How to Discipline

Discipline is an essential part of childrearing. The word “discipline” is related to the word “disciple” – student. A parent is a teacher and a child is a student – one who needs to learn. A parent must teach a child how to function appropriately, how to behave in socially acceptable ways, which values to adopt and hold by and so much more. For instance, it is up to parents to teach a child to value honesty and to refrain from taking things that don’t belong to him (i.e. not to steal!). Parents have many tools available to them for teaching including explaining, illustrating, modelling, demonstrating, reinforcing, praising, encouraging, rewarding and – disciplining.

Why Discipline?
Discipline – guidance that involves the use of negative consequences – is not the first teaching tool that a parent should employ. It is, in fact, the last one. A parent can begin guidance by teaching, explaining, encouraging, modelling and reinforcing the desired behavior. For instance, a parent can tell a child that sleep is important for mood, energy and optimum functioning and that bedtime is 9 p.m. When the child is ready for bed at 9, the parent can use praise (“I see you’re ready right on time – good for you!”). If the child’s cooperation is a new accomplishment, the parent can even use acknowledgment, praise or reward to further reinforce the behavior (“Since you’re ready for bed so promptly, I’m putting an extra treat in your lunch tomorrow.”). As long as the child is cooperative, these pleasant interventions may be all that is necessary to successfully teach the child to go to bed.

But what happens if the child does NOT cooperate with bedtime? The parent can’t use praise because there is no appropriate behavior to praise – the child is busy running the other way. Telling the child that it is bedtime or that sleep is important for his well-being is having no effect whatsoever on the youngster – he’s not interested. The parent needs another tool. This is where discipline comes in.

How to Discipline Using Negative Consequences
Discipline is a teaching tool. It has nothing to do with punishment (“I’ll show you a thing or two!”). It has nothing to do with anger. In fact, if a parent is angry, he or she should not discipline a child. Rather, the parent must wait until all anger has dissipated. In addition, since discipline is meant to teach, the child him or herself, must be calm enough to learn. Therefore the parent should wait until the child is calm, before engaging in discipline. A “teaching moment” is one in which BOTH the parent and child are calm. Don’t worry about the time lag between the child’s offence and the teaching moment – children will remember the incident you are talking about as long as it has occurred within the past hour or two (and often even if it occurred within the past week or two – depending on what it was!).

Discipline requires thought and planning. A detailed strategy for effective discipline is found in Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice. As is explained there, the parent must consider what negative consequence will motivate the child to cooperate in the future. The consequence must be irritating enough that the child will want to avoid it next time. It should not be so aversive that the child will hate the parent or seek revenge. It should not be so mild that the child doesn’t care enough to change his behavior.

Parents must warn the child that if the behavior is not corrected, a specific, named negative consequence will occur. “From now on, when you aren’t in bed by 9 p.m., you will lose computer time the next day.” If the child likes his computer time, this mildly annoying deterrent will help him decide to cooperate with the 9 p.m. bedtime.

When parents take the time to learn effective discipline (like the 2X-Rule as discussed in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice), they can safely guide their child. Effective discipline replaces the harshness of anger, the cruelty of abuse or other damaging interventions that parents engage in when they feel helpless. Parental helplessness is very dangerous for the child; the powerful parent can really cause harm. However, empowered with respectful but firm, boundary-setting tools, parents can guide without hurting their child. Discipline is a gift for both parent and child.

Talking to Your Child About Misbehavior

A lot of questions can arise at home: who left the bread unwrapped? Who spilled the milk and didn’t clean it up? Who moved the magazine I was reading? Who took my car keys? People who live together eventually annoy each other. Shared responsibilities can turn into battlegrounds – YOU forgot to take the garbage out again! YOU never took care of that unpaid bill! YOU used up the last milk without letting anyone know. YOU left a huge mess for me to clean up! Spouses and children sometimes (or, in some case, often) act irresponsibly. They don’t do what they’re supposed to do (kind of like us, some of the time!). When we discover that they’ve neglected some responsibility or they’ve acted inconsiderately or otherwise did something wrong, we often confront them. “Why did you do that?” we ask. “Why did you behave that way? Why couldn’t you have behaved differently?”

