Saturday, 21 January 2017

Taking Steps toward Positive Discipline

A few weeks ago I was really struggling with Jerome. He was starting the day with tantrums and it seemed he was always on the verge of the next tantrum - at my wit's end, I found myself putting him on time out, too often. He would be screaming, kicking, crying, as I dragged him by the arm to his room. The tantrums were about anything and everything. He wanted toast and didn't notice it was already on the table for him. He didn't want his diaper changed. He didn't want to go in the bath, go in the car, sit at the table. So meltdowns ensued, frustrated mom would put the inconsolable child in his room, he would calm down but we would be at square one all over again.

It felt wrong, disrespectful, not Montessori. So one day, as he screamed in his room, I realized there had to be an answer in the Montessori philosophy. There always is.

Now, of course, I had heard about positive parenting, and about how Montessori parents do not discipline in the same way, but I never thought it was something I could do. However, I read this blog and it seemed like such a no-brainer to me.

There have been times in my adult life when I have been spoken to harshly, yelled at, or belittled in other ways, and I can personally say that it was not constructive in any way. In those moments I am either driven to focus on anger with the person, on feelings of injustice, or am overcome with feelings of inadequacy.

I know that children have this innate need for respect and independence, even more than we do. This calls to mind one of my favourite quotes by Montessori: "Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future ... let us treat them with all the kindness which we would hope to help develop in them."

Throughout my dealings with children in my life, I have struggled with patience and reacting to misbehavior with kindness. It has often seemed like the natural response to yell, physically discipline in some way, though it has never sat well with me. Having the patience and kindness I felt was respectful to children has been something I have prayed about and been really discouraged about for many years.

Really delving into the Montessori principles of respect, discipline and nonviolence, provided me with the platform to overcome a lot of the hurdles I was facing. I still struggle with it sometimes and find myself snapping, or reaching out to pinch Jerome's ear, but positive parenting is becoming so much more natural for me - our home feels so much more peaceful as a result.

I try to listen to what his "tantrums" may be telling me and provide choices, distractions, and conversations depending on the situation. We rarely need to resort to time outs now, and when we do, I make sure to take him on my lap, tell him I'm not mad, make it a bonding moment after he has had a chance to calm down. This is not a perfect set up by any means, I know the timeouts he has could be even more positive, but I see the shift in our home life already and I know it is working for us.

Often, misbehavior is just an indication that we, as parents and educators, need to address a need, a communication barrier, a misconception. Having this type of attitude eliminates a lot of frustration towards the child, and instead drives me as a parent to be a problem solver, a positive influence, and an overall more peaceful person.

A great example of this has to do with teeth brushing. I always let Jerome brush his own teeth, but I want him to let me "have a turn" at some point so that his teeth are actually being brushed. We were having an impossibly difficult time with this, and teeth brushing would turn into physical battles of me holding him down. That week I read about positive disciplining, I knew I had to change my angle. I set up a little space in the bathroom with Jerome's toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, a flosser and a lotion, and the next day when we went to brush teeth, he was so utterly pleased with the independence I had provided. It was so rewarding to see the self-assurance and pride it gave him to be in control of his little tray of toiletries, and as a result, he was happy to let me help brush his teeth.

It is also such a huge bonus when I am reflecting on my day, to only recall one or two moments in which I felt I reacted poorly. I know that it is by God's grace and that we will continue to grow as a family by his help, and I am so grateful to see the growth we have experienced thus far.

1 comment:

  1. I found this post and everything you talked about in it so interesting and thought provoking.