2 Ways to Rethink Your Parenting Strategy

Last night at my house went something like this:

18 mo old: “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA”

Me: “Will you please put the napkins on the table?”

3 yr old: “Why?”

Me: “For dinner please”

18 mo old: “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA”

3 yr old: “AVERY! Stop it!” “Why?”

Me: “For our hands” “Avery, please stop screaming, use your words”

18 mo old: “NO!”

3 yr old: “I can’t”

Me: “Please just put them on the table…..no not on the counter, the table. Please don’t throw them. Ok, now you need to pick them all up and put them on the table. I’m going to count to three and you better pick them all up. They better be up on the table by the time I finish getting the potatoes out of the oven.”

18 mo old: “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA”

7 yr old: “Mom, I’m bored. This is so boring. I’m going to draw.”

Me: “No, Carter, please don’t get out the coloring box we are having dinner. Will you please help me by setting out plates for you and your sisters…”

18 mo old: “Maaaaaoooom” “Maaaaaaaam” “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA”

7 yr old: “YEAAAHHHHH. ARGH. I’M A PIRATE AND I AM STEALING THE TREASURE. ARGH. I WILL DESTROY THIS CABINET UNTIL I FIND THE TREASURE!!”

18 mo old: “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA”

Me: “CARTER! Do NOT throw everything out of that cabinet! Look at me! Now! The pirate will obey his mother and put the plates on the table for dinner or he will walk the plank!”

3 yr old with a grumpy face and arms crossed: “Mooooooooom. I don’t want to. I hate you. I am never going to pick it up. I will throw all of my animals out the door.”

Me: (wince) “Madison it is NOT ok to throw things at mommy”

7 yr old: “Aye matey!”

18 mo old: “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA”

Me: “WILL EVERYONE KNOCK IT OFF AND DO WHAT I HAVE ASKED!!! I WILL COUNT TO FIVE AND YOU HAD ALL BETTER BE UP AT THE TABLE AND QUIET!”

Me: “Oh hi honey!” (kiss) “I didn’t here you come in. Welcome home. My day? Great! And you?”

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You laugh. Either because you think that is silly, or perhaps because you know what I am describing. That is a pretty close rendition of dinner time. Every. Single. Night. And I haven’t written the non-verbal theatrics in yet. This isn’t even that stressful. It’s the screaming fits at the store or the begging to stay up late (cue Jim Gaffigan on kids at bedtime) or the I kicked her because she hit me, or the blatant disregard for the ten prompts that we are in fact actually heading out the door and really do need shoes and I feel like I am herding cats and pulling teeth and all those ridiculous sayings all day every day and it is a wonder I am not hoarse by the end from all the times I have repeated myself. (inhale and exhale)

 

(in a suuuuuper sarcastic tone) “I am so excited for summer. Everyone home all day! So. Much. Fun.”

Ok. So Little kids are little kids. And I love mine terribly. But I feel I am not alone when I say that the feeling of overwhelm and wanting to pull my hair out, or just rushing to bedtime routine so I can get to some quiet is more frequent lately. I would like to think I am a pretty calm and positive mom most of the time. That I use my energy to create a home environment that is creative and nurturing. But also firm and consistent and stable. At least that is what I want when I wake up in the morning until about 11:30 am when I begin to fizzle out! JK. But seriously. Enter anything chocolate or caffeine. I need it… right?

I recently realized that the key to get anything I am attempting to instill in my life or the life of my family, but failing at, is to clear away everything that is blocking the way. By clearing away the clutter of our lives (which has already been in motion) we can concentrate on what we really value as a family, not just what we are buried under daily. We can honor our family’s needs before the worlds demands and infuse some good ol’ childhood habits.

I don’t want to be in a reactionary state of parenting each day: Dealing with the “emergencies” as they happen and just “making it through the day” anymore.

So. In all of the efforts being put into simplifying and purpose-ifying (run with it k?) this past year- when I saw a book on Simplicity Parenting I thought Yes!-a month working on parenting too? I so need this. And one on No-Drama Discipline? Double heck yes. 

So here we are in month 9…. ok 10 (my months have sort of blended into each other these last few. No excuses. Just happened.) I have been reading  read two books that I would like to share some notes from for you as promised. If you want to pick them up for yourself (no affiliation or plug- just good reads) I’ll link to them right here.

They are:

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Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

and

 

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No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

I have already mentioned how much I liked people who made cheat sheets for everyone back in school…so here is a cheat sheet for you! I did the reading and if you don’t want to tackle the full read you can just take the highlights here and run with it! Although I do highly suggest the read. The examples and extra commentary really help drive the point and make it applicable to your own situations. Your call. Here goes.

I have attempted to sprinkle some charts and images to make it less blah blah blah blah blah word heavy. But you are forewarned. This here is a lot of great- but not even in-depth! – information on parenting. Certain points by themselves can seem sort of “duh”, we might already know that or be doing it; but taken together I’m sure we can all see where we could simplify and/or infuse our parenting strategies with a bit more intentionality.