Asking Why” Takes You Down a Winding Road
When we ask someone “why” they did something, we are stearing the conversation down a long, winding road. “Why” elicits defensives, explanations and lies. No one really understands their own motivations – we are all driven by our largely subconscious agendas. We act impulsively and quickly to do things we have no business doing. “Why did you speak rudely to that lady?” is a question with one real answer: “Because I’m a bad boy.” Whether the question is being addressed to a husband, teenager or toddler, the answer is the same: “I’m wrong, bad and deficient.” Since people don’t like to say things like that about themselves, they usually make up a better sounding explanation for their objectionable behavior. Most often, this will be some defensive reason that is based loosely, if at all, on truth. The person might go into denial (“I wasn’t rude at all – SHE was rude to me!). It may be an outright lie (“She swore at me first.”). In fact, asking “why” questions encourages lying – so beware! Whatever a person responds to a “why” question, it is not likely to be useful. An interrogated person feels cornered and/or attacked. These feelings don’t lead to the best kinds of communication.

Instead of “Why”
Instead of asking a family member why they did something, just ask for what you want. If they neglected to take out the garbage, skip the “why” question and simply make a statement: “I need you to remember to take it out because….” If necessary, add consequences to your requests: “From now on, if you leave this sort of mess in the room, X, Y or Z will happen.”

You can also state what behavior you want and don’t want from this person “I’d like you to remember to take the garbage out without me having to tell you.”. You can state your feelings “I get frustrated when you forget.”. You can state your needs “I need you to remember without being reminded.” You can say anything you want – just don’t ask “why” (as in “why can’t you remember without being told?” ).

Drop the “why” and watch your family relationships improve!

When Mother Feels Guilty

We can start each day wanting to do better. In fact – lucky for us – we can start each minute that way! Did I just scream at you? Oops! Let me say that again more quietly. Did I just call you an unpleasant name? I’m so sorry! I’m going to take steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Whatever I did wrong (for the last twenty years), discount I can still set right. In fact, cialis that’s the purpose of my life – to continuously improve my ways.

Slow Progress
Good intentions, however, are not enough. They rarely lead to actual changes in our thoughts or actions. A parent can “wish” to be a better parent every day while making no real progress toward that goal. How many years can pass by while a parent “wishes” to remove anger from her parenting toolbox! Meanwhile, little psyches are developing, absorbing the parent of now, today’s level of competence. How long can they wait for us to become models worth emulating?

No Time for Guilt
Such thoughts might lead some mothers to fall into their favorite emotional dark hole: the endless pit of guilt. However, feeling guilty about our personal failings isn’t necessary or productive. Of course we have human faults and imperfections. That’s a given. Our children and spouses are no better. The task is not to become perfect but simply to move forward. We’re just supposed to be working on ourselves, inch by inch, day by day. So we can pick a small area in which we perceiving a lacking and construct a program of rehabilitation for that one quality or tendency.

For instance, perhaps a mother feels that she’s too critical with her kids. She knows she picked up the trait from her own mother and she doesn’t want to pass it on to her kids and through them, to her grandchildren! Her oldest is already seven, so time is of the essence. She wants to change this behavior NOW!

Clearly, feeling guilty will not help. In fact, after spurring one on momentarily, guilt can lead to discouragement, despair, hopelessness and resignation. It’s an emotion that is generated by one’s own critical inner parent as it voices disapproval: “You’re such an awful mother. Your kids are going to hate you like you hate your mother. You never learn from your mistakes….” After listening to such inner abuse, who wouldn’t feel guilty and doomed to failure? The trick in dealing with guilt is to send the inner critic on a little trip to outer space. Tell that voice that no abuse is allowed in your inner world, so it has to leave – and then picture it being tossed into a sound-proof, sealed box and thrust far, far out of your head. Then, replace it with a healthy, helpful inner parent – one that is remarkably like the parent you are hoping to become. This gentle voice offers encouragement and structure. “It’s a new moment in time – the perfect moment for change. Let’s start by drawing up a plan that will help you achieve your goal of becoming less critical” (more patient, more affectionate, less stressed, less reactive, more upbeat, less judgmental, better at saying “no,” better at setting boundaries, more flexible……or whatever particular trait you decide to tackle).

