In part one of this article I shared two fundamental questions that have changed how I view punishment as a parenting tool; 1) what are the behavior I want to change in my children? And 2) what do I want their reasons for changing their behavior? – Answering this enabled me to be aware that my reasons are not fear of punishment, or blame or shaming my children. In this article, I will share my strategies to mitigate punishment within my family.
I guess the question becomes, what do we do? How do we alter behavior without punishment – right? Well that could be one way of looking at it, another way (and possibly more enriching to you and your children) is asking yourself questions like; why does my child behave this way? What is he/she feeling or needing that leads to such behavior? Or asking how can I empower my child to live peacefully and compassionately? What tools would contribute to this empowerment and to the enrichment of our relationship?
I still ask myself these questions, and in most times I learn new things to bring into my relationship with my children, and below are some for you;
1- Be aware of your triggers; we all have our buttons, those that when pressed we blow up and have strong emotions. Write a list of what are those for you with your child, then reflect on why are these things triggering for you and lastly prepare yourself with scenarios of what will you do the next time this happens. For example; My step children have a habit of hitting each other and this REALLY triggers me, so every time one of them hit another I use to go nuts. But then I reflected on the why do I go nuts, then prepared myself to the next time this happens- when it happened I was conscious of my feelings and had my scenario ready for me to pull in and use.
2- Own your feelings; your child does not have the skills to separate between himself and his behavior, so when you tell her “you make me sad” she immediately translates it into judgment of herself or blame. Reality is we want to teach our kids how to own their feelings and work with them and a great way to do so is to role model ownership to our children. Try saying “I feel sad, when I see your brother hurting, and feel worried that you are angry” - this will send a clear message to your child that you care for him/her even if they’ve done a behavior that you don’t enjoy (to say the least!)
3- Empower your child with tools; Teach your child ways by which they can channel their energy; breathing deeply, changing position (from sitting to standing or vice versa), washing their face..etc. and other tools that would help them process feelings; such as empathy (If your child learns that his brother must be hurting so much to hit him, and had no proper words to express – he will probably be more empathetic and even less hurt) – This worked very well with my daughter, specially at the beginning of her interaction with her new step brothers and sister.
4- Support your child with processing feelings; a lot of the times our children’s act outs are as a result of unprocessed feelings of sadness (that they missed training), anger (that they had to share their toy yesterday), overwhelmed (that they have to go out right now to visit grandpa and they are just not ready to) – and in most cases and in the heat of the moment we are unable to invite the time and spaciousness to attend to our child’s needs, a great way to compensate for that and let your child know that you care is to go back to him/her when there’s time and say “I noticed you were pretty upset this morning about missing training, do you want to talk about it? I would like to hear you out?”
5- Reflect on your boundaries; in most cases when we set boundaries, we do so because we believe they make sense. Well reality is, in most cases it doesn’t make this same sense to our kids. Reflecting on your boundaries enable you to really learn about the motivation behind them (is it so people won’t say your kid is messy or is it really related to your child’s wellbeing), how meaningful are they really to you and whether they first your child’s skills, development stage and personality
6- Be present; in most of the times kids do unpleasant behavior to solicit our attention, even if it’s going to be negative. It’s his/her call out for you to spend quality time, play, appreciation and silliness. Spending this time at various moments of the day send your child a concrete message that they matter, that they are seen and heard and that they are deeply loved – in this message lies their peace, security and consistency in cooperating with you
As usual these are not an all inclusive list, but it is my sharing of what I do with my kids and has been working. I dream of raising and treating our kids with empowerment and respect, so when they grow they would treat our world the same way and in that create a much peaceful world than the one we are living in. I hope both my articles empower you to progress in your journey of peaceful parenting.
Marwa Advocates for freedom, peace, and building compassionate homes.