Author: Daniel Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson
No Drama Discipline. The Whole-brain Way to Calm The Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind Daniel Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson 2014
Authors: Daniel Siegel, Tina Payne-Bryson
Key Principle of Discipline (Discipline without drama.)
Discipline without drama.: Education without discipline is impossible. However, many associate disciplines with punishment for bad deeds, and even with intimidation so that these deeds do not happen again in the future. Meanwhile, the true purpose of discipline is not to punish for a mistake, but to teach, in accordance with the Latin origin of this word: disciple – “student”, “pupil”. Instead of punishing, we should set boundaries for children and thereby help them navigate the world.
Drama-free discipline has two goals:
- short-term: in a specific problem situation, establish emotional contact with the child, achieve cooperation and help him behave properly (do not hit a playmate on the head with a typewriter, take dirty clothes to the laundry, etc.);
- long-term: through the development of higher brain functions, help the child acquire such qualities that will allow him to competently behave in difficult situations throughout his life.
Responding calmly to the next misconduct of a child can be difficult. All a parent needs to respond to a problem in the right way is to understand what he, she parent, wants to achieve when the child behaves badly. Anger is a bad help here. If a father orders his son to go to a corner and stay there alone for scattered toys, will this method teach the child to be more careful?
Before addressing a delinquent child, a parent should pause and ask themselves three questions:
1. Why did the child do this? The answer is “Because he wants to drive me crazy!” – Emotions in their pure form cannot serve as an argument. Proceed from a different attitude: with every act (and misconduct!) the child tries to tell the parent something important but does not yet know how best to do it.
2. What do I want to explain to him in this situation? We remember that the purpose of discipline is not to punish, but to teach something specific, whether it be responsibility, self-control, or any other skill.
3. What is the best way to teach this lesson? Consider not only the age and developmental level of the child but also the specific situation.
A nine-year-old son stubbornly does not want to sit down for lessons, at least once a week this leads to a protracted family scandal. In a fit of anger and fear, the child may burst into tears, scolds teachers, considers himself a loser. Why is he doing this? Maybe homework is really too hard? Or does fatigue build up over the course of a week? What do you want to explain to your son in this situation? How should you manage your time? How to overcome difficulties? What is the best way to teach this lesson? Will moralizing help if the child is already nervous and unable to perceive logical arguments? Maybe today it’s better to help your son with homework, and tomorrow, with a fresh mind, deal with his daily routine and other nuances?Discipline without drama.
Analyzing the situation in detail, you will be able to understand whether the child does not want to fulfill your requirement or simply cannot. Deciding on this is very important. Many parents attribute everything to the unwillingness of the child to take up the mind – this causes them only irritation and anger. However, each of us is affected every hour by many external and internal factors, not to mention the developing brain of a child.
What about punishments?
Any “educational” measures associated with the manifestation of aggression and the infliction of pain are absolutely unacceptable. They do not carry any educational meaning: at the moment of punishment, the child can only think about the reaction of an adult, and not about how he can improve his behavior. The parent for the child is absolute authority and protection. Aggression on his part simply disorients the mind of the child. The stress hormone cortisol, which is produced in large quantities in such situations, acts destructively on the growing brain, especially if such punishments are repeated again and again.
Punishment has another dangerous consequence. Man, as a representative of a biological species, is instinctively aimed at avoiding pain. This process is provided by the same area of the brain that is responsible for social rejection.
To inflict physical pain on a child means to program in his mind an attitude towards social exclusion. Such a child is more likely to grow up to be a fearful sociopath, avoiding problems instead of solving them.
Just as vicious is the popular command “go to a corner and think about your behavior there.” Isolation will only increase the irritated state of the child. Alone, he will not ruefully shake his head in an argument about how wrong he did – in the child’s head at this moment only evil thoughts are circulating about how bad his parents are, since they treat him in this way.
A child can develop the ability to understand his own actions only in the course of a benevolent dialogue with his parents. In addition, the parent should consider whether the punishment of loneliness has a direct logical connection with a particular misconduct. Not always. But without such a connection there is no effective learning.
Let the child have his own quiet corner in the apartment, where he is comfortable (such a place will not interfere with parents!). But staying there should be his personal desire, by no means a punishment.Discipline without drama.
Now pause and consider how you usually respond to misbehaving children:
- Do you have a certain idea of discipline?
- How effective are your disciplinary actions? Do they help solve the problem that has arisen, or are you and your child stepping on the same rake again and again?
- Does your parenting approach strengthen your relationship with your children? Do children feel your parental protection in difficult moments of explanation? Do you like your approach?