The Plan
Let your inner, compassionate parent help you create a structure for change. Together you can outline the strategy (read a book, take a class, seek counseling, set up a buddy system) and gently review progress on a daily basis. Purchase a little book to keep track of your target behavior – rate it each evening between 1 (needs a lot of improvement) and 10 (outstanding accomplishment) and make little helpful comments in the margin (“remember to eat 3 meals to maintain equilibrium,” “take a power nap before kids get home to help raise this score tomorrow,” “remember to purchase little treats to reinforce this high score,” “review chapter 3 in anger book,” and so on). Know for certain that you will achieve your goal if you track it this way and make the adjustments you need to make in order for you to be able to consistently meet your target behavior. When you’re consistently achieving your goal, then target a new aspect of personal development and start a new page in your book.

Hold onto your book and use it as proof that you can change. Use this evidence to encourage yourself for all the future programs of change that you undertake. Take advantage of the new moment, the new day and the new year – so many opportunities for beautiful new beginnings!

Parent Can’t Stop Yelling

One of the really wonderful things about being human is our ability to choose freely. It’s up to us. Of course, God gives us some very strong direction, advice and instructions; but He still leaves it up to us to choose our course of action. Therefore, when it comes to parenting, we can all do exactly as we please.

Alone in Our Home
Alone with our children, no one can stop us from saying or doing whatever we want to. Thus, if a child isn’t listening and we’re getting frustrated, we can yell at her if we so desire. We can yell at her whenever we want to, as many times a day, week, month and year as we choose to. Nonetheless, there are consequences when we yell at our children.

Short and Long Term Consequences
The short term consequences for children who are yelled at too frequently and/or too intensely may include any of the following:

  • Behavioural problems such as aggression or lack of cooperation
  • Academic problems
  • Nervous habits
  • Moodiness
  • Health issues (including headaches and stomach aches)

The long term consequences for children who are yelled at too frequently and/or too intensely may include any of the following:

  • Low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Personality disorders and other psychiatric issues
  • Addictions
  • Health issues
  • Impaired relationship with parents
  • Tendency to choose abusive friends and mates
  • Troubled marriages due to lack of anger management skills
  • Troubled parenting due to lack of anger management skills
  • Troubled work relationships
  • In some cases, criminal behaviour

Safe Havens
In homes in which parents choose to handle their feelings of frustration, fear, disappointment, rage, resentment and upset respectfully, the entire family enjoys a safe haven, an oasis in an otherwise stressful world. When parents maintain their dignity and respect the dignity of their children during moments of correction, boundary setting and discipline, their children’s brains become wired for self-control, restraint and sensitivity. In other words, when parents move through the parenting day quietly, respectfully and kindly no matter what they are feeling inside and no matter what their children are doing outside, they provide a powerful model for their children to emulate. Moreover, when they teach their children the skills involved in such self-management, they send an enduring message: family life is about respect: we do not give or receive verbal abuse no matter how frustrated, irritated, provoked or otherwise upset, we may be. The results for children reared in this manner generally include the following:

  • High regard for self and others
  • Life-long positive relationship with parents
  • Ability to achieve academic, social, mental, emotional and physical potentials
  • Reduced levels of stress; higher levels of well-being
  • A life filled with love: successful marriage and parenting experiences
  • High level of emotional intelligence leading to success in every endeavor

Yell If You Want To
If you’re tired, stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated with your spouse, annoyed at your relatives or otherwise challenged, you may feel like yelling at times. Or, if you are feeling helpless and out of control with the kids, unable to get them to do what you want, you may feel like yelling. Yelling “works” – it changes what a child is doing right now. But it comes with a price. The consequences of yelling are real. In the most minor case, where yelling occurs only rarely, it encourages self-centeredness: “When I want something and you are not providing it, then I no longer have to show you basic respect and I no longer have to behave appropriately; when I want something and you are not providing it, then I no longer have to care about your feelings – I can just scream in your face.” However, frequent and/or intense yelling does more than teach this one lesson of self-worship – it damages personality.

