Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our Parenting Goals + No Drama Discipline {Book Review}

Last month, I read a great book on discipline called No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind (found here).

As a mom of a toddler, the title alone was intriguing.

I've said it before, but it's hard to be 2. There's so much to figure out about life and the desire to do things independently and give opinions about what should happen when often clashes with actual physical ability and what mom and dad say need to happen when.

Emotions can change on a dime. Some days, it feels like our little guy is dealing with the hormones of a teenage girl instead of a 2 1/2 year old boy.

As parents, Matt and I try hard to understand the "why" of a certain behavior as best we can (in the book they gave the acronym "HALT"- is he hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? -pg. 72) and redirect toward the end goal of what type of character we want for our kids in the future. 

Our pediatrician told us once, "You can parent perfectly in a perfect world, and your kids will still misbehave." Because of this truth, he said, "It's not our job as parents to control our kids' behavior, but to control how we react to our kids' behavior."

As believers, we know that we are parenting kids in a sinful world and that sin is a part of who we all are. Doing the right thing doesn't come naturally. It has to be taught and trained and retrained.

What I loved most about this book is that it completely shifted my thinking away from the behavior itself and onto the bigger, more important issues like why the behavior was occurring and how to teach the behavior we want to see instead. The great thing and the hard about the principals behind this style of parenting is that they require us to be intentional instead of reactive and require thinking on the front end about what we really want for our kids when we picture them as grown adults.

And when I sit back and think about raising kids from that perspective, I can't say that immediately obeying, always making the right choices, and never making mistakes are goals on that list, or even practical expectations.

I am 32 years old and I still work on all of those things.

So what are our goals for our kids?

We want to raise future adults who love Jesus first, love others well, who understand that they were created for a purpose and loved by their Heavenly Father, and who understand that people are always more important than things. 

So the choices they make matters.
And the way they treat others matters. 
And what they are doing when no one else is watching matters.

One of the things I loved about this book is that it spoke life into raising kids with a strong self-awareness at an early age.

One of my favorite passages from the book says, 
Our ultimate goal isn’t that our children do what we want them to do because we’re watching them or telling them what to do. (That would be fairly impractical, after all, unless we plan on living and going to work with them for the rest of their lives.) Rather, we want to help them learn to make positive and productive choices on their own in whatever situation they face. And that means we need to view the times they misbehave as opportunities to give them practice building important skills and having those experiences wired into the brain. (page 59)

The authors do a great job explaining neurological development in children and how parents' reactions to misbehavior can influence brain development for longterm change, as opposed to short-term obedience.

Below I've shared a few of my other favorite passages from the book, but this is definitely one you want to read cover to cover and own a copy of to refer back to! It was so hard for me to narrow down my favorite parts, as you can see from the long list of favorite passages below. So if you're interested, you can purchase a copy for yourself here.

Passages from the book (with some of my thoughts in between):
You can discipline in a way that’s high on relationship, high on respect, and low on drama and conflict—and in the process, you can foster development that builds good relationship skills and improves your children’s ability to make good decisions, think about others, and act in ways that prepare them for lifelong success and happiness. (introduction)

The first step in effective discipline is to connect with our children emotionally. Our relationship with our kids should be central to everything we do. (introduction)

I love how this book focused on making sure our kids are READY to listen and ready to understand the lesson that needs to be taught. It also talked about making sure we as parents are ready to actually TEACH and not just react- which is so, so hard sometimes!

Redirection is rarely going to be successful while a child’s emotions are running high. Consequences and lessons are ineffective as long as a child is upset and unable to hear the lessons you’re offering. It’s like trying to teach a dog to sit while he’s fighting another dog. A fighting dog won’t sit. But if you can help a child calm down, receptiveness will emerge and allow her to understand what you’re trying to tell her (introduction)

I love that part about "a fighting dog won't sit" ...yet how many times have I essentially tried to do just that?! ...Great perspective on something that seems so obvious.

Our kids don’t usually lash out at us because they’re simply rude, or because we’re failures as parents. They usually lash out because they don’t yet have the capacity to regulate their emotional states and control their impulses. (page 9)

Often, misbehavior is a result of a child getting overtaxed emotionally, so that the expression of a need or a big feeling comes out in ways that are aggressive or disrespectful or uncooperative... It’s during these times that a child most needs our comfort and calm presence, and our discipline needs to communicate that presence. (page 28)

I thought this was so good. Sometimes the behavior that makes us want to pull away is actually a sign that our little ones need us to draw closer. I've tried to be more aware of this with Ryan since reading this book and it's really so sweet to see how his little body calms down when I go to hug him. These are often the times when he'll say things like, "I'm just havin' a tough time." So as the parent, it's helped me to step back in those hard moments and remember they're just little people trying to figure out how to do life!

Parents tend to overtalk in general when their kids are upset, and asking questions and trying to teach a lesson mid-tantrum can further escalate their emotions. Their nervous systems are already overloaded, and the more we talk, the more we flood their systems with additional sensory input. (page 86)

Guilty. I am working hard on the "less is more" approach. I sure don't want to listen to someone go on and on about how I could have handled a situation better, and I actually have the mental ability to process it, so I need to offer the same consideration (not to mention, developmentally appropriate response) to my little guy when I'm teaching him how to handle a situation better.

No-Drama Discipline....aims at achieving these three outcomes: focusing on giving our children practice at better understanding themselves with insight, seeing things from the perspective of others with empathy, then taking steps to improve a particular situation where they’ve done something wrong. (page 158)

Um yes. Sign me up for that please.

And lastly:

The goal of discipline is not to make sure that each infraction is immediately met with a consequence. The real goal is to teach our children how to live well in the world. (page 238)

Another great takeaway from this book is that not all infractions, as they put it, need a consequence. Sometimes the lesson is learned immediately by whatever natural consequence occurs. And other times whatever happened was so clearly the effect of extreme exhaustion or other extenuating circumstance. When the ultimate goal is retraining the brain for the future, some lessons can be taught later and some don't even need to be addressed. 

This little review (even will ALL of its passages!) only scratches the surface of the insight gained from this book. I don't think I'll ever read a parenting book where I agree 100% with every single idea shared, but this one gave me so many great takeaways to consider and implement in our home. In case you can't tell, I highly recommend you read it! So grab yourself a copy here. ;)

And if you want to check out other book reviews I've written on both fiction and nonfiction books, click here.


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