- Is it true that you only love children when they behave well?
- To what extent do your educational measures repeat those of your parents? Is there any repetition in your manner of techniques familiar from childhood, or, on the contrary, their defiant denial? Can you say that all this has a positive effect on your children?
- Are your children sincere when they apologize? Can you admit to them that you are wrong?
Perhaps reading about a new approach to discipline and answering these questions did not make you feel very good. Do not punish yourself: up to now you have done everything that was in your power, and if you had known before what was better, you would have done better. This is the general principle of life: no one knows everything and always acts on the basis of possibilities; the more we learn, the more successfully we apply knowledge (and now it is in your hands!). To be kinder to your children, you must first be kinder to yourself.
Discipline and brain development
Knowledge of how the brain develops directly affects both the understanding of children’s actions and the quality of parental decisions. Start from the three fundamental principles of neuroscience.
1. The brain is a complex complex structure, different parts of which are responsible for different functions. When a child is hysterical, you can yell at him or threaten him – in this case, you are appealing to the ancient, more primitive, emotional part of the brain that can only attack or defend (the limbic system). When you reach out to your child and try to discuss the situation with him, you are appealing to a younger and more reasonable part of the brain – his cortex: it can solve problems, interact with others and calm feelings. The lower parts of the brain are struggling with the higher: we can either give vent to emotions or reason. Every time the choice is ours.
2. The brain is not given to a person once and for all from birth, the highest intellectual functions are formed only by adulthood. It is not worth expecting a well-balanced balanced behavior from children – they are not capable of this simply because of their age: the higher zones of the mind, which are responsible for logic, control and empathy, have not yet matured. Only the lower, emotional areas of the brain work fully in a child. This does not mean that the bad behavior of children should not be paid attention to. Parents themselves must determine the principles of behavior for the child – to act for him in the role of higher parts of the brain.
3. Any experienced experience creates new neural connections in the head, changing the brain at the physical level at any age, and especially in childhood. Everything that a child sees, touches, hears, feels, affects his brain, and therefore, the idea of reality and the future. At the same time, the connections that arise in his head are complex and whimsical: if a child does not like a math teacher, then the brain associates math with discomfort, this can result in learning problems.
From the point of view of discipline without drama, every misdeed of a child is a chance to form some important quality of his character. If a three-year-old beats up a kindergarten buddy because he got a treat first, she’s signaling to her parents, “I need to learn to wait my turn.” If a seven-year-old son viciously calls his father names when he tells him to turn off the computer and go to bed, he is giving him a signal: “I need to develop self-control skills.” It is unpleasant to experience such incidents. But at this moment, parents receive valuable information that they would otherwise not have. Yes, the price of information is high – spent nerves. But it always pays off.Discipline without drama.
The drama-free discipline method strengthens the connections between the lower, emotional, and higher, rational regions of the child’s brain. Their integration is the key to managing attention, feelings, and behavior. This method is based on two basic actions that you need to refer to in any problematic situation:
1) first, the parent creates an emotional contact, recognizing the feelings of the child and showing maximum compassion;
2) having established emotional contact, the parent redirects the child to the correct behavior and discusses the wrong with him.
Both actions require special attention.
Step One: Making an Emotional Connection
Why is it important
So, no matter what the child has done, he cannot fully appreciate his act, he does not fully control his emotions, but he always waits for parental support. His bad behavior is just a sign that the child could not deal with the situation. At the same time, at the moment when you caught him committing a misconduct, the child is in the grip of feelings and is immune to moralizing (the rational parts of his brain, already weak due to age, are suppressed by stress). At this moment, it is only important for the child to know that you are there and ready to listen to him.Therefore, first you need to establish emotional contact with him. This action will confirm: the parent accepts the child in any condition. The more often a parent in a difficult situation begins by establishing emotional contact, the better the child understands: he can always count on parental support. This knowledge is the key to his future high self-esteem.
Too frequent emotional storms, recurring tantrums and other behavioral difficulties should be solved with the help of a professional psychologist – we can talk about some kind of hidden trouble: childhood trauma or an affective disorder.Discipline without drama.
Conditions for emotional contact
1. The key condition – first of all, the parent must calm down himself. In most cases, an instant reaction to a child’s mistake is fraught with an explosion of parental emotions. Don’t react to misbehavior right away. Think of three questions to ask yourself in a difficult situation. Now you have the answers to them, confirmed by strict medical knowledge: the child behaves badly, not because he wants to manipulate you or shame you in front of everyone, but because he cannot show his feelings otherwise.
