiling occurs when there are no boundaries. I love what the book No-Drama Discipline says about this. “Connection is about walking through the hard times with our children and being there for them when they’re emotionally suffering, just like we would if they scraped their knee and were physically suffering,” Connecting has nothing to do with indulging, coddling, or spoiling children. Connection doesn’t give in. Connection understands. Connection doesn’t coddle. Connection listens. The boundary still stands. Here are some steps to discipline with connection in mind.