The other night I attended a talk by Lou Harvey-Zahra. Lou is the author of 'Turning tears into Laughter' which is a book about creative discipline for the toddler to preschool years. I found the talk very interesting. I could identify with a lot of the things she was talking about and found that we actually already used a lot of them. Like any sort of parenting advice, it's important to take what you want and leave what you don't but I thought I would share some of the things she talked about and what I identified with.
Positive family rhythms
Life can be incredibly overwhelming when you are only little and it's important to make sure that your days are not too busy. Steve Biddulph estimates that around 75% of discipline problems are caused by the hurry parents are in. Children need time to connect with parents and be able to discover things in their own time. Lou talks about the importance of having 'home days' at least once a week and/or making sure you are only out for part of a day, rather than a whole day. She talks about the importance of doing the same things on different days each week (having a rhythm) as children like things to be predictable. It doesn't have to be anything super exciting - things like Monday is cooking day, Tuesday is washing day.
Giving your child the opportunity for imaginative play is really important. One thing that Lou said really stood out to me. She mentioned that many people think television is a good baby sitter but it's actually not because it's not teaching children to play. When children learn the skills of imaginative play they can keep themselves entertained for hours whereas children who have watched lots of television will constantly be asking to be entertained by someone. It can help to know that 'work is a child's play' at this young age too. Children will play at imitating what you are doing so it's important to include them in your chores or provide them with their own play things to mimic what you are doing. We're not talking about whizz bang toys with bells and whistles that do everything for the kids but the use of recycled or everyday things (op shops are great for picking up stuff for a toy kitchen or dress ups!)
Eating and behaviour
What kids eat can negatively affect their behaviour as well. If you are interested in finding out more about this you can visit Sue Dengate's website
Creative Discipline strategies
Discovering why a behaviour is happening is so important. What is the behaviour communicating? What is the child's intention? Sometimes what we deem 'inappropriate behaviour' is actually the child trying to tell us something yet we are so focused on this behaviour that we miss that. Lou gave a great example about a boy who'd discovered how to make a pot in the mud. He runs inside to show his Mum but all she can see is muddy footprints and yells at him to get outside. In the process, she has completely missed sharing in his joy.
The first thing we need to try is redirecting (in a positive manner) to change the behaviour. This can include redirecting to a new location, redirecting to teach a more appropriate behaviour (eg. if a child is being rough with a cat we say 'stroke the cat gently, like this') or redirecting to a whole new activity.
Change the environment
A simple change in the environment can make a huge impact on a child's behaviour. This means moving things that you don't want a child to touch out of their reach instead of expecting them to just be compliant, changing their play space if they are getting bored or adding a nightlight to their bedroom if they are having trouble going to sleep.
The word 'no'
Using the word 'no' all the time with my kids is something that I have always disliked. I feel like I spend the whole day saying 'no' or 'don't' to them sometimes and it starts to negatively impact both them and me! Lou talks about rephrasing the word 'no' Instead of saying 'no' all the time we can say things like 'in a minute' or 'when I have finished this' or you can even offer an alternative instead eg: you can have a piece of fruit instead of the biscuit'.
Games and giggles
Using humour can sometimes help to stop a certain behaviour happening or stop a full blown tantrum in it's tracks. Things like tickling, or making a game out of something a child doesn't want to do can help.
A child who is given choices is more likely to respond positively as he doesn't feel that he is being told what to do. You can give your child two choices but you are the one who decides what those choices will be. Eg, 'you can have porridge or weet bix, which one?'
The best role model
The best role models are us - the parents! It's important that we display traits that we want our children to learn - love, compassion, understanding, etc. When our child has a tantrum it's important for us to respond in a calm and loving manner. I know - easier said than done!! If you are having trouble coping then you might need to leave the room or count to 10. I always find that taking a deep breath can help me with not losing my temper ;) But don't beat yourself up if you do lose your temper. It is important however that you say sorry if you do lose control and make it up to your child by giving them a cuddle. By seeing us apologise for something we've done, children will see what they need to do themselves.
The power of praise
We're not talking about saying 'good girl' or 'good boy' here when a child does the right thing. That's a pet hate of mine!! But about using praise that is meaningful and focused on what the child is actually doing. This can be as simple as saying thank you when a child does something thoughtful or helpful.
The quiet removal
If you have tried everything else and nothing else has worked then you might want to try this strategy. We actually find this works quite effectively with Jacob when he has been hitting his sister/throwing things. This can include both removing an object from the situation (in the case when Jacob was throwing blocks we simply packed the blocks up with a simple explanationon of why it was happening) or removing the child from the situation (to sit on your lap or with you).
Lou also has a website you might want to check out as well.