Nonetheless, if you want to yell, go ahead. Yell if you want to.

Parenting Tips

Parenting offers the challenge of a lifetime. We imperfect human beings set out to raise some perfect ones! We, viagra sale with our fears, our tempers and our moods, set out to raise joyously happy youngsters who can sail through life on Cloud Nine. Can this work? Sorry, but the answer to that question is “no.” Flawed human beings (us) cannot raise flawless ones. That’s not a human goal. But don’t despair: there are many amazing things that we can do as parents.

Raising Imperfect Kids
Rather than trying to raise perfect human beings, we can change our goal to trying to offer our children skills and tools for their very human journey. Like us, they will encounter challenges within and without: within their own nature (dealing with the limitations in their innate personalities, competencies, physical make-up and so on) and out in the school yard, the community and the world. Things will happen to them. Will they be ready? Can they deal with stress? Do they have skills that will bring them love and support for the journey? They will have successes and disappointments; what skills do they need to prosper from both? What model can we offer of how to bounce back when knocked down, how to face adversity, how to transform pain? In other words, we need to be thinking about how to equip our kids for real life. We don’t want to simply squeeze our children into some little happy box. We want them to be full blown powerful human beings, constantly growing through life’s challenges, going from strength to strength as they learn to negotiate the real ups and downs of life. They will never be perfect. But they’ll be perfectly human.

The Parenting Tool Kit
Parents need a tool kit in order to give their kids one. Where do parents acquire the know-how for guiding their youngsters? Of course, some of it is learned in their own childhood homes. Some of it comes from their favorite parenting magazine. Parenting skills, philosophies and strategies can be learned from parenting books, on-line parenting communities, parenting podcasts, parenting lectures, parenting classes, parenting experts, mental health professionals, specialized parenting magazines, parenting radio shows, parenting shows on television and other parenting resources. There is no shortage of parenting information today and there is consequently no longer any excuse for doing bad parenting. Anyone who can read, watch or listen can do good parenting simply by adding options and viewpoints to the world view they inherited in childhood.

Certainly it is not always easy to apply what is learned. Effective parenting is something that requires both head and heart. A person must be emotionally ready as well as intellectually ready. Therefore accepting parenting advice means learning, understanding and healing oneself enough to apply it. Take for, example, the simple piece of information that yelling is not a positive parenting strategy. A person who wants to do positive parenting can come across this tidbit in any of the media listed above. And she may understand it, agree with and endorse it whole heartedly. But when her 5 year old refuses to listen, this information may do her no good at all- she finds herself screaming! This is because parenting quotes, tips and tidbits do not always translate into action. Sometimes, a parent must take the extra step of self-exploration (using self-help strategies or therapy for example) and self-treatment in order to break up old habits and make room for new skills.

Parenting skills, after all, are not just a product of what has been learned. People have their own parenting styles based on their own personalities and we’re all very different. There is no one good way to parent. Whether one does or does not do attachment parenting, for example, is not important. There are many ways to convey love to children and each parenting couple must find its own way. Parenting is as individual as the individual. However, good parenting principles can utilized across every style of parenting. Authoritative parenting (parenting that offers both warmth and structure) is a good parenting principle in that research shows that it leads to the healthiest adjustment in children. However, people who do attachment parenting can use it as easily as people who don’t. People who like routines and predictability can use it as easily as people who are free spirits.

