I often get asked how this positive parenting, gentle discipline stuff works in daily life. So here are 3 typical interactions from our daily life that put
gentle parenting and setting limits to the test:
The Case of I don’t wanna
One morning, my six year old kept asking when breakfast was going to be ready. He didn’t want to set the napkins on the table (it’s his job-every morning). I empathized tough I was really hungry and getting annoyed. Honestly I was thinking, it’s just napkins, it will not kill you to set them. Instead
I said: “You don’t feel like doing napkins this morning, I get it…uhm…”
I decide to give him two choices: “You can set the napkins while I get the fruit washed or we can swap jobs for today.”
His answer “nope, not doing anything today”
I say: Everyone has a job at breakfast time, you can either come up with a job you want to do or swap with me and that’s my final offer! (I said this with a nice smile but I was being firm)
He says: “ Fine..let’s swap jobs”
My son is not thrilled about this but also not upset. After he finishes washing some fruit he asked if he could also cut the fruit up and make a fruit salad. So instead of us arguing about him having to set the napkins, this ended up into a really positive interaction.
Why I think this worked: Once my son felt involved and capable, the thought of doing a little work before breakfast wasn’t so overwhelming. Also he had a chance to make a choice or come up with his own solution. Being trusted with something that is usually my job made it that much more interesting.
The Case of the Lost shoes
One morning everyone is ready to leave when I see my four year old has no shoes on. “Where are your shoes?” I ask.
His answer, “I don’t know. Can’t find them anywhere.”
“Oh, you are kidding right? How many times…” I wasn’t yelling, but I didn’t like the direction I was going in so I stopped myself. I took a deep breath and continued “Wait, let’s start over. Where have you looked?”
“Uhm, under the sofa and the shoe box, but NO…no shoes there. Maybe murph ate them.” He offered with a giant sneaky grin. (Murph is our dog)
“Ok. Let’s look together, but let’s be quick so we are not late!” I offered.
We all started looking and then my two year old runs to us “Found them! Found them! Look at me, I found shoes!” The kids gave each other a big hug. Before I could say anything my son said “Thank you Bella for finding them.” (seriously that stuff just melts my heart!) In the car, I asked my son where he thought he should put his shoes when he got home. The next morning, the shoes were in the shoe box where they belong and we had no issues.
Why I think this worked: Instead of blaming or nagging about the lost shoes like I originally had wanted to, I realized that in that moment, offering a helping hand to my four year was much more valuable than making everyone feel bad about lost shoes, lost tempers and wasted time. Also, by following up in the car, I had a chance to offer a gentle correction about keeping shoes where they belong.
The Case of the Near Melt Down
“Buy me this mama?” Bella said one day at the supermarket check-out.
“Oh those look yummy, but no, sweetie. We already chose lots of other things from the store, I am not buying those.”
“Oh man!” she said in a tiny voice with a bit of tears welling up.
I try to think about this from her perspective…who can resist hello kitty marshmallows? They are pink, they are shaped like a kitty, they look so enticing! But I don’t want to buy them. I am NOT going to buy them. I have a 10 second internal rant: Thanks a lot store for putting them RIGHT there where my two year old can drool about them. I mean seriously it’s cruel, two year olds walk around the store, all they see are hairy knees, calves and the hem of ugly shorts and then BAM…candy at the check-out….it’s no wonder they want it… it looks oh so good!
I knelt down, “You so wish I would buy that for you so you could eat it all up?” “no, mama I like the cat, no eat it, just hug the cat” Bella says. “Oh, ok, you want to hug it and then put it back?” I asked. “Yes mama.” Uhm…potential disaster, if she decides to never let go…uhm…plan, think…ok got it. “Hey, how about this, you hug the cat, then we put it back and you give the cashier the store card?” To my relief she said yes and we followed our plan.
Why I think it worked: Instead of demanding that my daughter take her hands off the candy, I took a moment to see things from her perspective. Also, giving my daughter a specific task to do after hugging the cat made it easier for her to transition away from the claws of sweet kitty-cat ;)
non-perfection disclaimer: I swear we are not a perfect bunch, we have moments that are less than ideal, my kids spill glue, aggravate each other and even cry at the store...sometimes I am not so patient and have to apologize too...but the more we practice gentle/positive parenting tools the more things just really happen to work well.
What about in your family...how does positive discipline/gentle parenting work in your home?
Peace and Be Well,