Parenting is tough. Most working parents feel rushed in their daily lives. If you are a working parent who sometimes feels you’re not doing a good job at either thing, the career or the parenting, you’re not alone.
More than half of our team at Revibe are working parents with multiple kids...so, we get it. We love our kids more than anything, we want them to grow up to be amazing people, and we are also sometimes too exhausted to handle the barrage of unexpected challenges those little humans throw our way.
If you’re looking to...
- Keep calm and connected to your child
- Learn how your parenting philosophy affects your child’s brain development
- Learn practical tips including examples of what to say in various, challenging situations
...then you’re in the right place! Our aim at Revibe Tech is to create resources that will make your job as a parent a little bit easier. This blog is intended to shed some light on an approach to discipline that will hopefully decrease the drama and tears while building a healthy relationship with your child.
The ideas in this blog are based on a book we highly recommend: “No-Drama Discipline” by Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D. The authors call their disciplinary philosophy a “Whole-Brain approach”, because it describes how the parent-child relationship affects the child’s neurological development. In case you don’t have time to read a book, we’ve summarized our favorite points:
The Whole-Brain Approach to Discipline Has Two Main Goals
- Short Term Goal: Build cooperation between parent and child.
- Long Term Goal: Build healthy brains and nervous systems that create the capacity for children to ethically handle challenging situations with self-control.
At the end of a long day at work, it’s easy for parents to focus on the short term goal of immediate cooperation. We want them to do their homework, clean up after themselves, stop arguing with their sibling, etc.
The Whole-Brain approach reminds us: The more we focus on the long term goal of building the connections in our kids’ brains, the less we have to struggle with the short term goal of getting them to do what we want in the moment. Over time, with this approach, kids will internalize the motivation to do what best supports their health and wellbeing.
Many of us are used to thinking of discipline in terms of threats and punishments that scare children into compliance. This seemed to be the prevailing philosophy for generations, but there wasn’t a lot of research to understand the impact. Only in the last twenty years have scientists been able to study the brain in a way that has really advanced our understanding of how it works. (Thanks to the invention of the functional MRI in the early 90s.)
We now know that in order to help our kids be their best, we have to help create connections in their brains that develop the skills that promote better mental health and relationships. Parents have a superpower; the words we use and the actions we take towards our kids actually change their brains. Yes, on a physiological level!
The general premise of “No-Drama Discipline” is to help parents understand how to emotionally connect with their child. In order to do that, the parent has to first notice when they are themselves too emotionally charged to help the situation.
Responding vs. Reacting
When our emotional state changes in response to a situation with our kids, it is likely that we will “react”. It’s normal to react when we are angry. We might raise our voice and say “Go to your room!” when they are wreaking havoc on our freshly cleaned living room. And it seems like a quick, effective solution to the problem.
But the problem is we are caught up in our own anger, and we are basically on autopilot. We might even hear our own parents’ voices coming out of our mouths. “Do it because I said so!” These outbursts happen immediately without much thinking. And God forbid the child did something to trigger our fight or flight response, such as hitting or hurting us physically. Our nervous systems are programmed to survive, after all!
Usually these outbursts or “reactions” from the parent create fear in the child, and the drama between parent and child escalates.
Siegel and Bryson put it this way:
“Fear and punishment can be effective in the moment, but they don’t work over the long term. And are fear, punishment, and drama really what we want to use as primary motivators of our children? If so, we teach that power and control are the best tools to get others to do what we want them to do.”
On the other hand, responding to a situation means that we are intentionally and consciously acting. Our words and actions are rooted in a philosophy that we have established in the past.
This goes back to the short and the long term goals we discussed earlier. The short term goal is easy to understand. We want them to straighten up and cooperate. Like, now.
The long term goal is the one we tend to forget, if we ever established it in our parenting principles in the first place. Remembering the long term goal is critical if we are going to be able to respond instead of react.
The long term goal is to support them to become an adult that can self-regulate, take care of their own emotional needs, and be a productive member of society. To reach this goal, we have to look at discipline as more of an act of teaching rather than an act of punishing.
So the next time there is a situation that requires your parental intervention, before you open your mouth, pause and take a breath. Take a moment to collect your thoughts. Give yourself a moment to notice if you’ve become emotionally triggered by the situation. Assuming you have the wherewithal to think clearly, pause, and then ask these three questions:
- Why is my child acting this way?
- What do I want to teach in this moment?
- How can I best teach this?
This process puts us in the position of being able to teach them something, instead of adding to the chaos.
We Understand - This Isn’t Always Possible
There are situations that require swift, forceful action for the safety of the kids. Or, sometimes we just don’t have the energy and the bandwidth to be in that teaching mode. The important thing is to begin to recognize our own emotional state, and notice when we are reacting. Sometimes the best thing to do is to make a mental note to talk about the situation later, when you’re both in a better place.
If you do catch yourself not handling something as well as you would have liked, give yourself some credit for noticing that. Observing and being aware of your own emotions is a skill that not everyone has. It’s part of the process of learning to respond and not react. After you finish giving yourself some empathy, go talk to your child about what happened. Model the behavior you would like to see in them. Your example is far more powerful to them than your most eloquent lecture.
“No-Drama Discipline” Ends With a Few Hopeful Messages for Parents
- It’s never too late to make a positive change.
- Even when you mess up as a parent, you can always reconnect, and they may even learn more from that.
- There are no quick fixes, it takes practice to improve parenting skills.
If You Want to Read the Full Book
Check it out on Amazon! Well worth the eleven bucks. It’s an easy read (around 250 pages, with a lot of these helpful illustrations), so, perfect for busy parents:
To read more on how to help your child focus, check out our EBook