Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Must the Librarian Think?

I recently had our library pull a few parenting books for me...I was a little embarrassed walking up to the desk to pick them up and I'm sure the librarian took one look at the boys and thought to herself...mmmmm....I see......

Really I was desperate.   The discipline techniques we were using were just really not working....I know, I know, you can tell me I just wasn't being consistent all you want, but the fact is discipline was making me angry and David angry and we were in an angry discipline merry-go-round and I wanted to get off!

As I began plowing through these books I surprised myself with the realization that I preferred the ones that leaned toward attachment parenting.  I always thought I liked a behavioral approach to do X, child responds with Y....if they don't behave you make them behave, easy and done.  As I was reading these, especially Playful Parenting and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk), I began to see that I never really even considered the boys' feelings or how those feelings could be affecting their behavior.   I just wanted them to do what I wanted when I wanted!

I've also always assumed attachment parenting and permissive parenting were one and the same, but after reading these books I have to admit that I was wrong.  I've seen some real positive changes just in the past two weeks by implementing some fairly simple ideas.  While I don't think you'll find me nursing a three year old on the cover of Time any time in the near future (and really, I seriously doubt that anyone who does practice extended nursing ever does so in such an overtly sexualized pose with their child standing on a stool--I imagine it's more of an attachment parenting snuggle) I do think I'll be looking more seriously into this attachment parenting stuff :)

Anyway, here are some of my favorite pointers--which are a mishmash from all of these books--which is probably obnoxious, but if you are interested in any of these I would definitely recommend Playful Parenting
and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk....I even think I'll be buying copies for myself so I can refer back to them--oh yeah, they're that good!   Sorry in advance if you don't read my blog to get parenting tips--mostly I just wanted to write these down so I can see them again when I start to forget them......which is bound to happen before too long........

Random Parenting Tips:
  • Assume a positive motive for your child's actions.  Assuming (as, let's face it,  I often do) that the boys are deliberately trying to be naughty/upset me/make me spill my tea and all around deliberately ruin my day is never helpful.  When I assume a positive intent (i.e. "you hit your brother over the head with the puzzle because you really wanted to have a turn with that school bus and you didn't think he was sharing"--not that that's ever happened here.....) I stay calmer, David stays calmer and instead of yelling something along the lines of "Why would you do that!  Go to time out and you can get up when I say you can get up!"--which of course I have also never done--I have the opportunity to teach him what he should have done instead and he doesn't feel like an angry, misunderstood, naughty failure at toy sharing and at life in general :)
  • Offer two positive choices (as opposed to one positive and one horrifically negative one which is what my "choices" had degraded to before!)--"Do you want to put your coat on forward or backward?" or "Do you want to hop to the door or dance?"
  •  Empathize.  A simple "you're really upset because you wanted to play at the park and you can't" is often enough for David to calm the beginnings of a tantrum and even if he does cry, saying "it's okay to be sad and cry when you're upset" usually calms down tantrums too.  I've realized in the past couple of weeks that he really just wants someone to recognize and validate his feelings and then he moves right on.
  • Be playful!  When I keep a playful tone I don't get as angry and I can discipline and redirect with ease.  If I feel like screaming, I've been trying to pretend to scream and that has done wonders for keeping me calm and letting the boys know I'm angry but not in a scary/threatening way.  Silliness has been diffusing even the most tense discipline situations around here and we've all been so much happier for it.  Also, (and this is so obvious I'm embarrassed to admit it was a huge insight for me) the more I play with the boys and give them my full and undivided attention the less they act up and try to get said attention in, shall we say, less desirable ways.  
  • Prevent instead of punish--this probably goes along with playing and paying better attention.  If I'm more focused on the boys I can more easily recognize a problem before it occurs.  
  • Show children how to make amends--if they spill something tell them where the rag is to wipe it up, if they break something show them how to fix it--don't punish them, just let them make up for it on their own.  
  • Get children to problem solve--tell them you can't allow them to hit, spit, throw, etc. and you and the child need to make a list of things they could do instead--write them down together and post them somewhere.  I haven't tried this yet but it sounds like it's worth a go :)  
  • Set clear limits, follow through by stopping the offending behavior and give meaningful or natural consequences.   As Playful Parenting puts it, "in the rush to punish children, we forget that the essence of discipline is to teach.
  • Help children deal with their feelings by giving them their wishes in fantasy.  Giving David his wishes in fantasy has been by far the most successful advice we have implemented.  When he starts to get upset--when it's time to leave the park for instance--he usually starts in with that whining voice that is the bane of every parent's existence......"but I want to staaaaaayyyy at the paaaaaaark...."   Instead of trying to explain to him all of my very valid reasons for needing to leave, I simply respond with something along the lines of "me too, I wish we could stay at the park all night, and live here forever, we could sleep under the slide and cuddle up with the ducks to keep us warm...."  Instead of whining about the fact that we are leaving, he starts imagining with me all of the fun things we could do if we lived at the park and miracle of miracles, he happily trots along with me to the car.

I also loved the idea that we need to "let go of [our] expectation that [our] child can give up what she wants in order to follow [our] wishes and still be happy about it…[And] stop trying to control [our] child’s feelings.  She has a right to all of her feelings.  Without them, she would be lost.  Feelings serve us as our core system for discerning right from wrong.   Feelings are our moral navigators.  We do not need to stop having them.  We need to express them more appropriately” (Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The 7 Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation).  How often do I want the boys to immediately stop doing whatever task they were happily engaged in and do what I want them to do, without complaining, and on top of that to slap a smile on their faces and be happy about it?  Maybe it wasn't my most realistic parenting expectation :)

Well, I hope some of these ideas will be as helpful to you as they have been to me and really I can't recommend those two books enough.  I think my parenting has been changed forever.....well, I hope it has been anyway!

I'll leave you with a final note from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk:  "Let's not cast ourselves in roles...good parent, bad parent, permissive parent, authoritarian parent.  Let's start thinking of ourselves as human beings first, with great potential for growth and change.  The process of living or working with children is demanding and exhausting.  It requires heart, intelligence, and stamina.  When we don't live up to our own expectations--and we won't always--let's be as kind to ourselves as we are to our youngsters.  If our children deserve a thousand chances, and then one more, let's give ourselves a thousand chances--and then two more."


  1. Great techniques Cristina...I've used some of them which I found on a parenting a toddler website in a moment of desperation;) It was definitely easier to be 'fun' when I was only trying to convince one little one to do what I wanted. I wish you continued success!!

  2. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs you'll ever undertake! It requires common sense and an awful lot of patience and repetition. Good luck with your journey of discovery and success with finding a parenting style that works for you and your children. It is often a matter of much trial and error. Too bad we all don't come pre-programmed with a good repertoire of parenting would be so much easier! Good Luck to all my little Mothers! :-)


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