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Simplify

  • We are the architects of our families and we set the flow. Many families today are being built on the pillars of “too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too fast”. We need to reduce all that too much right there and realign our lives with the real goals of our family. Doesn’t that just sound right up my alley? And if you are here with me then I’m sure it speaks to you too right? Values, decluttering life, finding more joy and alignment….getting purposeful about family life? Yep. Right up my alley right now.
  • In order to effectively communicate with our children, during disciplinary moments or fun moments or even ordinary every day moments we have to be able to connect with them. We cannot redirect their focus or get their attention if they are over stimulated by their world.

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  • The idea of childhood has been lost in a fast paced world of grown up perspective. When we want to address discipline or implement something new in our families we struggle and we give up because our methods aren’t sticking. Simplification of all of these, pillars of excess I’ll call them, makes space, literally and figuratively for any changes we want to occur. More obedience, better daily routines, less fighting, more learning, less drama, more play, more family unity, more joy.
  • Children and teenagers (well people really…but youth are more subject to the effects) move along a spectrum of emotion/behavior. They need boring, stable, predictable home regimens and routines to bring them back to center. A home base of stabile interactions with family members, at least as much as possible, allows them to move back and forth along the spectrum and not get stuck at one end when they are ill equipped to deal with something going on.

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  • Simplifying and decluttering the home life gives kids and parents space and time. Two of the most necessary factors in figuring out life.
  • Security is built on predictability for kids. Children depend on rhythms throughout the day- a pulse they can feel confident in because they know what to expect.

In the tapestry of childhood what stands out is not the splashy, blow out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes” – Simplicity Parenting

  • Little rhythms make surprises and adventures just that. More exciting and adventurous. You can’t feel a “high” if you are always at a high.
  • Rhythms establish a foundation of cooperation and connection which fosters an environment for effective long lasting discipline and respect.
  • Establish years of “quiet, simple connections” that will create natural reflexes- ingrained sense of home that children (and teenagers!) will have a hard time denying even when it is their job to push you away. When they “clock out” or stop pushing for just a moment what will they instinctively do after years of connection conditioning? We decide now. [Emphasis on quiet. Create spaces for them to talk if they need to.] 

     

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    My son Carter loves to talk and talk and talk, and occasionally dress up, while he is doing his family chore of sweeping up after dinner while I stand at the sink doing dishes. It happens (almost) every day.

 

  • Consistency reinforces values that are larger than personal preferences. This is good for kids because they need to learn that the world doesn’t bend to their preference.
  • Too many scheduled activities in a child’s day may actually LIMIT their ability to motivate and direct themselves. Their world is dictated by someone else and so they will always expect that. Balancing activity with downtime allows children to build resources and knowledge and then expend it creatively. 

     

    dollyonmountain
    Dolly climbed a mountain today. Don’t know just yet what this is a  3 yr old metaphor for.

     

 

  • Move the television to the margins of the home rather than the center
  • Don’t be a helicopter- be a base camp
  • Talk less, listen and notice more. Make it a point to turn away from whatever has your attention (phone, dinner, computer) and offer brief, full, often silent attention.
  • Don’t mistake children for sounding boards or sympathetic ears for adult/world concerns and issues.

By respecting the responsibilities, and respecting the boundaries, of your adult world you give your children the gift of freedom in their own world.

  • Too much information does not “prepare” a child for a complicated world; it paralyzes them. They are not yet equipped mentally for it. That comes with time and a slow progression through childhood.
  • Build emotional intelligence (self awareness of moods, motivation to goals, empathy, relating to others, conflict resolution, etc.) by actually NOT talking so much about “how they feel” before age 10- because they really don’t know.
  • By simplifying diet, clothes, toys, schedule- everything- you take the burden and overwhelm off of the child (and yourself!). With a less overwhelming environment children can focus on play, family time, growing, responsibilities, and the pauses of life that happen in between activities where we build our relationships.
  • When children act out or misbehave pause and ask yourself WHY did they do it? WHAT lesson do I want to teach? and HOW can I best teach it?

In a nutshell:

Take your parenting from reactive to receptive and intentional by simplifying the child’s life first (decluttering their room, diet and schedule) and then increase the rhythm and regularity of the home.

Whole Brain No-Drama Discipline

  • Short term goal: get our kids to cooperate and do the right thing
  • Long term goal: instructing our children in ways that develop skills and the capacity to resiliently handle challenging situations, frustrations, and emotional storms that might make them loose control.
  • Say NO to the behavior and YES to the child
  • Our relationship to our kids is- should be- central to everything we do

Neurons that fire together wire together

  • Our children need repeated experiences that allow them to develop wiring in their brain that helps them delay gratification, contain urges to react aggressively toward others, and flexibly deal with not getting their way.

