Tag: Discipline

Remaining Relational with Flattened Flapjacks

Last night my family enjoyed our weekly tradition of breakfast for dinner. As my boys were devouring their pancakes, I remembered the item I found under the living room rug last week. Pancakes. Yes, that’s correct. Pancakes.

A few weeks ago my sons thought it would be funny to sneak a few pancakes, and hide them under the large rug in the living room. I discovered this a couple of weeks later after the pancakes were ground into the rug and smashed, then hardened onto the wood floor beneath the rug. As you can imagine, I was not pleased to find this hidden treasure!

I felt anger rise in me. My relational brain began to short circuit. I knew I was too angry to stay relational when I talked with them about this, so I asked them to go play in their rooms. I said, “We will talk about this problem after I calm down.”

To be honest, taking a pause to calm myself before I interact with the kids over a misbehavior is not something that comes naturally to me. I have to be very intentional to remain relational in these moments. This is one of the elements of a RARE leader. For the next 4 weeks I will share something about each element needed to be a RARE leader as described by Dr. Marcus Warner and Dr. Jim Wilder in the book RARE Leadership. It may be strange to think of yourself as a leader, but if you are a parent, you are leading your children and your family. RARE stands for Remain Relational, Act Like Yourself, Return to Joy, and Endure Hardship. This week I want to focus on remaining relational, which includes how to keep relationships bigger than problems.

One big challenge parents face is how to affirm to their children they are more important than the messes they create. In the moment when a child disobeys, hurts a sibling, breaks something, acts disrespectfully, lies or colors on the wall, it is hard to remember that the child is more important than the problem. As parents we have to stay relational and calm ourselves in order to effectively convey that the child is more important than the issue they have created. This is true for all of us, parents or not. This skill can be especially hard when the child’s behavior “pushes our buttons” and triggers our own unprocessed pain. Sometimes the simple act of disobedience makes us feel out of control. We say things like, “They should know better!”

I often catch myself feeling like an “infraction of the rules” is an emergency to be dealt with RIGHT NOW and there is no time to slow down and calm myself. Mind you, this is not my conscious thought. This is what my emotional reaction tells me. Sometimes I also catch myself feeling embarrassed by their behavior. I may notice that I suddenly feel like a failure as a mother and, after years of teaching and guidance, they would still act this way. It is in these low-joy moments when I need to ask Immanuel how He sees me, the situation, and my children so that my actions will line up with my love for them.

In the case of the pancakes smashed beneath the rug, it also meant waiting to give the consequence to my boys until I calmed myself, prayed about it and talked to Chris. Most of the time I may not need all of these steps, but sometimes I do, especially for the big infractions that really push my buttons.

After calming myself and praying about an appropriate response, I talked with Matthew and Andrew. I told them that, unfortunately, what they thought was silly and fun was damaging. I expressed that I understood they were not trying to damage the rug. However, because they were not thinking about the consequences of their actions they created a big problem. I told them they would have to pay me all of their allowance money they had been saving for a Lego toy to pay for a new rug.

My boys were distressed about this consequence and I was glad I had calmed myself so I could synchronize with their big feelings then help them calm down. Once the stormy sea of emotions had settled, I helped them interpret how, in the real world, there are consequences when we destroy property that belongs to other people. Over the next few days I gave the boys opportunities to earn extra money around the house.

Looking back on this ordeal, I am thankful I was able to recognize that I was too upset to interact with the boys about their behavior. I knew I was not going to stay relational because my brain’s relational circuits were off, and I needed a bit of self-care. Everything in relationship goes more smoothly when I can keep my relational circuits on and remain relational. My sons learned a valuable lesson about the consequences of their actions – opposed to simply learning that putting pancakes under the rug will make Mommy mad.

Next time you find yourself upset by your children, a spouse or a coworker, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Do I feel ready to handle this situation relationally, or do I need to calm myself first?” I hope you will read the wonderful book, RARE Leadership.

