Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spend Special Time

Spend Special Time is the Positive Discipline Tool Card Brad discusses in his blog this week. He pointed out that he didn't agree that once a month is enough special time for kids over 13. He is absolutely right. It isn't easy to explain all the concepts on a small card. Brad did guess that the point is that teens often don't want to spend time with their parents--so make a special effort at least once a month. Of course at least once a week would be ideal--keeping in mind that special time is something special scheduled on the calendar--in addition to the daily time..
       I have inserted an excerpt from Chapter 9 on spending special time in the book Positive Discipline for Teenagers, by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.

How Do You Spend Time That Counts?  

DURING THE TEEN years, when your children spend less and less time with you, it's more important than ever to connect in ways that really count. Unfortunately, there are several conditions that make quality time espe­cially difficult to achieve: busy schedules, teenagers' preference to be with their friends, and time spent lecturing, judging, and punishing.
Brian decided to try spending quality time with his son, Ted. Brian's at­tempts to control Ted's use of drug and alcohol had damaged their relation­ships. He had grounded Ted, taken his car away, and lectured ad infinitum ("How could you do such a thing? You'll ruin your life forever. What have we done wrong?"), but all to no avail. Ted got more defiant and more rebellious, and the father-son relationship deteriorated badly. Brian was thoroughly dis­couraged, but decided to take a class called "Empowering Teens and Yourself in the Process" before giving up completely. The very first night of the class he heard something that would later change his life, as well as his son's. The facil­itator said, "Sometimes you get the best results by forgetting about behavior and focusing on the relationship." Brian thought that sounded pretty simplis­tic, but he also realized that trying to improve his relationship with his son cer­tainly couldn't do any harm—even if it didn't do any good.
The next day, Brian showed up at Ted's school during his lunch period and got permission to take his son to lunch. Brian had decided that his whole pur­pose would be to enjoy Ted's company—no matter what. When Ted saw his dad, he asked belligerently, "What are you doing here?" Brian replied, "I just wanted to have lunch with you." During lunch, Brian focused on his purpose, avoiding third-degree questions. He didn't even ask Ted how his day was. Ted was completely surprised and very suspicious all during lunch, waiting to be criticized or lectured. The entire lunch was spent in silence. Afterward, Brian took Ted back to school and said, "Thanks for having lunch with me. I really enjoyed being with you."
Brian continued showing up at Ted's school for lunch every Wednesday. It took three weeks for Ted's suspicions to disappear. He then started telling his father small things about his day, and his father did the same. Ted even began asking questions about work and college. Brian was careful to answer Ted's questions without lecturing.
Meanwhile, Brian had stopped trying to control Ted through punishment and withdrawal of privileges. Instead, he focused on Ted's assets, even though he had to dig to get past his fears about Ted's rebellion. He told Ted how glad he was to have him as his son and described to Ted how thrilled he had been the day he was born. Brian found it easy to tell stories about the cute things Ted had done as a child. Ted would shrug and give the impression that he thought these stories were "stupid." However, during this time, Brian noticed that Ted showed up for dinner more often and sometimes brought his friends over to watch television.
One day, three months into the lunch routine, Brian got stuck in a meet­ing that lasted through the lunch period. That night, Ted said, "What hap­pened to you today, Dad?"
Brian apologized, "I'm sorry. I didn't know you were expecting me. We never said it would be a regular thing. But I'd love to make it a regular routine; how about you?"
Nonchalantly, Ted said, "Sure."
Brian said, "I'll be sure to leave a message if I ever get tied up again."
Brian felt pleased and gratified about the effectiveness of spending quality time with his son. He didn't know if Ted stopped experimenting with drugs and alcohol, but he knew his control efforts hadn't had a positive effect. Now, at least, the damaged relationship was being repaired, and Brian was grateful that the importance of this had gotten through his own thick skull. He felt sat­isfied that he was providing good memories for his son and letting him know from experience that his father loved him unconditionally. Ted's behavior im­proved considerably. He stopped being disrespectful. In fact, he started being considerate about letting his parents know when he would be home. Brian felt he was creating an atmosphere in which his son could think more about how his behavior affected his life rather than spending so much energy on "getting even" with his dad for the lectures and criticism.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Family Meetings

I have decided to follow Brad's presentation of a Positive Discipline Tool Card with my articles on the same tool card. First I want to mention how it touched my heart to hear that Gibson got tears in his eyes when he heard his Dad's compliment. The picture says a thousand words about how important it is to hear heartfelt compliments.

