Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Creative Discipline

Creative discipline means that as conscious parents, we coach our children through their challenges, use appropriate, creative solutions to problems and never ever use shaming, blaming, guilt or physical punishments. As conscious parents we want our children to see us as a source of love, comfort, and guidance. This doesn’t mean that our children will always like us, in fact, if your kids always like you, you’re probably doing some strange parenting. What it means is that they know you will be fair, they will turn to you with their problems instead of being sneaky and hiding their problems, and will trust that what you say is what you will do. There are no empty threats of actions never taken.
Here are three great examples of creative discipline at three very different developmental ages.
12 Months:
Sarah Rose, sweet little blue eyed, spunky and fun loving gal that she is, loves her kitty cat Chelsea. It was one of her first words, “kitty!” Sarah also loves to pull Chelsea’s fur as hard as she can. Chelsea, being a very patient and angelic cat, has yet to actually hurt Sarah, though she has run away, swiped at her in the air, and tried to hide. Teaching Sarah to be gentle has been difficult. When she pulls the kitty’s hair, we take her hand and show her how to pet the kitty gently, by taking her hand and petting the cat gently with her. After showing Sarah countless times, finally, Chelsea had had enough. Sarah got a very gentle bite on her hand before anyone could stop her. And since now Sarah is very gentle with Chelsea always, I’m thinking that Chelsea had the right idea on this one. A little scare, no real owie, and the lesson has been learned. We could have yelled at Sarah “no!” and kept her from the cat. We could have put her in time out in her crib. Using our patience time and time again to show her meant that once she had the opportunity to really understand that it hurt Chelsea when she pulled her fur, she knew what to do.
Showing our children that we hurt, we get sad, angry, scared and happy is one of our responsibilities as conscious parents. It’s okay to show our kids our vulnerabilities. After all, they’ll have vulnerabilities as well, and will need to know how to deal with them. Show your child your feelings and tell them what it’s like, what you do to take care of yourself, and what they can do.

3 Years: I was a nanny for twins Ken and Chris when they were three, and the following occurred: Ken and Chris had a very good friend, Sam. Sam was scheduled for a play date one day, and the twins were in their perfect three year old frenzy of excitement expecting their friend. As soon as Sam arrived, they all three dove on the new train table and began building the longest train they could. Unfortunately, all 3 wanted to use the same mechanized engine. That single engine had been shared okay among the twins, but a third person wanting a share was just too hard for the boys to manage. It was too hard. Arguments started and were quelled by Sam’s nanny and myself, but they kept happening. I then realized that it was just asking too much of these 3 year olds to be able to share. So, I picked up the engine, and started talking to it. “Thomas? You are causing too much trouble! There is only one of you, and three little boys who want to play with you. In fact, I want to play with you too! Since you are such a troublesome little toy right now, you’re going to have to spend some time alone, and can come and play later, when things have calmed down.”
I put Thomas in the cupboard we reserve for misbehaving toys, and the boys all went back to their game, using other engines to make trains and having a jolly time indeed. Putting the blame on the toy where it belonged allowed a no-blame no-shame no-guilt solution to the problem. The boys were sorry for the engine to go, but understood that the toy was causing too much trouble! Putting the blame on inanimate problem causing objects is a silly and easy way out of this sort of problem.
Also, before having friends over, or going visiting, make sure your kids have put away any toys they just aren’t willing to share. It’s okay not to share something very special to us, and keep it to ourselves. Help your kids figure out what these items are, and put them in a special place until your guests leave.

9 Years: Max gets angry, like any kid. He slams his bedroom door when he gets angry. While his anger is okay with his parents, the door slamming isn’t. After giving Max some information about why it isn’t okay for him to slam his door “Slamming your door is disrespectful to our ears, the door, and our home, it’s not okay to slam your door. You can do lots of other things when you’re angry” they let him know other ways that it was okay to show his anger. Of course, days later, Max slammed his door again. Max’s parents were upset, and told him so: “Max, it is not okay to slam your door. You must choose other ways of showing your anger. If you slam your door again, we will take your door and put it away for a while, until you decide not to slam it anymore.” Well, you know the next part, Max slammed his door again. Upstairs his parents calmly marched with screwdriver and hammer, and took down his door. “What are you doing?!” Max raged, “You can’t take my door! I need my privacy! How will I change my clothes?!” “Why,” his parents said, “we don’t know! We’re surprised you chose to slam your door again, knowing what would happen.” Max fumed and fussed, and a month later, a discussion was held about doors. Max got his door back, and never again was it slammed. A great, non-blaming solution to a door slamming problem!

Getting creative about your discipline, showing your follow-through, picking things that are immediately applicable to the problem are wonderful ways to be a conscious parent.