Last week I wrote about our path to becoming a punishment free family. I received quite a few emails and some Facebook comments with questions wondering how being punishment free really worked in our day to day lives. Among other things, we use replacement, choices, playfulness and empathy.
Here are four examples from the past week which illustrate how we are practicing finding positive solutions.
1. Replacing Annoying with Acceptable
Scenario: My five year old has recently started tapping and poking at my husbands stomach the minute he walks into the door in the evening. Tired and ready for dinner my husband is not so receptive to this behavior (read totally annoyed). Just saying "stop, please don't do that" was getting both of them just frustrated.
Observation: My five year old does not want to annoy his dad, he is really excited and wanting to connect with his dad who was gone all day.
Solution: I suggested to my husband that the next time the poking starts he offer his son a quick game of "high fives" and a hug as an alternative. This doesn't just replace the unwanted behavior but also offers a chance for both father and son to create a routine in the evening to reconnect.
2. Offer Choices and Avoid Commands
Scenario: My three year old decided to dump all the contents of his bookshelf onto the floor producing a hefty pile of books. When he seemed about done entertaining himself with this pile I thought it would be best for it to be cleaned up. I want my kids to respect their books and also create a habit of cleaning up whatever messes they create.
Solution: Instead of telling or commanding him to clean up I said "do you want to use the kitchen tongs to get the books on the shelf or count them as they go on like we do when we play the sheep game?" His reply was filled with enthusiasm: "I can count them, watch me!" Around number seventeen, with a few skipped and reversed numbers along the way he said "I can't anymore" so I offered another choice "Do you want to hand me just the small books and I will clean up the bigger books?" It took us maybe five minutes to finish the rest together as a team and avoided a struggle or "battle of wills".
3. Listen and Strike a Deal
Scenario: One afternoon this past week when I explained we needed to interrupt reading my five year old was very upset and threw the book across the floor.
Solution: I empathized with his frustration that I was busy with other things in the house and siblings. He verbalized he just loves to read so much and hates being interrupted. I suggested he make a pile of books he is interested in reading with me at some time the rest of the week and we would get through the pile by adding ten extra minutes at his story time at the end of the day when siblings are already asleep. Without prompting he apologized for throwing the book, picked it up and got busy choosing his books.
4. Demonstration and Imitation
Scenario: My youngest (nearly 18 months) was at the table banging her silverware on her plate, the table and anything she could reach. We are pretty relaxed with table manners but I did not want her plate to crack and the noise was bugging me so I wanted her to stop.
For our family, going this route is working so far, I realize that often taking the time to talk things out and offer alternatives can seem more time consuming but I find in the end it saves a lot of time. We are building relationships based communication, mutual respect, tantrums are avoided and the general atmosphere of our house is very playful and positive. Of course, we still have challenging moments and then we try to learn and grow from them.
Have you had a challenging moment recently and found a positive solution?