I neared the end of the book and experienced an immense sense of relief. Tears surprised me when they came, unexpectedly warm and freeing. With my tears, I let go of some of the guilt, fear, and inadequacy I’d been experiencing as a parent. I finished the last page and felt hope in the renewed idea that the vision I had for my family – and the type of parent I wanted to be – was attainable.
Sitting in the back of our packed mini-van near my three children, I looked around me and felt overwhelmed by love for them. I leaned forward to talk with my husband, our current road trip chauffeur, and told him with a hint of embarrassment, “I just cried at the end of that book.” I’d been sharing my discoveries all along our 3 day trip, however, and he understood my passionate reaction. He simply responded with, “Let’s give it a try, then.”
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve worked to incorporate the principles from Jane Nelson’s into our family life. Our family already utilizes some of the techniques, but we’ve been missing the overall structure and long-term approach discussed in the book. Without some of the basic concepts tied together with an understanding of mistaken goals of behavior and using encouragement effectively, we found ourselves floundering between permissiveness and strictness.
The long-term goals in Nelson’s work – to create an atmosphere of respect where children feel belonging and significance and have meaningful opportunities to learn responsibility, self-discipline, problem-solving skills, and social interest – have long been shared my husband and I. In the midst of every day parenting, especially of strong-willed children, however, we’ve let short-term goals and outcomes become roadblocks to achieving this.
With the big picture found in Positive Discipline, we are better able to create an atmosphere of family cohesiveness, cooperation, and personal responsibility. The road to this is certainly winding and imperfect. Breaking old habits and establishing new ones as a parent certainly takes a healthy dose of humility, a willingness to learn from mistakes, and compassion for yourself. Plus, while the principles feel natural to me, applying them takes practice and may need tweaking for younger children. This is why I ordered books in the series focused on toddlers and preschoolers, and a book offering real-life examples of applying Positive Discipline.
If you haven’t read Positive Discipline, I highly recommend reading it cover to cover to gain a 360 view. I’ll be sharing my experiences as we adopt different concepts from the book gradually into our home, like I did with cooling off instead of time outs. If you want to follow along or join me in my “Positive Discipline Journey,” here are some ideas from the book that really spoke to who I want to be as a parent:
* If we are not comfortable with excessive control or permissiveness as parents, but don’t know other alternatives, we may go between the two ineffectively.
* We can parent based on mutual respect and cooperation. It is possible to incorporate firmness with dignity and respect.
* It’s not necessary to make children feel worse in order to make them do better.
* Punishment does have short term results that often fool us, but hinder long-range results.
* The most popular forms of excessive control involve a system of rewards and punishment. Parents look to “catch” children in “good” and “bad” behaviors, so they can reward or punish. This make parents, not children, responsible for their behavior.
* Never do for a child what she/he can do for themselves.
* If children help establish rules, they are more likely to follow them.
* Misbehavior comes when children seek belonging and have a misguided understanding of how to achieve their goal.
* When children feel loved, they are ready for cooperation.
* Mistakes – on the part of parents and children – are important learning opportunities.
* We need to focus on the long-range effects of our actions, instead of short-term results.
* Change will take time and will have it’s challenges.
* We don’t have to compromise our parenting goals to meet society’s expectations of a good or effective parenting.