This week I have read and focused on the first chapter (and introduction and guidelines in the beginning of the book). Everything in this book all comes together to make an effective parenting style. But here are some of the main points:
Children thrive on routine. When you change something about your parenting style, your kids will try to make you behave like you're "supposed to." Nelsen refers to this as the kick-the-soda-machine-effect. They exaggerate their behavior to make you behave like they expect, sometimes a temper tantrum, but when they see that that doesn't work (it helps to ignore and or leave the room), they soon slowly changing themselves. I noticed this with my two year old, soon to be three year old, who is very into the "terrible twos." He'd been extremely rough with his sister. Even though she is two years older and much taller, he would still attack her by biting and scratching and punching and hitting. Sometimes it would start as playing, sometimes he'd truly be frustrated (she is sometimes bossy). We would put him in the corner, talk to him, spank him, put him in bed, even let her hit him back, and not only was the behavior not stopping, but he rebelled against the discipline. He would get out of the corner or out of bed repeatedly and scream and throw a fit. We would end up letting this drive our bus and we would get more and more frustrated. After reading some of this book again I decided that raising my voice when he tried to get out of time out was obviously not working. So when he hit his sister again, I simply picked him up, and put him in his bed without saying anything except a calm "You need to be soft with your sister." He of course tried to get out of bed and I gently, but with enough firmness to be sure I was effective, put him back in his bed and calmly told him to stay in bed. Of course he didn't listen, but instead of getting more extreme I just put him back in his bed without saying anything and then left the room quietly. He cranked it up and really started to show his disapproval! I looked at him and put my finger to my lips to show be quiet. I could tell he was thinking about what to do next. I started to leave the room again and he started to scream and stomp his feet. I put him back in his bed and calmly but firmly told him to stay there. He sobbed for a while, but eventually calmed down. It was hard to keep my cool as he ramped up the tantrum, but I'd been praying for help. It's been close to two months since then and he practically never hits his sister anymore! All I had to do was remain calm, consistent, and not demeaning. I emphasize here that I was praying for help because I was mentally exhausted from dealing with his behavior. I also started spending more one on one ime with him, playing with legos or just him going with me to the store.
Wow I'm long winded! And I'm not even done!
Another wonderful point Nelsen emphasizes is to not be permissive and also not authoritarian. Permissiveness will not help your child to be the kind, respectful, self-reliant person you want them to become. They will focus all their energy into manipulating others to do their will feel like they are entitled to every desire. On the other hand, authoritarian methods may illicit immediate responses, not Nelsen warns "beware of what works." Just because the bad behavior has stopped for the moment, doesn't mean the behavioral issue has ceased, it will just come up another time, and then again and again. If you are using "punishment" (which is not the same as discipline because punishment is to make the child feel bad about themselves while discipline is still respectful and not done in the spirit of vengeance or anger, but rather to help correct misconceptions a child may have about themselves or the world around them) you must beware the Four R' of Punishment:
1. Resentment-("This is unfair. I can't trust adults.")
2. Revenge-("They are winning now, but I'll get even.")
3.Rebellion-("I'll do just the opposite to prove I don't have to do it their way.")
a.Sneakiness-("I won't get caught next time.")
b.Reduced self-esteem-("I am a bad person.")
Children do not develop positive characteristics based on these feelings.
So the solution to not being to extreme on either end of the parenting spectrum, is to be kind and respectful, but firm. You don't let your kids get away with murder, but you don't humiliate and demean them when they do wrong either. You also don't switch back and forth between the two. It's a tough line to walk sometimes. When we first took this class we had one child, who was a baby, so as she grew implementing these things didn't seem too difficult. But as we added more kids and therefore more temperaments and personalities, it got a lot trickier!
A good example is the book is the example of Johnny and his mother at breakfast. There are three different kinds of situations, in the first, the authoritative mother decided what Johnny will eat, then does what she can to coerce him to eat it, then scolds him for not eating it and sends him out to play, when he comes in two hours later saying he's hungry, she begins her very long speech of "I told you so." He then is sent off to play while mom makes liver and spinach for lunch to make up for the nutrition he lost from not eating breakfast, and the cycle starts again. With permissive mommy, johnny requests his mom make eggs over easy for breakfast, has mommy redo it 9 times to get it right, decided he wants french toast and while mommy makes that he watched TV and sees a Wheaties commercial, so he decides he wants Wheaties. Of course he doesn't like it and says he wants sugar krispies, which they don't have, so mommy runs to the store to buy some. (That would drive me nuts by the way!) In the Positive discipline approach, Johnny dresses and makes his bed before breakfast, then mom lets him choose between Wheaties and Cheerios, he's seem the commercials for the "breakfast of champions so he chooses Wheaties, only to discover that he doesn't like it. Mom simply tells him that they can't re-flake them so he can go ahead and play. He comes in later to tell his mom that he's so hungry, this is one of the major differences here, the positive discipline mom says "I bet, but I'm sure you can make it until lunch time." No lecture on how he should have eaten his breakfast, no giving in and feeding him breakfast then because she feels bad for him, she just shows some sympathy, emphasizes the positive, and moves on. If he throws a fit, she leaves he room, a tantrums not nearly as fun without an audience.
The last point I would like to touch on is in the guidelines at the beginning of the book. It's when tucking your child into bed ask them to share with you their "happiest time" during the day and their "saddest time" during the day. Then share with them yours and you'll be surprised what you learn. I've started to do this this past week and was surprised especially by me two year old. On Saturday our apartment complex had an Easter party where the kids got to go on an Easter egg hunt, have a sack race, eat hot dogs, bounce in a big bouncy house, it was just a lot of fun for them! Later on that evening I realized that we were out of milk so I went to the store to get some, and brought only my two year old along, and let him pick the cereal we would get (with a few parameters). When I tucked him in that night, guess what his happiest time was? It was going tot he store with mom. This pulled at my heart strings a bit and I felt really close to him. Even closer than I had before that moment.
I still have a lot to learn but I'm really enjoying going through this book. It's helping me to consciously think about how I am as a parent, and evaluate myself.