A Parent’s Discipline Report Card (continued)

In my last post, I invited parents to consider the grades they might receive on a Discipline Report Card, starting with earning the first of several “C’s,” calmness.  

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Master Trainer, Curricula Writer, Researcher, Mother and Grandmother
(If you prefer to read last week’s Part One post first, click here. )

You might have recognized yourself in the list of some practices that a parent needs to embrace that promote calmness. If you did, here are some of the principles and benefits to staying calm, along with the actual behaviors parents need to display in order to project that calmness.

And remember: calmness can be faked. By adopting the outward behaviors, even if you aren’t deeply feeling them, your children will benefit from having a parent who appears calm. And by adopting this behavior, parents often find they gradually start to feel calmer.

Some key principles of calmness is for parents to appreciate that:

  • Out of control parents look scary to children, can make children feel fearful and insecure. This fear and insecurity can hinder whatever it is they could be learning.
  • Calmness is both a skill and an attitude.
  • Calmness can be faked, i.e. parents do not have to feel calm to behave in a calm way.
  • Often as a parent fakes calm by behaving calmly, the calmer he or she feels.

Some of the benefits of staying calm:

  • It allows you to maintain control over your reactions and responses.
  • Children are less likely to “push your buttons.”
  • Your calmness invites children to be calmer.
  • Calmness helps a parent think more clearly, stay focused, be assertive and decisive.
  • Calmness helps a parent avoid feeling and behaving in an angry way.
  • Calmness helps a parent maintain the rule that “Effective discipline is not an emotional event.”

Behaviors of being calm:

  • Use a firm voice.
  • Be reasonably soft spoken.
  • Speak slowly, clearly, with control.
  • Describe specific expectations, without referencing the past. (“Matthew, I expect you to pick your clothes up off the floor and put them in the hamper now.”)
  • Use appropriate eye contact.
  • Own an unwillingness to plead, get into a debate or battle.
  • Use shoulder shrugging – project an “oh well” attitude if there are objections.
  • Use physical contact such as a touch on the shoulder, to ground the child. This should not be forceful or hurtful in any way.
  • Use the “broken record technique,” patiently repeating your expectation over and over, regardless of any arguments by the child. (Matthew’s parent would repeat the expectation as many times as it takes until Matthew gives up and puts the clothes in the hamper).
  • Use slow and deliberate movements or just remain silent.
  • Know that non-verbal messages may speak louder than words and may give you a chance to fake being calm.
  • Use I-messages.
  • Refuse to be rushed.
  • Give reasons freely to send messages of respect. Brief explanations said calmly and quietly can acknowledge that the child does not like the rule but indicates that it still is in effect and will be enforced. (“I need clothes to be in the hamper so it’s easy for me to gather them up to wash them.”) You only give a reason once, otherwise a child may be gaining some power over you to explain until he or she approves of the explanation.
  • It is okay to show interest, appreciate the child’s feelings and needs, accept and acknowledge them—while still remaining calm and in charge.

There are many other principles and practices necessary for disciplining effectively. In addition to using the skill of being calm, however, most parents find practicing just this skill alone helps them be much more centered and prepared to discipline effectively.

Invitation to Reflect:

  • Are you clear about the many benefits of assuming a calm demeanor when disciplining?
  • Which of the behaviors do you feel comfortable adopting to strengthen your abilities to remain calm when disciplining? Which ones do you need to work on?

 Diane Wagenhals