2. Be flexible, respond to a specific situation on the principle of “here and now.” Our past negative experience (perhaps from our own childhood) is most often useless. Maximum awareness is the key to successful education.
3. Don’t ask “how?”, but “why?” Not “how could my son do this?” but “why did he do this?”. It is not necessary to ask this question to the child directly: this can easily be regarded as a condemnation, and sometimes a child, especially a small one, does not even know why he did this. This question is for the parent: what is the child asking me for?
Many parents worry that a child will not learn to be disciplined by being gentle with him and practicing only care. However, there is never too much love. Genuine love is based on a combination of clear demands with sincere love and empathy.Discipline without drama.
Four steps for emotional connection
1. Show that there is no threat to the child. Draw him to you, put your hand on his shoulder, sit so that you are below the level of his gaze. So you show: the parent is a protection, not a danger.
2. Acknowledge the child’s feelings. Name them: “I understand how much you wanted to go visit Mark today. What a pity that his dad had to cancel the holiday!” The most common phrases will also help: “I see that it’s not easy for you now.” In no case do not underestimate the feelings of the child, even if from the height of the past years they seem to be nonsense.
3. Listen silently. Remember that in this state the child is immune to logical reasoning.
4. “Mirror” what you heard – so the child will feel understood. “No wonder you were angry, I would have been beside myself too!” If we are talking about destructive emotions that can affect long-term relationships (for example, anger at an older brother), their description should be reformulated or as specific as possible so as not to reinforce a negative feeling for a loved one in the child’s mind: “I don’t blame you for got out of herself. I can’t stand being teased either. And I know that you love Eric, just now you were playing – remember, building a sand castle … But now you’re angry, right?
An even more productive way is to prevent misbehavior by acting proactively: say that in five minutes you are leaving the park; Set a firm time for going to bed. As Siegel and Bryson define it, acting proactively means taking into account the four dangerous triggers of emotion, “climbing the MOUNTAIN”, where H is hunger, O is loneliness, R is irritation, Y is fatigue. Assess the situation: is the child experiencing one of these unpleasant sensations? Being proactive is not easy, but the more you practice being proactive, the less problematic it becomes to communicate with your child.Discipline without drama.
Step two: go to the redirect
“One, two, three…”
Having established emotional contact with the child, you redirect him to a more adequate solution, appealing to the higher parts of the brain. Redirection is based on one definition, two principles, and three desired outcomes.
One definition: discipline is learning.
1) you start redirecting only after the emotional storm subsides and the higher analytical parts of the brain turn on (this applies to both the child and the parent);
2) you are consistent in setting boundaries for your child, but you know that these boundaries can sometimes be flexible.
The child must (and wants) to know what parents expect from him, but the rules must be meaningful. The rule not to swim in the river without adult supervision is not discussed (like everything else that directly threatens life and health). The opportunity to do homework not before dinner, but after, because grandparents suddenly appeared – why not? In order to feel the boundary between consistency and rigidity, a parent should often ask himself: what do I want to achieve by this measure: compliance with the rules or the ability of the child to take into account circumstances in the future?Discipline without drama.
Three desired redirect results:
1. The ability to analyze your feelings. To help your child with this, often point out to him the emotions you are experiencing: “When Clara took the doll from you, you were terribly angry, right?” The older the child, the more detailed the answer should be pushed. By formulating his feelings, the child develops the higher parts of the brain and learns to understand himself.
2. The ability to empathize with others. The more you encourage your child to think about how their actions affected others and how they felt, the more empathic they become.
3. The ability to correct the consequences of misconduct. At this stage, you also appeal to the higher brain of the child, which is responsible for control and management. The easiest way to activate this part of the brain is to ask, “What can you do to fix this?”
Redirection Techniques and Essential Knowledge
- Accept the child’s feelings, explaining to him that feelings and actions are not the same thing. There are no good and bad feelings, we all experience the widest range of emotions, there is no need to reproach ourselves for them. However, what we do under the influence of feelings must be treated with all attention. The child must understand: “You have every right to feel what you feel, but you can not always do what you want.”
- Less words. No matter how old the child is, a long lecture will not make him want to listen, and even more so to meet the parent halfway. Convey only the essence of the conflict and the lesson that can be learned from it. Try to keep it in the form of a dialogue.
- Describe the situation, do not read the notation. If a two-year-old child has scattered toys, he can be pointed out to him: “Ay-ay-ay, you scattered toys, now we cannot continue the game.” For an older child, hint: “Dirty dishes are still on the table.” Thus, you do not give an order, but redirect the child to the right action, do not decide for him, but push him to independence.