 

cartergrumpyface

  • A child is not receptive to correction or direction when they are emotionally charged up. Just like you can’t teach a dog to sit while it is fighting another dog you cannot teach your children a lesson while they are still heated from whatever behavior or situation is going on.
  • Just as we mess up when we are tired, hungry, angry, lonely or just had a bad day or whatever, a child will too. Don’t assume they “can behave but just won’t” and react. They will not behave all the time and we should not expect them to. “Strategic tantrums” they call them, especially in young children, are much more the exception than the rule. However we can use the times they don’t behave to figure out why and help build the pathways- the wiring-to help them in the future.

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  • In neurological terms, connection strengthens the communication fibers between the upstairs brain and the downstairs brain, or between the higher intellectual part of the brain and the more primitive impulsive lower brain. Building these connections by creating instances where they are brought back to calm from chaos or misbehavior, and lovingly redirected and taught- will help to build this lasting wiring for their future self.

CONNECT then REDIRECT

  • Connection is not attention- or spoiling the child. Connection isn’t about rescuing the child from adversity. It is about showing them you love them, you are there for them and then walking through the hard time together so they learn.

 

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  • Learn response flexibility. There is no one way to deal with any situation with a child. Turn down the dramatic music (the “shark music” they call it) and become a detective. Be curious about WHY your child is behaving this way. Not ask the child why, chase the why.
  • Think of HOW you say what few words you will say (being brief is key with kids). Your tone and expression conveys everything.
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No-Drama Connection Cycle
  • How does it make you feel when you’re upset and not handling yourself particularly well and someone tells you that you are “just tired” or that “it isn’t a big deal” and you should “calm down”? We invalidate our kids when we tell them how to feel and how not to feel. Validation is key to get them to open up and communicate.
  • Don’t flood already overwhelmed senses of a worked up child with more talking or lecturing. Listen to them. Reflect back what they say and then if they seem receptive to direction give brief discipline/direction.
  • Just like with Simplicity Parenting the start to No-Drama Discipline is the same WHY, WHAT and HOW?
  • Wait until your child is ready, and you are ready to approach the situation calmly.
  • Be consistent with family rules and values, but not necessarily rigid. Be flexible in how to go about teaching the principle.
  • Ideas for redirecting a child’s brain back to the middle of the spectrum:

Reduce words- be succinct in your discipline

Embrace emotions- not the actions, but the emotions of the child which are valid

Describe, don’t preach- state your observations and wait for explanation

Involve your child in the discipline- be a parent child team

Reframe a no into a conditional yes- find a way to say yes in a way that works

Emphasize the positive

Creatively approach the situation- think outside the box, be silly, get their mind to be curious about you and let you in for connection.

Teach mindsight tools (recognize their own feelings/me, the feelings of others/you and then make things right/we)

In a nutshell:

Discipline is essential, and effective discipline depends on a loving, respectful relationship between adult and child. The goal of discipline is to teach and the first step in disciplining is to pay attention to the kid’s emotions. When children are upset or throwing a fit, that’s when they need us most and sometimes we have to wait until children are ready to learn. The way to help them be ready to learn is to connect with them. After connecting, then redirect.

 

Whew! That felt like soooooo much information to throw out at ya. Sorry. It was hard to really drill down to the basic points. Two books over 200 pages each. Lots of examples and information…..they really were super great reads if you would like more meat to understand all those bullets up there. No-Drama Discipline was actually really amazing at creating diagrams and even a refrigerator sheet at the back of their book! They made it easy to remember their strategy.

madisonmeasuresmommy

 

 

That being said, reading Simplicity Parenting first was a wise decision. I began to implement simplifying in our home many months ago and as I read this last month I tried to do even more. And do you know what? A simpler home life left that space for the time that connection and redirection requires. It is very small, not significant time or energy, but when I am overwhelmed it is hard to harness any extra energy for parenting with purpose. Clearing out some clutter for all of us has allowed me to tackle this new whole-brain way of parenting and I am seeing it working already.

I began to feel a bit guilty that I had not been doing a better job of parenting all this time. Was it too late with a 7 year old? Why have I not done a better job of helping my kids? Have I not been doing the best for them? Oh no! I haven’t been developing their brain the way I should have….and

And then I remembered this quote from No-Drama:

But the truth is, you have done the best you can. If you could have done better, you would have. As you learn new principles and strategies, the goal is not to berate yourself for missed opportunities, but to try to create new opportunities. When we know better, we do better.

 

No beating ourselves up. Just learning better ways and going out and doing it. Virtual fist bump mamas and papas. Let’s simplify our homes and parenting strategies and get focused on more intentional discipline- I mean- teaching. Go conquer summer break.

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And yes husband orthodontist, if you are reading this, I told you I always wear my rubber bands. 

 

 

About simplytaylor

Wife, braces wearing mother of three, lover of cooking and beauty and aspiring minimalist.

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