Family Meetings
By Jane Nelsen

Several years ago some Adlerians recorded a bunch of family meetings in different families. For two years they looked for the perfect family meeting. Finally they gave up because they couldn't find a perfect family meeting. However, they were delighted with the positive results in families (more effective communication, focusing on solutions, having more fun together) even though their meetings were not perfect.
Keeping in mind that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn, the biggest mistake parents made that kept the meetings for coming closer to perfection was talking too much. Children are not thrilled about family meetings that provide another platform for parents to lecture. Parents need to talk less and listen more. Yes, I know how difficult this isI’m still working on it. Somehow we parents think we aren’t doing our jobs unless we are talking, talking, talking.
      Another mistake was trying to “fix feelings” (or to try to talking children out of having their feelings) instead of just listening. Sometimes it can be encouraging to validate feelings, but try validating feelings with you lips together, "Mmmmm." This allows children to discover that they can work through their feelings and learn from them.
      It is most effective to have family meetings once a week and to stick to the allotted time of 20 to 30 minuteseven if everything on the agenda has not been covered. This just might help your children learn "delayed gratification." Also, it gives them time to absorb what was discussed during the meeting, to try the agreed upon solution, and to practice working things out for themselves in between meetings.
      Family meetings are one of the most important tools parents can use to teach children so many valuable social and life skills such as:
  • Listening skills
  • Brainstorming skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Mutual respect
  • The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the family meeting agenda so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
  • Concern for others
  • Cooperation
  • Accountability in a safe environment. (People don’t worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
  • How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
  • A sense of belonging and significance
  • Social interest
  • That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
  • Having fun together as a family
Family Meetings provide an opportunity for parents to: 
  •                    Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
  •                   Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
  •                   Listen in ways that invite children to listen
  •                   Respectfully share responsibility
  •                  Create good memories through a family tradition
  •                  Model all of the skills they want their children to learn

Where else can you get so much for such a small investment in time? Family meetings provide a wonderful family tradition that may carry on for generations. A funny story about that: my children loved family meetings when they were six to twelve or so. Then they started complaining, as typical teens do, about how stupid family meetings were. I asked them to humor me and that we could shorten the time from 30 minutes to 15.
One day Mary, one of the complainers, spent the night at a friend’s house. The next day she announced, “That family is so screwed up. They should be having family meetings.”
When Mary went off to college, she initiated regular “family meetings” with her roommates and said they would not have survived without them.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Letter of Intent to become a Certified Positive Discipline Associate

After taking a two-day Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way workshop to become a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Education, some participants decide they want more training to become a Certified Positive Discipline Associate. (More info at To begin the process they write a Letter of Intent. I was so moved by Julia Tomes letter that I asked her permission to share it on my blog.

Dear Positive Discipline Community,

     I can't remember how I first happened upon a copy of Positive Discipline, by Dr. Jane Nelson, but somehow it found it's way into my hands during my third year of teaching. I was starting at a new school in a new district.  All I remember thinking was that I wished that I had the book the year before.  Prior to coming to this school I was teaching an alternative middle school program for students in 6-8th grade who were having difficulty with the traditional school setting.  They would spend half their day in the “regular” school and then get bused over to me for the other half.  I had two classes of students, morning and afternoon.  These were students who were disaffected, defiant, abusive, angry, and had no sense of belonging.  As a second year teacher, they burned me out.  I worked hard to give them some meaning and a sense of belonging, but I know that if I had Positive Discipline in my tool box, that year would have been so much better. 
     I read Positive Discipline and loved it, but I didn't internalize it.  I was busy and didn't realize that I was holding a treasure box in my hands.  I started doing class meetings, but not really following the method.  They went well, but not as well as I would have liked.  I put the book on the shelf along with all my other teaching books and, frankly, forgot about it. 
     After teaching for 7 years my husband and I started our family.  I decided to stay home, cleared out my classroom and put all the books on the shelves at home.  I was quickly swallowed up by babies, nursing, changing diapers, and sleep deprivation.  I was fortunate enough to have an amazing group of women with whom I formed a mother's group.  They were all advocates of Positive Discipline and I remembered that dusty book on my shelf.  I finally reread it after my second child was born and we began to implement it at home.  We started family meetings with my daughter when she was 4 and now that my son is 4, he participates as well. 
      My husband found Jane's blog on the internet and put in on the home page of my computer.  I then learned that there were classes and workshops on Positive Discipline that people could take.  I was especially intrigued by the idea of becoming trained to work with parents in the method and I couldn't get it out of my mind.  The idea was planted and it continued to nag and pull at me.  When my husband lost his job in the fall of 2008, the pearl of an idea grew larger and larger as I thought about going back to work.  Never have I found a parenting method which was so in-line with my beliefs about people, human nature, and children.  It was so respectful and caring, and taught children and parents how to make choices and problem solve.  Coming from a family which was loving but authoritarian, this was all so appealing.  It seemed such a natural fit with my teaching experience, my love for children, and my knowledge and experience now as a parent.  
     Last February, 2009, I went to Seattle to attend the workshop “Teaching Parenting The Positive Discipline Way” taught by Melanie Miller in Kirkland, Washington.  It was wonderful and I came home empowered to begin working with parents. At the training I met another woman who lives in Portland and we collaborated to begin teaching classes together.  This past fall we taught our first 7 week class at my daughter's elementary school.  Right now I am preparing to teach my second class to begin in February.  I will be teaching this one on my own as my colleague is overwhelmed by a recent move and two very young children.  I feel fortunate to have her support as well as Melanie's as I move into this next class.
    It is my hope to become a Positive Discipline Associate.  I would like to continue teaching classes at my children's school for as long as there is interest.  Eventually I would love to be able to offer support to more families where parenting resources are less available.  As a teacher I have seen more than I care to remember of difficult family situations for children and I feel that so often parents feel lost and alone when trying to raise children.  Adding poverty, a very young age, and/or little education to the equation only exacerbates this for parents.   I am also interested in helping get Positive Discipline into more schools in our region.  We have one P.D. Certified school here in Portland and it would be wonderful to see that number grow.  I feel the possibilities as a Positive Discipline Associate are numerous.  Right now, I'm very happy working with the parents in my immediate community and hope to continue working on my skills as a parent group leader.  It will be wonderful to have the support of the Positive Discipline Community if I am accepted into the training.

Julia Tomes