It is important not only what, but also how we speak, with what posture, facial expressions, gestures we accompany the words. Watch for this not only in difficult moments of explanations with the child, but also in everyday communication.Discipline without drama.
- Encourage your child to seek a way out of wrongdoing by working together. Does your son play computer games? Instead of storming into the room with the emphatic statement “From now on, no more than 20 minutes a day for games!”, You can wait for dinner and say: “I see you’ve been into games lately. This hurts the lessons. Let’s make a new plan. What considerations? The child develops his higher brain, making an informed decision, and at the same time feels that his parents respect him, asking him to think for himself.
- Turn “no” into “yes” with a condition (“We will definitely read another fairy tale, but tomorrow”). This is how a useful skill of the higher parts of the brain develops – the ability, if necessary, to postpone the pleasure of fulfilling a desire.
- When correcting a child’s behavior, often focus on the good. Instead of “Stop whining!” “I like it when you speak in a good, grown-up voice. Can you repeat?” Emphasize positive things in your child’s behavior: “I love it when you help your little brother with his homework!”
- Approach a difficult situation creatively, improvise, add humor to it. So you signal to the child: there is no threat, the problem can be solved peacefully.
One director of a kindergarten came up with a non-trivial way to deal with the word “garbage” inappropriate for children. Hearing this word from the child, he explains in all seriousness that this word is used only in a very narrow context: “Great word, but you use it incorrectly. You see, they say it when they take care of rabbits, such a special farm word. Let’s replace it with something more suitable.”Discipline without drama.
The key goal of these techniques is to integrate the higher and lower brains of the child. This is manifested in a growing ability to understand oneself and others. The parts of the brain responsible for self-observation gradually become as developed as the parts responsible for emotions. The main lesson that the child must learn is that he does not need to chain himself to negative experiences, with the help of his own thoughts he can change his feelings and the way he acts. For this:
- Teach a child in a difficult situation to be both an actor who experiences certain feelings and a director who gives these feelings a balanced assessment. On the nose of the exam? The actor in the child says, “I hate exams! Porridge in my head, my heart is pounding, it seems that now I will faint. The director corrects: “The exam is important, but not fatal. It must be passed well, but it is not necessary to faint. All you need is not to sit up at the computer today and go to bed early.”
- Show your child that you can change your emotional state by controlling your bodily reactions. Is your daughter insecure? Offer to remember how she holds herself in a situation where she is absolutely sure how she feels.
- Teach your child to fit their experience into a larger context. Nine-year-old son came home upset: their team had lost a basketball game. Mom shows him the splashes of rain on the window glass: each of the drops is some kind of event in life that has already happened or will happen. Today’s match is just one of them. It is real, and the feelings of the son can be understood. But let him pay attention to other drops: this one is his five on his annual math test last week, this one is a trip to summer camp next month … Life is not reduced to a single event!
Last lesson for parents
Among the techniques described, there is no universal one – use those that best suit the specific situation, taking into account the age and level of development of the child. Perhaps in some circumstances, you will not be able to resolve the situation in an optimal way, transferring the child to a state of happy peace with one magical conversation. However, remember that you can and should always do – express your unconditional love to the child and show that you are there: when he is ready, you can discuss what happened.
Even if the behavior of the parent himself is sometimes not ideal, this is also a valuable experience for the child: he needs to learn to control himself, even if the father or mother did not show proper self-control (and such an understanding will be the stronger, the more consistently you practice the method of discipline without dramas with the child). The most important thing is to admit you’re bad behavior and restore the relationship as soon as possible: forgive the child and ask for forgiveness yourself.
Top 10 Thoughts
1. Any misconduct of a child is a call for help, which he expects from a parent.
2. Any punishments based on aggression and infliction of pain are excluded.
3. When analyzing a child’s misbehavior, ask not “how could my child do this?” but “why did he do this?”
4. The child (and all of us) have every right to feel what he feels, but can not always do what he wants.
5. Replace notations with dialogue.
6. Encourage the child to seek a way out to correct the offense, and act together.
7. Turn “no” into “yes” with a condition and never miss an opportunity to show that there are enough good opportunities in life.
8. Be consistent, but not stubborn, defining the boundaries of what is permitted for the child.
9. It is important not only what but also how we speak – not only in moments of explanation with the child but also in ordinary communication.
10. To be kinder to your children, you must first be kinder to yourself.