All different parenting styles can incorporate healthy parenting principles. It is simply important that parents develop their parenting plans based on a thoughtful examination of parenting issues and techniques. This means learning! Examining parenting questions, learning what the research shows, experimenting with new techniques—all of this makes every parent a professional parent capable of offering his or her youngsters the best tool kit for life. Thoughtless parenting, on the other hand is risky. Those who don’t take the time to study parenting may short change their kids. There are so many things we simply don’t think of on our own. Just having access to a constant, easily digestible source of parenting information and thought provoking parenting scenarios can keep a parent on top of his or her show. Whether the parent receives a weekly email of 10 parenting tips, or a daily thought of the day from his or her favorite parenting magazine or whether the parent tunes into a weekly radio parenting show—any routine exposure to parenting tips or parenting advice—the parent will be able to do a better job of parenting. It doesn’t matter if all of the information is relevant or not. Learning something about ADHD and parenting when one doesn’t have an ADHD child is not a waste of time. The information may contain a parenting gem that any parent can employ. This would be equally true of reading articles about parenting an Asperger’s child when one doesn’t have one, doing single parenting when one isn’t in that situation, dealing with same sex parenting or step parenting—even when the topic seems remote, parents can be surprised and delighted to find something they had never previously considered–a new perspective or a new strategy. Even reading articles on parenting teens when one’s oldest child is 4 can be helpful. Often such articles give information that parents can use preventatively. Stay open and curious. Expose yourself to everything. You will never be a perfect parent and you will not raise a perfect child. But, you will do a perfectly good job of parenting when you take that job seriously and apply yourself to it.  And that’s really all we can do.

Parenting Teenagers

Parenting teenagers can be scary. On the one hand, their issues can sometimes be reminiscent of the simple problems of earlier childhood: curfews, lack of cooperation, household chores, report cards, rudeness. They can also include new issues, such as teenage dating, teen smoking, teenage manipulative behavior, and getting a driver’s license. On the other hand, however, teenage issues scan be much bigger and scarier now: teenage pregnancy, teenage drinking and drugs, troubled teens, suicidal teens, teens at risk, teens in trouble with the law, reckless behavior, school dropouts, teenage violence, teens living on the streets, teens running away from home — all sorts of things can and do happen to kids this age. Are you ready to deal with it? Is trouble inevitable?

Positive Parenting of Teens
Although parents should be prepared for anything, there are some tips for parenting teens that can help prevent teenage drama and disaster. Some children are more at risk for troubled teen behavior just because of their genetic make-up. For instance, parenting ADHD teens can be more challenging because impulsivity and poor judgment (characteristics of all teenagers) occurs even more intensely and frequently in this population. However, good parenting techniques can help reduce serious problems in all adolescents. When problems do occur, good parenting techniques can help resolve them more quickly, without trauma and with good long-term results. The key, then, is parenting skill.

Fortunately, there are many resources available for parenting teens. Parenting classes for preteens is an excellent place to start. But there are also specific classes for parenting teens, as well as books and numerous online resources on the subject. It is easy today to find good advice for parenting teens, so there is certainly no reason to remain in the dark, confused and frightened. Get the facts, the theories and the strategies and have them ready! Whether your issue is teens and single parenting or parenting teens with Asperger’s syndrome, or whether you just want support for parenting teens — it’s all available in print, online, in audio and audio-visual — it’s everywhere. Chat with other parents you know, join parenting forums, do anything! Make sure you do something – because the more you know about the world of your teenager and the kinds of issues today’s kids are dealing with, the more you will be able to effectively parent your adolescent.

The Most Important Skill You’ll Need
Exploring the issues and gathering information is essential. However, there is one skill you will need no matter what issue you and your teen are dealing with. Whether you are addressing insolence, teenage drunkenness, drug use or a messy room, you will need this one skill. Whether your teenager has just presented her brand new body piercing or whether she’s trying to walk out the door in inappropriate clothes or whether you’ve discovered she’s been cutting herself—no matter what it is you are dealing with, you will need this one skill. It’s called Listening.

Listening sounds as if it is a simple, anyone-can-do-it unimpressive skill. However, it is far from that! Why do you think people pay psychologists and other professional listeners such big bucks? It is because no one else really knows how to listen to them! Here are some important tips about how to be a good listener for your kids:

Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. Repeat what you hear. Slowly. Show you heard it. Show you understand it. Show you accept that it is real for your teenager. Refrain from arguing, criticizing, advising, preaching, lecturing or even teaching. Refrain from mocking, correcting or fixing. Just breathe slowly and deeply. Stay calm, quiet and thoughtful. Listen.

