No-Drama Discipline: Rethinking Discipline
Picture this: you are out to eat when your three-year-old begins to scream and throw a fit. When you are finished eating, you walk out to the car as your child is still screaming. You go to put her in the car seat when suddenly, she hits you right on the face. How do you react? Most parent’s first reaction is to get upset, get loud, and/or spank their child. If this is you, you are not alone. Let’s explore a different approach to discipline.
No-Drama Discipline gives three questions to ask ourselves when our children are misbehaving: What, why and how. Let’s break these down. First, we need to figure out Why our child is acting in this way. When a child screams and even hits us, we may think at first the child is spoiled and trying to get their way. But this isn’t the true underlying reason our children misbehave. Look deeper into the behavior. When you take a deeper look, you will see that your child was trying to express themselves or trying to communicate a need. When we figure out what they are expressing, it is easier to respond to their misbehavior appropriately and with compassion. The next step is to think about What you are trying to teach in this moment. Again, we know that discipline is defined as “teaching”. What is it you are wanting your child to learn? Self-control? Impulse control? The last step is How you teach your child in the moment. When deciding how to teach the child the lesson at hand, we need to keep in mind their age and developmental stage as well as the situation.
Using the scenario at the beginning, let’s work out how this might unfold. First, why did she act this way? She hit you in this moment because she was trying to communicate her needs. Considering her age, this is developmentally appropriate. It isn’t what we as parents want, but it is where she is at. When young children experience these big emotions, it is hard for them stop and think about what they should do. We shouldn’t expect them to look at us and tell us they are frustrated because we are not paying attention to them. Hitting and screaming is how children communicate their needs when they experience these big emotions. Second, it is time to think about what we want to teach in the moment. The lesson isn’t about teaching children that if they misbehave there will be consequences. The lesson is about teaching our children better ways of getting our attention and handling these strong emotions. After all, it is ok to get angry with others. It is how we respond that makes the situation. Lastly, we need to think about how we will teach our children. Putting children in time-out or even spanking might get them to think twice before misbehaving again in the future, but this isn’t teaching our children how to handle those big emotions. Let’s try connecting with our children and giving them that attention they are needing in the moment. When we connect with our children in the moment, it is easier to teach the appropriate behavior. You could say something like, “It is hard to wait. You are tired and were wanting that item from the restaurant and now you are mad because it is time to leave. Is that right?” By acknowledging your child’s emotions, you are telling your child that she is important. At this time, you can begin to teach your child that hitting is never okay and that there are other ways of getting our attention.
The point of using these three questions is to help us parents look at a different way of disciplining our children. Remember, discipline is teaching.