I admit it. I used to be a yeller. One of those moms who yelled at her kids all the time when they didn’t listen or did something wrong. I’m not proud of it and I hate that it used to be that way. I’ve always known that patience was not my strongest suit and
some most days my short fuse just got the better of me with my kids. But I am so grateful I can say things are not like that anymore and that I have changed the way I discipline for the better!
My husband very gently pointed out to me what was happening; that I was over reacting and getting worked up over things and yelling at the kids as a result. I knew he was right and that something needed to change. I didn’t want to yell anymore. I didn’t want to be that mom. So I began to strive for a gentler, but effective, form of discipline. It was around this time a friend of mine told me about a book she had read; The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. I borrowed the book from her and was immediately drawn in by it.
The Whole Brain Child explains how a child’s brain works. It helps the parent understand why their child(ren) act the way they do and how we can take measures to engage our child’s brain and connect with them emotionally. The book explains how finding ways to integrate a child’s left and right brain, as well as their upstairs and downstairs brain, makes a difference in how a child acts.
Once I began to understand how my five year old’s little brain works, I was able to connect with him more. One of the biggest things I took away from this was the idea of giving my son choices when I want him to do something. This helps prevent conflict before it starts and gives him the opportunity to choose to obey. Here’s an example of how that works:
My son: I don’t want to eat that!
Me: I’m going to give you two choices. Choice number one, you eat your dinner and then you can play a short video game when we’re done. Choice number two, you don’t eat your dinner and then you will not be playing video games.
My son: (Takes a moment to think) Ok. I’ll eat.
He doesn’t want to be punished and have privileges taken away, and he knows the choice is up to him, so he chooses to obey. It empowers your child, helps them learn to make good choices, and prevents an epic dinner battle.
Now, will this work perfectly every time? No. Especially not if your child is like mine and they’ve inherited their mother’s stubborn Italian side (ahem). But, it really does work 98% of the time. It has saved us from so many fights and struggles!
After reading The Whole Brain Child I then read No-Drama Discipline, also by Siegel and Bryson. This is when my discipline style started to change even more. No-Drama Discipline explains how disciplining our children through yelling, spankings and time outs is not always effective. In fact, they can even be counter productive.
That’s what my yelling was doing; being totally counterproductive in every way. After all, what’s the purpose of discipline? To teach! To teach our children which behaviors are not okay and how they should act towards others. My children weren’t learning anything by me yelling at them. All they knew was mommy was being mean to them.
But reading No-Drama Discipline has helped me realize that if I connect with my son on an emotional level first, it allows him to calm down faster and I am able to talk to him about what happened so that he understands why what he did was wrong and can learn from his mistake. Connecting first also builds his brain and strengthens our relationship. After I have connected with him and he has calmed down, then we can talk about what he should have done in that situation and then I let him know what his punishment will be.
I can honestly say that we have had less temper tantrums as a result of this, I have not yelled at my children in a VERY long time, and my son is learning what good behavior entails, how to treat others, and why he is punished for the things he does. Now, I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and roses over here. Not by a long shot. BUT, things have significantly improved and I plan to continue to discipline my children by using the “Connect and redirect” method laid out in the above books.