Let’s practice. Suppose you discover that your teenager has been going to parties that you don’t approve of. Suppose you suspect there has been sex, alcohol and drugs. Suppose you want to find out the facts from your child. Your Listening might sound something like this:

  • Parent: It seems you’ve been going to those parties that I asked you not to go to.
  • Teen: Yeah, I had to go. Everyone goes — I can’t be the only one not going.
  • Parent: (breathe, relax, go slow) I see. Everyone else goes — you can’t be the only one left behind.
  • Teen: And anyway, I’m seventeen now. I have to make my own decisions. If I decide to have sex or do drugs or whatever that’s my decision.
  • Parent: (go slow and quiet) So at your age you feel it’s time to cut the apron strings— you’ve got to make decisions on your own.

The conversation could go on this way for as long as the teen is willing to talk and for as long as the parent can keep his or her emotions settled. After a lot of listening has occurred, and ONLY after a lot of listening has occurred, the parent can raise concerns or questions or ask permission to offer some advice. Everything has to be respectful because if it isn’t the teen will stop communicating, cast the parent as the enemy and be impervious to influence. The parent will have no educational power whatsoever.

Of course, there are other essential skills parents must have in order to do effective parenting for teens (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for the complete tool set). However, for anyone currently doing active parenting of teens, and all the more so for anyone parenting difficult teens, the mastering of the Listening skill is crucial.

Handling Emergencies

Life is predictably unpredictable. Everyone experiences various unexpected “emergencies.” Some emergencies are of an emotional nature. For instance, sometimes an adolescent goes into crisis because of the breakup of an important relationship. Other emergencies are of a physical nature. For instance, sometimes a child gets injured and requires stitches or surgery. Some emergencies involve catastrophic events such as tsunamis, acts of war, rape and other traumas. Some emergencies are more mundane, involving broken ovens the evening the in-laws are coming for dinner or stalled cars on the way to important meetings.

Modeling Coping Strategies
The way in which a parent handles an emergency becomes a model engraved in a child’s brain. If a parent gets hysterical in the face of emergency, a child learns that hysteria is the correct response to crisis. If a parent stays calm and level-headed, a child learns that one can hold oneself together in the face of overwhelming events. Many adults who cope poorly with emergencies are the products of parents who did the same. Consider whether this is the style of coping YOU want to pass on to your children (and grandchildren!).

Helping Children Cope with Emergencies
Children look to adults to see what to do in the case of an emergency. Someone suddenly collapses into a faint – how do the adults cope? What do they do? Someone gets badly injured and is bleeding through his clothes and onto the floor. What do the adults do? What emotions do they show? What do they say?

If it is the child himself who is in a state of emergency, he still observes how his parents are handling the situation. However, he has the added experience of noting how HE is handled during the crisis. Are people shouting at him? Are they speaking in soothing, reassuring tones? Are they grabbing him or handling him sensitively? A child or teen who is in shock will do much better with steady, confident caregivers. Suppose the child has fallen and is in agony with a bone protruding where it should not. Slow, calm movements will both ease her physical pain and her emotional distress. The last thing the child needs is a parent who is screaming or running madly around. Calm handling actually facilitates the healing process.

Many parents are ready and prepared for inevitable crises. Some keep the Bach Flower called Rescue Remedy on hand in a cupboard and/or purse. The first step during any emergency of any kind is to reach for these drops that settle the body, mind and emotions. The tincture helps people to cope well with sudden shock, bad news, terrifying conditions, intense fear and other reactions to intensely upsetting events. Even having such a potion on hand gives children the message that the unexpected in life is always expected and that there are steps one can and must take in order to handle those situations well. You can find more information on Rescue Remedy and Bach Flowers online or in books.

Although one cannot be prepared for every disaster scenario, nor does one need to be, it is certainly helpful to think about how one ideally WANTS to manage in situations of intense stress and upset. What do you WANT your kids to know? What do you need to do for yourself, in order to be able to provide them with the healthiest model of coping? Instead of accidentally passing on dysfunctional ways of coping, parents can think about the messages and models they received and evaluate their current utility. Perhaps there is a better way. Perhaps some counseling is needed in order to repair past learning. Conscious parenting always empowers parents to do their best in every situation.

