Thursday, July 28, 2011

I love you, AND the answer is, “No.”

Rudolf Dreikurs taught the importance of being both kind and firm in our relations with children. Kindness is important in order to show respect for the child. Firmness is important in order to show respect for ourselves and for the needs of the situation. Authoritarian methods usually lack kindness. Permissive methods lack firmness. Kindness and firmness are essential for Positive Discipline.

Many parents and teachers struggle with this concept for many reasons. One is that they often don't feel like being kind when a child has "pushed their buttons." Again I want to ask, "If adults want children to control their behavior, is it too much to ask that adults learn to control their own behavior?" Often, it is the adults who should take some Positive Time-out until they can "feel" better so they can "do" better.

Another reason adults have difficulty being kind and firm at the same time is that they don't know what kind and firm look like. They may be stuck in the vicious cycle of being too firm when upset–or because they don't know what else to do; and then being too kind to make up for being too firm.

One of the biggest mistakes some parents and teachers make when they decide to do Positive Discipline is becoming too permissive because they don't want to be punitive. Some mistakenly believe they are being kind when they please their children, or when they rescue them and protect them from all disappointment. This is not being kind; it is being permissive. Being kind means to be respectful of the child and of yourself. It is not respectful to pamper children. It is not respectful to rescue them from every disappointment so they don't have the opportunity to develop their "disappointment muscles." It is respectful to validate their feelings, "I can see that you are disappointed (or angry, or upset, etc.)." Then it is respectful to have faith in children that they can survive disappointment and develop a sense of capability in the process.

A wonderful way to apply this principle of Kindness and Firmness is to use the phrase “I love you, and the answer is ‘no.’” Listen to the following podcast as Mary Nelsen Tamborksi (Jane Nelsen’s youngest daughter) tells a delightful story about being at her wits end before remembering this Positive Discipline tool.

Click the "Play" button to listen the podcast or subscribe on iTunes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another Hug Story

Click the "Play" button to listen the podcast.

Some of you may know that a “Hug” is one of my favorite Positive Discipline Tools. During this podcast you will understand why as I interview Beth Whitehead after she sent me the following success story.

Dear Jane,

As you may remember, I had a situation with my older daughter (3 yrs old) taking toys away from our littler one (1 1/2 years).  My new behavior was to try hugging the older one when she was being a bully.  SO, something came up today that I really wanted to share:

I was past my patience level and almost yelling at Eden (3) to go sit on the couch, rather than staying underfoot as I was loading the dryer and hassling her little sister for some reason or another.  She was also crying and possibly about to tantrum.  I stopped and just hugged her, as we discussed.  It was PERFECT!  She stopped crying & whining. And then SHE suggested we hug the little one.  I didn't have to do anything else.

Another quick story: Eden was in full tantrum on a different occasion and I thought back to our exercise of asking for a hug.  That worked, too!  It totally diffused the situation and she calmed down.

Also, I taught my daughter to say, "I need attention" when she just needs a hug or for me to stop doing whatever I am doing.  It works so well and is so much better than my getting annoyed and not noticing that she needs me to stop and pay her more attention.

I feel like I am finally on my way to really helping my babies feel understood.  Thank you for all you do Jane!!

Very Sincerely,


Monday, July 11, 2011

Family Meetings

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 from 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 is—I’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 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 an allotted time of 20 to 30 minutes—even 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 minutes.

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. Now you she shares her experience of involving four-year-old Greyson in his first family meeting.

Be sure and listen to the podcast below for more information on Family Meetings!

Family Meeting Podcast with Dr. Jane Nelsen and Mary Nelsen Tamborski.