Monday, November 17, 2014

No-Drama Discipline {Book Review}

Image from Amazon

This is not a paid endorsement, nor was I asked to review this book. I read this book on my own and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share it with you!

Discipline. What a topic. It can be controversial at times with so many opposing views; attachment vs. non attachment, spanking vs. non spanking, gentle vs. authoritarian. I will say right now that I've always been in support of gentle discipline and attachment parenting for my family (however, this does NOT mean I judge you or your choice of discipline, should we differ in personal opinion.) But finding gentle forms of discipline that actually work can be tricky. 

When November entered toddlerhood, it quickly became apparent that I needed some tools in my discipline toolbox. I read (and gave up on) a few different books on the topic, but the one that really stood out as helpful and practical was The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp.

This book was terrific (again, this is my personal endorsement)! I read and re-read it numerous times, constantly refreshing myself on the tried-and-true techniques, and adding in new strategies as she outgrew others.

His tips about speaking toddler-ease to reflect back what your child is trying to communicate was so surprisingly helpful in taming tantrums. It was amazing to see how often simply letting November know she was heard and understood kept meltdowns at bay. They weren't always 100% effective, but the tips in that book became my main arsenal, and I used them often to great results.

If you have a toddler (or will have one), get that book; it will be a lifesaver! 

Of course, as children grow, they can outgrow disciplinary techniques. When this happens, I think many of us parents are left scratching our heads over how to deal with their newest behaviors (or, more likely, their misbehaviors.) What worked for the baby stage, doesn't quite cut it for the toddler stage. And what cut it for the toddler stage, may not help as much during the preschool stage.

It wasn't exactly that the Happiest Toddler techniques were no longer working; it was more that I needed to see what they looked like in a slightly matured form; I needed to see them adapt to my growing preschooler, who no longer responded as well to toddler-ease.

Enter, brain-science.

I recently started reading The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, and was fascinated by the fusion of parenting and brain-science. I loved learning about how your interactions with your child can help shape their brain in positive ways. I felt like this book was onto something, although it didn't exactly provide a straightforward formula to implement in daily disciplinary scenarios. 

So when I found out these authors wrote a book on discipline from their brain-science perspective, I knew I had to read it! It's called No-Drama Discipline: the Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture your child's developing mind. I got my place in line for a hold on it from the local library, and read it all within days of receiving it. 

While I certainly don't have veteran experience trying every strategy in this book, I definitely resonate with the theory, and find their ideas to be practical. I also enjoy how much they emphasize that parenting perfection is NOT the goal, and isn't realistically attainable. They do encourage you to improve your parenting and discipline but to be real and honest with yourself when you make a parenting mistake, because even your mistakes can become valuable lessons. The authors even admit to their own parenting failures, which is refreshing. 

A quick summary:

The main underlying strategy in this book is to connect with your child first, and then redirect them and their behavior. This book has very similar concepts to the ones I was introduced to in The Happiest Toddler, only upgraded for use on young children, adolescents and teens, AND integrated with the brain-science that makes it all so compelling and convincing.

This book challenges us to change our common reactive state of mind when we approach discipline, to a more compassionate state of mind that focuses on connecting with your child first. Through connecting, we validate their feelings, let them feel heard and comforted no matter what big emotions they are going through, and no matter what behavior they are struggling with.

Once they calm down from their connection with us, after expressing themselves and feeling heard, and after we've reflected back to them what they've expressed, we can move on to redirection; talking them through what happened, and addressing their misbehavior. Children are much better able to calm down and listen, using the part of their brain that is receptive to absorbing these kinds of lessons, if approached this way. There's more to it than just that, but that is the main backbone to this book.

Now the real question: does it work?

I haven't had a chance to practice these strategies for more than a week, but I really like the results I've had so far. Here's what one particular experience was like, using what I'd learned:

It was time to leave for an outing, and we were running behind, so I was a little flustered. November was being fussy over the jacket I wanted her to wear. I had put the jacket on her before she noticed it wasn't the lightweight leopard print fleece sweater she'd become obsessed with and got super pouty once she realized this. I explained to her, as I rushed around to finish getting ready, that it was too cold for just a sweater, and if she wanted to wear it, she had to wear a heavier jacket over it. This rational explanation wasn't getting us anywhere, and she was getting fussier and fussier, refusing to finish getting ready.

I took a deep breath, and decided to pause and connect with her, like I'd learned about. I knelt down below her eye level, gently put my hands on her shoulders, looked at her lovingly, and said, "You want to wear your leopard jacket, don't your?" She didn't say anything but she looked at me, and immediately became less pouty. Now that she wasn't fighting me, she seemed receptive to what I had to say. I then went on to calmly explain that we needed to dress super snuggly warm to go outside because it was soooo chilly. I told her she could wear her leopard sweater with her heavy jacket, or just her heavy green jacket. "What do you want to wear?" I asked. She sighed. "This jacket," she said quietly and walked over to the door to finish getting ready. 

Wow, I wasn't even expecting that good of a result! I gave her the choice to choose the thing she really wanted, yet after we connected, she ended up choosing what she had originally been fighting. Now, I doubt every situation will be this simple and effective, but I was pleased to see that I could easily start putting this into practice in real life situations. It was amazing to watch how even just the simple act of connection can turn things around!

Final verdict: it's a keeper.

Since this was a library book, I will definitely be buying my own copy of No-Drama Discipline so I can re-read it and highlight it to my heart's content. I look forward to trying out these strategies in more situations, and can't wait to share what I've learned with other parents. I hope you give this book a shot too!

What are your favorite toddler or preschooler discipline books?

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