"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" – John 3:16
Jane Nelsen (née Wood) is a California-licensed marriage and family therapist who now lives in San Clemente, California, and South Jordan, Utah. She is the mother of seven and grandmother to eighteen grandchildren. She was an elementary school counselor and college instructor in child development for ten years. She now spends her time (when not writing books or traveling to present keynote lectures and workshops) with her husband, children and grandchildren.
Jane is author or co-author of 18 books (with over two millions copies in print and translation into more than 15 countries), including the popular Positive Discipline series, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, Positive Discipline in the Classroom, Positive Time-Out and Over 50 Ways to Avoid Power Struggles in Homes and Classrooms, and Serenity: Eliminating Stress and Finding Joy and Peace in Life and Relationships. She has appeared on Oprah, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Twin Cities Live. Her website is http://www.positivediscipline.com
This book discusses the positive discipline approach to parenting. At the heart of this approach is mutual respect and cooperation. Positive discipline incorporates both kindness and firmness in dealing with children. It not only addresses misbehaviour in the short term but also aims to encourage the life skills which are necessary for developing a capable person with social responsibility in the long run. Punishment is likely to produce resentment, revenge, rebellion, retreat into sneakiness and reduced self-esteem and is considered ineffective in the long run. It is not the most effective method in teaching children. In fact children make better behaviour choices when it makes sense to them and it feels good to be treated with respect and to treat others with respects.
The book provides an insight into the psychology of misbehaviour. Children often don’t have enough knowledge and skills to understand and communicate themselves well. Their primary goal is to belong and feel significant. However it could be expressed in a manner that is considered as misbehaving by adults. The author offers a variety of practical proactive and encouraging responses to help parents and teachers address the problems in line with the positive discipline approach including: bridge the communication gaps, defuse power struggles, avoid the danger of praise, enforce your message of love, build on strengths not weaknesses,hold children accountable with their self-respect intact, teach children not what to think but how to think, win cooperation at home and at school, meet the special challenge of teen misbehaviour.
This book is very easy to read. The author provides a lot of good examples to demonstrate her ideas. Her suggestions of how to deal with problems are practical and yet not mechanistic. I like how she goes into explaining the psychology of children’s behaviour before providing appropriate solutions. I can relate a lot of what she says to how I felt as a child. I also recall from my childhood experiences what is shared in the book, i.e. the key factor for winning the child’s cooperation and helping them learn is respect expressed through friendliness and empathy.
The downside for me is that I haven’t had any current experiences to see whether the advice from the book actually works, as my little one is only 8 months old. This book is more useful if the children are four years old and above, when they are at least able to communicate verbally. On one hand, it is useful to know the main principles from the early stage. It is always important to respect your child and try to understand their behaviour even from the very young age. But I will need to re-read it when the situations arise in the future.
I find the chapter about the impact of birth order on children’s behaviour interesting but not very relevant for now, as we only have one child. Similarly the chapter about class meetings is more useful for teachers than parents.
One small point is that there is some repetition across chapters and the ideas could be organised in a slightly different order to be more structured. But this doesn’t really affect the flow of the book.
Overall this is a good book for parenting. I would recommend it.
Significant Seven Perception and Skills
The perceptions and skills below,which are encouraged by positive discipline, were identified as necessary for developing a capable person:
Definition of positive discipline
Strictness (excessive control) is order without freedom. When it is used, children depend on an external locus of control. The most popular form is a system of rewards and punishment. Punishment produces resentment, revenge, rebellion and retreat into sneakiness and reduced self-esteem. Permissiveness is freedom without border producing irresponsible individuals. Positive discipline is an approach that does not include excessive control or permissiveness. It is freedom within limits based on mutual respect and cooperation. It incorporates kindness and firmness at the same time as the foundation for teaching life competencies based on an inner locus of control. An example is to offer two types of cereal for breakfast, instead of giving the child what they want (permissiveness) or giving no choice at all (strictness). If the child picks one and then doesn’t like it, then leave it instead of forcing or lecturing. If the child gets hungry before lunch, get her to wait until lunch.
The Four Criteria for Effective Discipline
Kindness is important to show respect for the child. Firmness is important to show respect for ourselves and for the needs of the situation. Note that it is not respectful to pamper children. It is respectful to validate their disappointment and have faith in their development. An example is to leave the room when a child talks back to you and follow up later when people calm down.
When children are involved in setting limits, they are more willing to follow limits as limits are based on their understanding of why they are necessary and how to be responsible for them. When a limit is broken, don’t lecture or punish. Continue respectful involvement with the child by asking questions about what happened, how to solve the problems and what have been learned. If the child says “I don’t know”, tell them that they are a good problem solver and ask them to thinking about for 30 minutes and let you know what they have come up with.
Four steps for winning cooperation
At attitude of friendliness, caring and respect is essential to these steps. It is important to create the atmosphere of closeness and trust. Stop “telling” and start “asking” in ways that invite the children to participate in problem solving.
Basic Adlerian concepts
Adlerian psychology provides a set of basic concepts that help us increase our understanding of children and of ourselves:
A child misbehaves because she doesn’t have enough knowledge and effective skills to communicate herself. Most of the time, children are just acting their age not misbehaving.We want children to learn to control their behaviour then we should learn to control our own behaviour. With awareness, we can be the ones to take responsibility for our behaviour and change in ways that invite improved behaviour in children without damaging their sense of self-worth.