How to Not Lose Control

You’re driving your four children to their dentist appointment. You’re already running a bit late and traffic is bad. The kids are squabbling in the back seat. Feeling pressured, you ask them to please quiet down. Unfortunately your request falls on deaf ears (because they are too busy yelling to hear you) and they continue their raucous. Stuck behind a road repair truck as the clock is ticking, you ask them once more to please quiet down. This time a little one squeals loudly as a big brother teases her, grabbing her bottle out of her hand and flinging it – right at your head. Enter adrenalin: the fight or flight response.

Parenting Under Fire
When your brain fires adrenalin, many things happen to your body and mind. Adrenalin readies you to take action in emergency situations by shutting down non-essential “services” like digestion (resulting in feelings of nausea or upset stomach) and supplying extra energy to large muscles (for attacking or fleeing). Pupils dilate, the heart pumps rapidly, hands may get sweaty, a feeling of choking or dizziness may occur. The cortex (the thinking, problem-solving part of the brain) goes offline while lower systems mobilize for physical survival.

People act rapidly and instinctively when their adrenalin is running. They don’t have the luxury of thinking, “Is there really an emergency happening right now? What would be the best action for me to take in these circumstances?” Instead, they fling the bottle back at the child’s head.

Parenting with Adrenalin
Physical assault releases adrenalin but emotional assault does this as well. When parents hear that their child was suspended from school, they can get an adrenalin rush. When they realize that their 14 year-old is still in bed (thinking that he’d left for school an hour earlier), they can get an adrenalin rush. When they discover that their youngster lied about her whereabouts, they can get an adrenalin rush.

Adrenalin gets released when the subconscious or conscious mind perceives a threat of some kind, an awareness that something is very wrong. The important trick for parents to learn is how to quickly distinguish between a physical threat that requires emergency response (i.e. a pot is in flames on the stove) and a psychological threat that requires an action plan.

Parents need to be prepared for constant adrenalin rushes during the childrearing years. Ninety-nine per cent of these will arise out of psychological threat rather than physical threat. Parents who are prepared for the adrenalin syndrome will not fall victim to its devastating consequences. Those who frequently succumb to adrenalin may find that they harm their child, themselves and their parent-child relationship. Human beings can say and do atrociously hurtful things when adrenalin is controlling their actions.

Turning Off Adrenalin
There are two main strategies for dealing with parenting-induced-adrenalin-rushes.

1. Prevention: this strategy helps reduce the number of adrenalin rushes that will be experienced. It follows Maimonides’ advice to be prepared. Maimonides, along with modern psychologists, instructs us to imagine the things that regularly can and do go wrong, picture them clearly and then picture ourselves reacting to them the way we’d like to. Picture the kids fighting. Picture them spilling and making messes. Picture them being late, rude, disobedient and all the rest. And picture your best response to these stress-inducing situations.

2. Intervention: if you suddenly find yourself in a stress-inducing situation and you’ve already experienced a rush of adrenalin, turn it off by announcing, “I need to calm down and think” and then continue your intervention by keeping your mouth tightly closed, sitting yourself down, breathing in and out deeply and slowly for several minutes, picturing yourself at age 90 and your kids at age 70, until you feel your body calming down. When you are fairly calm, open your mouth to announce: “I need to think about this and decide what I want to do. I’ll let you know soon.” And then close your mouth tightly again. Problem solve as long as you need to in order to create an appropriate action plan for the scenario you are dealing with.

By turning off unneeded adrenalin, you will help preserve loving and healthy family relationships. Your kids will give you lots of opportunity to practice this essential parenting skill!

How to Discipline Toddlers

Toddlers are a very cute bunch! They have big eyes, soft hair, pink cheeks – they’re just adorable! Because they are so cute, parents can have a very hard time disciplining them. A toddler may be wild, rude, destructive – but oh so cute at the same time – that Mom or Dad just burts into laughter at the youngster’s antics instead of doing what they need to do. Parents can accidentally encourage terrible behavior in their small children by smiling or laughing at unacceptable behavior. Because the child is so small, they don’t want to take the behavior seriously. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious difficulties in the future. The child’s neural pathways are being programmed now by his own actions. When he repeats a behavior over and over, it becomes “part of him.” If you see a behavior that won’t be cute in a few more years DO NOT REINFORCE IT by giving it positive attention! For instance, while a toddler may be hysterical when he’s kicking a grown man in the shin, this will not be so humorous when the child is 5 or older. Don’t let him get away with it now, at age 2 or 3, just because it is harmless. It is inappropriate and shouldn’t be “practiced” over and over.

