Monday, February 28, 2011

Discipline Workshop Notes

Thank you to everyone who came out to Granola Babies to talk about ways of working with the most important people in our lives! I had so much fun.... I think I may be turning that workshop into a 3 week series though, since there was so much info to cover.
Let me know if you have any questions....

Discipline Workshop
When you think of your child as an adult, what attributes do you want them to possess, what words would you like to describe them?
Why No Corporal Punishment, Punishment, Rewards, and Praise- all along the same spectrum and achieve only one thing: temporary compliance and they do so using extrinsic control, conditional love, and a focus on self rather than others.
1. Manipulation- any relationship based on this is doomed…. Conditional vs. unconditional love
2. Reduces self reliance- our opinion of what they have done, who they are vs. theirs. 2 year olds rarely look for your opinions… we teach them this.
3. Steals their pleasure- tells them how to feel vs. letting them figure it out (scribble on a piece of paper= beautiful)
4. Loses interest/changes focus- start to see task as a means to an end (reward) instead of the intrinsic motivations to begin with AND gets them to focus on self rather than others (sharing example). What about toilet learning?
5. Reduces Achievement- Pizza Hut book it program, old mans plan, must up the anty continuously to get them to do something they previously did on their own.

“It is not enough to love children, they need to know they are loved unconditionally”- Alfie Kohn (for who they are not what they do)

All these attributes are not achieved in this way and can be undermined by the spectrum of tactics. Never in all my years of doing this workshop have I heard: obedient, got into Harvard, got an A’s in math, cautious, quiet, stays out of other people’s way, etc…

Discipline is different from all of these things: It comes from the root word disciple which means “to guide”.

-Our entire society is based on the work of BF Skinner and his theory of Behaviorism (rats, pigeons and applied it to people)

3 things to always keep in mind when working with a child….
1. Trust the child, they know what they need.
2. Think of what YOU would have wanted from the adult when you were a child when in a moment with a child (This never fails you)
3. This too shall pass and WAY TOO QUICKLY, try not to be in a hurry (we take ourselves too seriously)

*When we apply these concepts to infants, it is easy to accept, but as young children grow, we start to see them as manipulating us. In reality, there is a NEED behind EVERY behavior. Children do not have all the skills adults do to draw from when they are trying to express a need.

*AP parents will do these with infants, but at some point as it gets harder and children get older, many people stop because children discover new and interesting ways of getting what they NEED (ways that can drive us crazy at times, but also ways that are so endearing and lovable)

While you are on the phone, children cannot say: “Excuse me please mommy, I am feeling a bit off today and would really like some extra attention to meet some of my need for closeness and comfort right now so could you please cut your phone call a bit short.

When disciplining, we need to do 3 things:
1. Ask ourselves if what we are expecting or experiencing is developmentally appropriate? Question yourself? Is what you are asking really needed and is it fair? Is it really hurting anyone? Why do I want my child to do this? BE reflective
“Sometimes when children don’t do what they are told, the problem is with what they were told to do.” –Alfie Kohn
What children cannot do: Sharing, taking turns, collect information, cannot empathize ( saying please, thank you, I’m sorry), sitting for long periods of time, etc….
2. Figure out the need! -why wont they stay in bed at night? Million different reasons….
“We should attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts” – Nel Noddings
3. Stay calm and follow through

Disciplining Skills:
*Wants vs. Needs: If you are going to ask your child to do something, you need to be prepared for them to say No and for that to be OK. Otherwise, do not ask!
-When you put your foot down on important issues, make more room for choice in other areas.
*Follow Through - one of the biggest issues is that we stand in another room and ask our children to do something over and over again. This is developmentally not appropriate. So if you are going to tell them to do something, you need to follow through.
* Problem Solving:
“It is better to talk than to yell,
It is better to explain that to talk,
and it is better to elicit their ideas, than to explain.” –Alfie

Steps to Problem Solving: Kids learn to make good decisions by making decisions, NOT by following directions.
1. Diffuse the situation: Active Listening: (between two children, this could be stopping the pulling of hair ).
*** never talk to children in a way you would not speak to another adult (this includes tone of voice).
-Children need to feel heard before they can move on and listen to you
-You may have to active listen many times
2. State the problem
3. Ask for ideas first, then offer ideas. If the problem is between two children, I only offer my ideas if both of the children want to hear them. *** with younger non verbal children, you will offer your ideas and this will look a lot like redirecting.
4. Come to an agreeable solution for all parties- this will take time and does not always need to happen in the moment.

*Modeling Time Outs: When you get worked up and cannot stay calm, YOU need a time out. Step away and model for your children a time out. Breathe, go into another room, have spouse take over, etc…. whatever will make you calmer and able to work with your child again.
Time outs for children: There are never moments when I would use time out in its traditional super nanny fashion, however, there are times when a child’s safety is at stake or the time needed to problem solve isn’t possible, or a child simply is unable at a particular moment to live up to their end of the agreement when I would hold them or shadow them or remove them from a situation, but always there with them, listening to them, explaining, and allowing them bodily freedom whenever possible.

When they HAVE to, but don’t WANT to:
1. Use least intrusive strategy- don’t argue or yell, be prepared to repeat yourself, allow for bad days, children have them too, speak to them with respect (not in front of other people)
2. Be honest with them- acknowledge when something is not much fun, tell them you don’t like it either….
3. Explain the rationale- they are entitled to a rationale and not just “because I said so….”
4. Turn it into a game- toothbrush airplane game
5. Set an example- all rules apply to adults too
6. Give them as much choice as possible- with whom, what, when, where????

Rule #1: If you are in public, ignore everyone around you! The more worried you are about how other people will judge your parenting skills or your child’s tantrum, the greater the chance that you’ll respond with too much control and too little patience. This is not about what people think of you, it is about what your child needs.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. Rule #1 should be placed at the entrance of every store!!! I saw a woman at Target today that made me want to cry. I cannot imagine how her child felt. :-(

  2. Thanks for posting!! Lots of great info to think about... :)