The four mistaken beliefs and mistaken goals of behaviour:
1. Undue attention – the mistaken belief: I belong only when I have your attention.
Proactive and encouraging responses:
2. Misguided power – the mistaken belief: I belong only when I’m the boss, or at least when I don’t let you boss me.
Proactive and encouraging responses
3. Revenge – the mistaken belief: I don’t belong, but at least I can hurt back.
Proactive and encouraging responses
4. Assumed inadequacy – the mistaken belief: It is impossible to belong. I give up.
Proactive and encouraging responses
Note: For teenagers, apart from the four above, the other important factor is peer approval.
Goal disclosure is one way to help children become aware of their mistaken belief. It is essential to be objective and friendly during the process.
First ask the child if she knows why she is engaging in a certain behaviour. You should name the behaviour specifically. “Do you know why you keep wandering around the room when you are supposed to be in your seat?”.
The child usually says “I don’t know” or gives some reason which is not the real reason. You then say “I have some other ideas. Would it be okay with you if I guess? You can tell me if I’m right or wrong.”
If your manner is objective and friendly, the child will be intrigued to have you guess. The ask “could it be” questions, waiting for the child to respond to each question.
There are two response that will let you know if your guess is correct and the child become aware of her goal: 1) recognition reflex – the child involuntarily smiles, even while saying no, 2) a simple yes answer. You can then engage the child in a discussion of other ways to feel belonging and significance.
A natural consequence is anything that happens naturally, with no adult interference. It is often one way to help a child learn responsibility. An example is to let the child be responsible for remembering his lunchbox. If he forgets it, he will be hungry and learn not to forget it.
The times when natural consequences are not practical are:
Logical consequences require the intervention of an adult or other children in a family meeting. It is important to decide what kind of consequence would create a helpful learning experience that might encourage children to choose responsible cooperation. An example is when a child spills milk, the logical consequence is to clean it up.
The four criteria to help ensure that solutions are logical consequences rather than punishment:
A logical consequence is effective when it redirects the child into a useful (contributing) behaviour. Example: if a child causes disruption in a class making the teacher’s job difficult, he can make it up by helping me the teacher with other jobs like cleaning the blackboard.
Logical consequences may be effective at the time of conflict only if the goal is undue attention. When the goal is misguided power or revenge, logical consequences can be effective during a problem solving session after a cooling off period or after winning the child’s cooperation.
Logical consequences can be very difficult methods to use as it can be misused and become punishment. If logical consequences are not obvious, it is probably not appropriate to use them in the situation. Consider other effective methods first.
Focusing on solutions
When we focus on solutions, kids learn how to get along with others and they have tools to bring with them to the next challenge. The emphasis is on helping people learn how to solve the problem instead of having to pay (through punishment) for the problem. The solutions should be related, respectful, reasonable and helpful.
Positive timeout is designed to help children feel better (so they can access their rational brains), not to make them feel worse, not to make them pay for what they have done. It is not effective to focus on solutions until everyone has calmed down enough. Never say ‘You go and think about what you did’. It is unrespectful and it is a silly assumption that adult can control children’s thoughts.
There are following guidelines to follow when getting children involved in creating a Positive Time-Out area:
Helping children explore the consequences of their choices is much different from imposing consequences on them. Exploring invites their participation to think for themselves and figure things out for themselves, and to decide what is important to them and what they want. The key to helping children explore is to stop telling and start asking curiosity questions.
Typical curiosity questions including:
Don’t try to have an agenda about how they should answer the questions. Don’t ask questions if either of you is upset. Ask questions from your heart.
Using encouragement effectively
Factors which help to use encouragement effectively are:
Encouragement vs Praise
Note that encouragement is not the same as praise. Praise may inspire some children to improve their behaviour. The problem is that they may become pleasers and approval junkies. The long-term effect of encouragement is that it invites self-confidence while praise invites dependence on others. Helpful questions to consider are:
Praises express favourable judgement (e.g. “You did it right”, “I liek the way you did that”, “You are such a good girl”, “I’m proud of you for doing that”) while encouragement inspires with courage (e.g. “Good job”, “You gave your best”,”It reflects your hard work”, “I appreciate your cooperation”, “Thanks for helping”, “How do you feel about what you accomplished?”, “What do you learn/think/feel?”).
Encouragement vs Criticism
It is important to let children know when there is room for improvement, but you don’t have to make them feel worse in order to get them to do better. An effective way to discuss areas that need improvement is to ask the child “In which areas do you think you are doing well? In which areas do you think you need improvement?”. We should encourage self-evaluation.
Take time for training
Adults often expect children to accomplish tasks for which there has not been adequate training. Taking time for training means being very specific about your terms and expectations. Once you feel there has been adequate training, check it out by asking the child (e.g. “What is your understanding of what needs to be done for the kitchen to be clean?”). Time for training can be fund and involve games. It also includes telling your children when you are going to change your methods. You can also use curiosity questions to help train them.
One of the best ways to avoid bedtime hassles and morning hassles is to get children involve in creating routine charts. Start by having your child make a list of things she needs to do. Make a chart with pictures for each thing. Let the routine chart be the boss. Remember the goal is to help children feel capable and encouraged.
Try a hug. Sometimes hugs don’t work as the child is too upset. If the child is unwilling, you can say “I sure would like a hug whenever you are read.” Once hugs create an atmosphere of encouragement, it is the perfect opportunity to take time for training, ask curiosity questions, give a limited choice, use distraction or engage in a joint problem-solving, or help them feel useful by making a contribution.
Components of the family meetings
Use allowance money to teach money management. But do not use it as punishment or reward.