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Discipline that leads to rest

Both of my boys have been extremely hyper today. It is clear their little brains have been spinning which causes their behavior to spiral out of control. They keep getting into trouble which means a lot of time spent in quieting practice. In case you are wondering what quieting practice is, I would like to tell you about this sanity-saving opportunity designed to reset their boisterous brains.

A couple years back my husband and I changed how we handle discipline. Around the time we discovered Matthew exhibited symptoms of ADD/ADHD we knew we needed some useful solutions. Matthew was very hyper which meant he was in constant motion, incredibly impulsive, unable to focus or calm down and he ended up in trouble because he did not listen, stop or obey. Timeouts and other discipline techniques were not working. My husband and I felt like we were spinning on an out of control merry-go-round!

We realized, ultimately, one key skill was missing because my son was not able to effectively quiet himself. His inability to “down-regulate” and calm down was impacting every one of his relationships and every single interaction. In many ways, it is like trying to walk when you have a leg cramp. This is no easy task, and for my son, his brain was in a cramp and he needed some relief!

For children with ADD or ADHD it is much more difficult to quiet. Some brain regions are working too hard while other areas are not working hard enough. This means children need more practice to learn how to calm and quiet as well as learn to use the skill effectively in life and relationships. Even when children have learned the quieting skill we parents must help our children find the motivation to use the skill. Learning a skill and having the motivation to use a skill are separate issues and each requires purposeful effort and clear guidance.

Now back to how we handle discipline issues. Instead of a “Timeout”, we frequently tell our boys to take a “Quiet Practice.” This means they must go to a designated chair and sit quietly and take some deep breaths to calm their body and thoughts. They are not allowed to talk or play with toys. We usually wait until they have been still and quiet for about 2 minutes then we release them. If they talk or interact the time starts all over. If they “sit and stew” or look enraged all the while sitting still, the 2 minutes does not begin until it is obvious they are trying to calm themselves. Their designated seat is usually somewhere in the room with me, so I can see if they are quieting, but if they are both in quiet at the same time and interacting with each other, we send them to their own separate rooms so they no longer interact.

Sometimes Matthew and Andrew argue about going to quiet or, if they are angry, they will do something destructive or mean while walking to their quiet moment. This leads to what we call a “punishment” or “consequence.” In the past, when they did not obey, I would take away television privileges or toys for the day, but the problem was it was such a big consequence I did not have additional options if they further disobeyed. We had to find a small enough consequence that I had enough options when they would rack up 10-15 on the way to their quiet destination! We have defined a punishment as 5 minutes without toys though, when we first started this process, we started with 2 minutes while they were getting used to the new system.

While there are still occasions when we use other kinds of consequences for behavior, this is our go-to system. What I enjoy about incorporating quieting into their consequences is this: no matter the reason they end up in trouble, they will benefit from quieting whether they are sad, mad, overwhelmed, or frustrated. While this is especially helpful for Matthew with his ADD, it is also very effective for Andrew as well.

I am thankful to say that the day has improved after the boys spent much of their morning in quiet. They better regulate their emotions and are staying kind with each other. They are more grounded than before and the day has not spun out of control like it would have in the past. Now that they have practiced this skill for some time, I often say to Matthew, “You are getting hyper, go calm yourself or you will end up in a longer quieting practice” and he is able to calm down his energy levels before he needs a formal consequence. All of this has gone smoother because my husband and I first practiced quieting ourselves and spent a lot of time quieting with the boys when they were infants. Quite simply, every one of us benefit from some much-needed rest.

Discipline is a hot topic today because there are many strong opinions and different camps on what’s appropriate – or not. This can feel overwhelming. Additionally, many of us parents feel hopeless trying to find what works for our children. I find it helpful to remember that discipline is not so much about getting results rather it is about guiding our children to learn how to manage and return to joy from distressing emotions, learn to stay themselves while feeling upset and learning right from wrong. These are gifts we can give our children and a rewarding investment in their future.

 

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