There is certainly no shortage of articles telling us all what not to do as parents, yet few offer concrete advice on what we should do. As a parent, I know how frustrating it can be to have all of your tools yanked away because they’re all “wrong” and then being left feeling like you’re adrift on this big sea without a paddle. (No pun intended.)
I was there once, too. I had this exact realization.
Okay, spanking is bad. Definitely bad. Now time outs are bad too. Wait, all punishments are bad. Oh, and imposed consequences? Not a great idea. So what’s left?
Can you relate?
If you’re floating adrift out there, let me throw you a lifesaver. Well, its more like arm floaties and a map, but just stick with me. I’m going to give you some tools you can start using now to replace your time outs, threats, and taking away privileges, but I’m not going to give you concrete advice on what to do either.
Here’s the thing. The reason why there are so many articles available telling us what not to do is because there’s been a ton of research in child development over the past few decades, and we’ve learned a lot about the adverse affects of traditional parenting methods. The reason we don’t have a lot of concrete advice on what to do instead is because just about EVERYBODY is still trying to figure that out, and honestly, the ones who have it figured out and are telling us about it aren’t telling us what we want to hear, because what they’re saying is “this takes a lot of inner work and a lot of navigating the unknown until you find your course” and that frustrates us because we want quick fixes NOW. We don’t want to have to do the work. It’s hard to examine ourselves, examine our triggers, our faults, our beliefs. It’s hard to change.
So here’s where I have good news and bad news. Bad news first. I cannot tell you what to do that is going to work 100% of the time, or probably even 90% of the time. Neither can anybody else. Good news! You don’t have to be spot on 100% of the time, or 90%, and, even better news, it’s really, really, honest and truly NOT about discipline. Don’t be stressing out about how to discipline your kids the “right way” because 1) there is no “right way” so get out of the hamster wheel, and 2) there are so many things that go into parenting that are way more important than how you discipline. Here are 10 of them.
I’m not going to leave you hanging! Of course guidance and correction are important. Don’t make the mistake I did and say “Well, guess I can’t do anything that won’t harm them, so I just won’t do anything.” Yes, I was Mrs. Permissive for a little bit. Those were my “adrift” days. I can tell you that is not the way to go. Chaos. Not good.
Here come the arm floaties.
Instead of time out, try:
1. The calm down corner. This is a calming area for your child to go to when he’s dysregulated, upset, out of sorts, or just plain mad. This is not intended to be a punishment or a soft form of time out. The idea is to get your child’s nervous system calmed down so he can then process the situation and accept your correction. It’s optional for the child to go to the calm down corner, however, it should be encouraged, and you can encourage this a few different ways. 1) Model. When you get upset, go to the calm down spot, shake the jar, read a book. Hey, I use ours! 2) Go with your child. Get the book out and read to her. Shake the jar and talk about the glitter swirling with her. This is going to calm her down faster. Each time you aid your child in calming down, you strengthen her neural connections to help her calm herself down. 3) Never make the calm down corner feel like a punishment. Don’t yell at your child to get the to calm down corner NOW! Make it a safe, inviting place. Put things in the box that are special and unique for your child.
We’ve had the calm down corner for a little while now, and when things start to get heated, my 5 year old says “I think I need my calm down jar. Mom, do you need yours too?” It works!
2. Time-in. From the article: Time-In
- The adult invites the child to the time-in place. (However, a child who has lost control and presents a danger to others may need help getting to the time-in place.)
- Time-in is time together. It promotes a cooperative partnership between adult and child, during which communication remains open.
- Time-in focuses on regaining peace between all concerned, rather than on right or wrong. It assumes that the undesired behavior feels unpleasant enough in itself without adding to that pain.
- Time-in is time to regain connection, balance, centeredness, and mutual well-being.
- Time-in shows the adult’s willingness to help the child. It shows that the adult’s ultimate love and care of the child are unconditional and unphased by any undesired behavior.
- Time-in is about feeling good. Children are invited to time-in as a positive reinforcement of the adult and child’s caring relationship.
3. Logical consequences. Most often, the above 2 are the better way to go, but if you need a third option, logical consequences are consequences that are directly related to the misbehavior. For example, if your child throws a toy at her sibling, take away that toy. If your son is horsing around and breaks your mother’s collector’s plate, he can do chores to earn the money to pay her back. Remember to deliver these with empathy and be kind!
Changing Your Mindset is an article I wrote about how to begin the process of switching from fear-based parenting to love-based parenting.