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  • Writer's pictureTing-yi Huang

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

By Siegel, D. J. & Bryson, T. P. (2014). New York: Bantam

I came across this book because Dr. Daniel Siegel has written another book called Parenting From the Inside Out (which I will discuss in later post). I ended up reading this book by Dr. Siegel first because of its title No Drama. A lot of parents find me for parenting coaching and education because they are already in the state where they not only feel emotionally alienated from their children, but also defeated by their communication with their children. They wonder what happened along the way that land them in such emotional states of confusion, disconnection, or powerlessness when it comes to parenting.

Parents try to look at it from a cultural perspective, a developmental perspective (the often stereotypes of rebellion and/or peers are more important than parents associated with teenage years), a personal perspective ("maybe I am not just cut out to be a parent, or not as a good enough parent," "My own parents were not even there with me when I was growing up, so I don't have a blueprint when it comes to being a parent myself" ), a genetic perspective, etc. Before we let our emotions dictate our self-evaluation, I would like to remind parents that parenting itself is a journey that will incite a wide array of emotions. There is also no perfect parent. When we parent, our children are not the only people that are growing and learning, we (the parents) are also growing and learning. Thus, it is of paramount importance that we be mindful and get ourselves educated, so that we can effectively utilize every parenting challenge as an opportunity to refine our parenting skills.

Now onto the book, I, personally and professionally, enjoy reading this book because it not only lays out the basic principles of disciplines, but also provides specific parenting strategies. It emphasizes building a strong emotional foundation with your children, no matter what your current parenting stage is at right now. The emotional connection will mitigate the parenting issues that have its origin from a cultural, developmental, personal, and genetic cause.

Based on Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Bryson, there are eight basic principles in disciplining:

  1. Discipline is essential

  2. Effective discipline depends on a loving, respectful relationship between adult and child.

  3. The goal of discipline is to teach (as opposed to punish): We use discipline moments to build skills so kids can handle themselves better now and make better decisions in the future. There are usually better ways to teach than giving immediate consequences.

  4. The first step in discipline is to pay attention to kids' emotions: When children misbehave, it's usually the result of not handling big feelings well and not yet having the skills to make good choices. So being attentive to the emotional experience behind a behavior is just as important as the behavior itself.

  5. When children are upset or throwing a fit, that's when they need us most.

  6. Sometimes we need to wait until children are ready to learn: The way we help them ready to learn is to connect with them: Just like we soothe them when they are physically hurt, we do the same when they're emotionally upset. We do this by validating their feelings and by giving them lots of nurturing empathy. Before we teach, we connect.

  7. The way we help them ready to learn is to connect with them

  8. After connecting, we redirect

Furthermore, Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Bryson point out twenty discipline mistakes that even great parents make:

  1. Our discipline becomes consequence-based instead of teaching-based

  2. We think that if we're disciplining, we can't be warm and nurturing

  3. We confuse consistency with rigidity

  4. We talk too much

  5. We focus too much on the behavior and not enough on the why behind the behavior

  6. Children's misbehavior is usually a symptom of something less. It will keep occurring if we don't connect with our kids' feelings and their subjective experiences that lead to the behavior

  7. We forget to focus on how we say what we say

  8. We communicate that our kids shouldn't experience big or negative emotions

  9. We overreact, so our kids focus on our overreaction, not their own actions

  10. If we're punitive, or we're too harsh, or we react too intensely, our children stop focusing on their own behavior and focus instead on how mean or unfair they feel we are

  11. We don't repair

  12. We lay down the law in an emotional, reactive moment, then realize we've overreacted

  13. We forget that our children may sometimes need our help making good choices or calming themselves down

  14. We consider an audience when disciplining. In front of our in-laws, the temptation might be to be harsher or more reactive (I will personally add "nicer") because you feel that you're being judged as a parent

  15. We get trapped in power struggles. Negotiation isn't a sign of weakness; it's a sign of respect for your child and her desires. Let's see if we can figure our a way for both of us to get what we need.

  16. We discipline in response to our habits and feelings instead of responding to our individual child in a particular moment

  17. We embarrass our kids by correcting them in front of others. Embarrassment will just take her focus off the lesson you want to teach, and she's unlikely to hear anything you want to tell her.

  18. We assume the worse before letting our kids explain

  19. We dismiss our kids' experiences. "Stop fussing." "It's not that big a deal"

  20. We expect too much. When kids are young, their capacity to make good decisions really fluctuates. Just because they can handle things well at one time doesn't mean they can at other times.

And oh! one key point. We can mostly manage problems, not solve problems. Solving problems means that they won't come up again. The problems are, simply, solved. Managing problems means that we manage the problems at the most optimal ways possible. Managing problems are more applicable to parenting, as opposed to solving problems, because similar or different problems will not cease to come up the day we become someone's parents. However, when you are able to manage parenting problems positively, such that you are able to resolve conflict without feeling like you are losing your children and yet able to achieve a win-win solution, you will feel empowered. That empowerment will help you to build confidence in your ability in disciplining and in your identity as a parent.

So what's your parenting challenges? What are your area of strength as a parent?

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