On Wednesday, our local Attachment Parenting group had its monthly meeting. This month’s topic was “Child Development and Discipline from Birth to Age Five,” with speaker Patience Bleskan, the founder of Parents and Children Empowered.
Patience’s talk was wonderful. She hit on several points that I’ve heard before, but it was a great reminder for me to hear them again, especially since Ava’s at an age now where she is testing her boundaries, etc.
Here’s a bit from Patience’s autobiography which helps explain her view on discipline:
“Through her past and continued work with families including her own, she continues to see the negative results of parents misunderstanding their child’s behavior. In general parents focus on the behaviors they see their children doing, with no attempt to understand why the child is acting a certain why. Patience firmly believes children have a legitimate reason for everything they do. But because they have few skills to express their thinking, their actions often leave us wondering. As a parent it is our job to find out the reasons behind what our children do so we can help them find better ways to be in the world.
If a child is misbehaving, and you only see the bad behavior, all you can do is punish. But if your child is misbehaving and you see the thinking and motivation behind the behavior, you have found an opportunity to teach.”
Her talk began with explaining child development at different ages. That was really interesting to learn when they can comprehend different things.
She explained the importance of first validating why your child is doing a specific behaviour. Say, for example, Ava is standing on her rocking chair (something she really likes to do). I could say to her, “I know you like to stand on your rocking chair. It’s really fun for you and you get to be tall!” Then go on to explain why this behaviour is something you don’t approve of. “Mommy gets scared when you stand on your rocking chair because you could fall down and get hurt.” I could then demonstrate a doll standing on the chair, rocking, and falling off, emphasizing that the doll gets hurt when she falls. And then explain what the proper behaviour is. “Rocking chairs are for sitting.” Etc.
My first reaction was, wow, that sounds like a lot of work. But Jody (who was able to sneak out of work to attend the meeting as well) and I have already started implementing these changes in how we address her, and once you start doing it, it’s really easy to get into the habit. And Ava really seems to be responding to what we say.
This doesn’t mean she’s going to be a perfectly behaved child, but hopefully we can use things like standing on a rocking chair or throwing a block, as opportunities to teach rather than just getting upset and frustrated that she’s not behaving the way that we want (which I know is so easy to do).
Patience also talked about giving your child choices (a la Love and Logic style), so they feel like they have some control over their lives.
She also mentioned that you don’t have to make your words simple for your child. Words are words are words are words. If you use larger words with them, they will quickly learn what they mean. I thought that was really cool because we don’t really use smaller words with Ava and it’s good to know that she can still learn and understand what we mean.
She talked a lot about positive reinforcement and how it’s been proven to be much more effective than punishment. Here are a couple articles on the subject: Why Positive Reinforcement Works and Positive Reinforcement vs. Punishment.
I know there are other things she mentioned (like effective ways to get your child to take turns and how to wean your toddler), but that’s all the time I have to write right now.
All-in-all, it was a very productive and beneficial meeting and I’m glad Patience was able to come. I know I had been feeling a bit frustrated lately about how to respond when Ava does this, that or the other thing, and I feel like I came away from the meeting with several useful tools to help me in my parenting journey. I am actually thinking about making myself some notecards to put up around the house with various reminders about how I want to respond in certain situations, because I know how easy it is to just react without thinking. I think that would be handy for both me and Jody.
Just came across this tidbit (on what looks to be a really good site on the topic of positive discipline), which I think sums it all up perfectly.:
Remember: the goal of discipline is not to control children and make them obey but to give them skills for making decisions, gradually gaining self-control, and being responsible for their own behavior.