Be Firm
Resist the urge to laugh or otherwise give positive attention to negative behavior! Instead, lower your voice, avoid eye contact and use 5 words or less to quickly and quietly correct unacceptable behavior. Then quickly re-direct the toddler to an appropriate activity and give lots of loud, warm, positive attention to the new behavior. Be firm and consistent when a toddler behaves inappropriately. Soon he or she will understand what is wanted and learn to cooperate. Then your toddler will be really cute – because there’s nothing cuter than an adorable toddler who is well-behaved!

Boosting Your Baby’s Social Skills

Emotional intelligence – or E.Q. – is a measure of “people smarts.” It involves knowing one’s own feelings and accepting them AND understanding and accepting the feelings of others. People with high E.Q. have better social skills, treatment better emotional health, help better physical health and better functioning. Kids with high E.Q. have less behavioral problems and better academic performance. Adults with high E.Q. have more successful relationships and more success at work.

People are born with a certain amount of E.Q. – some kids seem to have a natural empathy for others while some kids are more tuned into their own world. However, stomach parents can help their kids raise their E.Q. no matter what the starting point.

How can Parents Help Their Child Develop E.Q.?
Although babies have a way of looking dumb (after all, they often lie around staring into space!), they are actually mean learning machines. Your emotional climate is immediately communicated to the baby through the tone of your voice, the quality of your touch and your facial expression. Your baby registers all this and studies you carefully. Are you tense or relaxed? Warm or distant? Focused or distracted? Your baby is not only watching you, but also mimicking you. You are teaching the baby how to emote.

Although the baby can’t understand individual words and sentences, she certainly understands your emotional tone. If you sound irritated, annoyed or furious, your baby knows you are upset and things are not O.K. If you sound calm and pleased, the baby knows that all is well. Similarly, when you talk to a newborn, she can get some meaning just from your communication style.

By tuning into your baby’s changing feelings, you can raise his E.Q. Let’s say that the baby is crying, clearing uncomfortable. You suspect it has to do with digestive problems. Some parents might pat the upset infant on the back, saying something like “there, there; you’ll feel better soon.” Suppose you had a horrible day at the office. You come home and tell your spouse about it. You’re spouse pats you on the back and says, “there, there; you’ll feel better soon.” How would you feel? Discounted probably. Unseen, unheard, unsupported – despite the fact that your partner is clearly trying to console you.

Name and Accept Feelings
Our natural approach to negative feelings is to try and talk others out of them. (See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for a full discussion of  techniques promoting emotional intelligence.) However, what is needed is an ability to WELCOME and ACCEPT negative feelings WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. The parent’s ability to consistently do this is what helps a child develop higher E.Q.

Therefore, a parent might say to a crying infant, “You’re not happy right now, are you? Maybe your tummy is hurting.” To a smiling baby, a parent can acknowledge, “My goodness, you look happy this morning!” To a fussy baby, the parent might comment, “Are you starting to feel grumpy now? Are you ready for your nap?” To an older baby who is trying to get into everything, “You are very curious! You really want to see what is in that garbage can!”

This step of just naming and accepting what the child is feeling right now should precede any other intervention. Then the parent can continue with “regular parenting.” For example, if a baby shakes his head “no” when a spoon full of food is being offered to him, the parent could say something like, “You don’t want your sweet potatoes?” and then follow up with “Please try just a little bite” or any other intervention the parent wants to use. The first sentence – the one that acknowledges what the baby is feeling right now, is the one that builds E.Q.

From Infancy to Adulthood
This basic strategy for increasing E.Q. can be used from the first days of a child’s life and should be used for the rest of his life. Acknowledging feelings not only builds E.Q., but it also creates powerful bonds between people. Want to have a great relationship with your kids? Name their feelings before you say anything else.