It’s a delight to share the excerpt of my article from the fall 2015 edition of the Message Magazine. Enjoy!
Help! I’m “Losing It!”
“It was automagic, Mom…”
According to my four sons, spilled milk is automagic, so are the bite marks on a sibling’s arm, and so is my teen’s phone battery that runs out just as I call him.
How to respond to kids’ “béttises” (misbehaviors)? To laugh? To cry? To scream!
The 80/20 rule I learned in business school–which says that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of inputs—also applied to my parenting: the vast majority of challenges were addressed with the same tool: my voice. I spoke instructions, then raised my voice to unresponsive children, and ultimately just “lost it.”
In the business world, this management practice is called re-investing in a losing strategy.
At home, this behavior was considered “normal.”
Something had to change. What? And how?
I first tried to change other people: to shrink the kids and to tweak my husband. It eventually dawned on me to try and influence the one person over whom I had a semblance of control: moi.
It’s like I finally started walking the yellow brick road in the direction of Home Sweet Home, a path I could travel with other “sooper” (phenomenal and perfectly imperfect) parents, where I could gain a fresh perspective on life and success, and we could empower each other to be our best.
When Kids Take Your Life by Storm…Hold onto the Buoy of Positive Discipline!
Has the arrival of kids taken your life by storm (and dropped you in the middle of Paris)? Join the club. Maybe the clouds will simply blow away… Until then, try stepping out of the fury.
That’s the relief I received from Positive Discipline, an approach to building respectful and collaborative relationships. I took a class, got hooked, and now lead workshops to help parents apply these principles for healthy relationships. Based on the work of Austrian psychiatrists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, Positive Discipline is a model for teaching young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful contributors to society. Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott adapted these principles into an interactive curriculum, and their books have sold millions …because the approach does wonders to transform home life. It’s, like, automagic!
With Positive Discipline we first focus on…well, our own focus. Are we looking for blame or for solutions? How can we transform recurring challenges into opportunities to nurture respect, resilience, gratitude, love of excellence, and intimacy?
A wide array of Positive Discipline tools empower us to smoothly manage the daily issues: power struggles, undue demands for attention, sibling rivalry, repetition-repetition-repetition, and more. Additionally, these parenting “ruby slippers” hit the target with the needs of moms and dads in the Internet-age where our 2.0 youth expect to contribute to and impact their environment.
Positive Discipline works with teens as well as tots of 2.0 years. Here’s how we applied the Adlerian principle of Firm and Kind to the family job, Get-Out-the-Door-on-Time-for-School-and-Work-With-a-Smile. Firmness points to respecting the parental structure, such as the non-negotiability of timely departure. Kindness refers to respect of the child’s perspective, like considering their input in the process. Part of the Positive Discipline wonder lies in simultaneously respecting kids, mom & pop.
Positive Routine Tool for Parents & Kids Together
We created Positive Routines, a photo-reportage of the priority tasks for leaving on time. At work this would be called a job description communicated via Power Point. At home, we call it fun, practical, and empowering. It’s the process that renders the tool so effective. First, we sat down to enumerate the multiple tasks needed to get done before walking out the door. Deep discussion ranged from, “We gotta wake up!” to “Make our beds ?!?!” and “Brush our teeth…No, I already do that at night.” This is brainstorming time; let the ideas flow…especially from the children. They know what needs doing; they have heard you say it over and over again.
Next we decided together which tasks NEED doing in the morning, when we feel groggy and possibly move slowly, and which ones can be completed the night before. We classified “Getting parent’s signature,” “Getting school stuff ready,” and “Choosing clothes” among the evening jobs.
Finally, we put it into practice. What liberty for me! When the tykes came complaining that their bathing suits were still wet (and now smelling) from last week’s swimming class, I could truly sympathize AND remind them that we wash swimwear the night before. Discomfort is a bummer, but not the end of their world. Repeating myself again and again is the end of my sanity. You bet they remembered the following week :).
These Positive Routine Picto’s also helped my husband and I coordinate our messages. At first he questioned this process…until the week we had several morning signature requests. The kids turned to their Dad for these because they knew I merely pointed to the Positive Routine Picto and gladly accepted to sign their paper that evening. Finally he burst out, “No more signing in the morning for me either!” The kids accepted it. After all, these were their rules too.
These Positive Routine Picto’s were such a success that I developed a workshop specifically to bring parents and children together to create their own. In these photos I love how one child revels in the full attention from all of the family members and how the boys and girls proudly display THEIR routines. Parents shared delightful feedback. One girl was showing hers off to a friend, who then told her mom, and the friend’s mom requested to take it home. Another shared how, after the good-night routine, she noticed the light switch back on in her 3 year old’s room. “Mommy, I forgot to choose my clothes for tomorrow.”
Our boys are now growing up and leaving home. It’s a thrill and a solace to see them go forward with the life skills they need to make a life and a living. And they tell it to me straight: “Mom, when you stopped trying to be perfect, that’s when you were a great mom.”
May you and yours keep growing and growing together.
Denise Dampierre is the author of www.home-is-fun.com blog, a Harvard MBA, the mother of 4 boys, a trainer in Positive Discipline, and an American still married to a Frenchman after 20+ years! She would be delighted to answer your questions on Positive Discipline (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also find out more on the associations’ sites: www.positivediscipline.com in English and www.disciplinepositive.fr in French. This fall, Denise will be leading parenting classes in both English and in French. You can also find her training professionals on building healthy relationships using these same positive principles. After all, “People make the world go round” both at home and at work.