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"No-Drama Discipline" in 5 Easy Parenting Lessons

Cara J. Stevens
July 10, 2017

Start parenting using the "No-Drama Discipline" method for a happier, more well-adjusted childhood for your children.

"No-Drama Discipline" seems like the holy grail of parenting, on par with homework without tears and a house that cleans itself. When you think of discipline, the first thing that comes to mind is probably yelling, punishment and tantrums. The authors of "No-Drama Discipline," Drs. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, turn the idea of behavior and discipline around with eye-opening simplicity.

What if you looked at behavior as a form of communication instead? The way children behave gives you clues as to what they do well and areas where they still need help. "If we redefine [discipline] through the lens of teaching and skill-building, we'll find that much of what we do in the name of discipline is actually counter-productive," says co-author Dr. Bryson, a pediatric psychotherapist.

"Parents respond in ways that amplify distress or make kids go into more reactive states." The goal of their book is to teach parents how to soothe their children's distress, allowing them to be more receptive to learn, then guide and teach in that quiet, receptive moment.

"I have never met a disobedient child, only a disoriented one," agrees Kim John Payne, the author of "The Soul of Discipline" and a school and family counselor. "Children who are feeling emotionally off center will often throw out challenging behavior in order to get a response from us. They do this because they can trust us and if we can give them warm, firm and calm boundaries they tend to feel safe and re-oriented."

The book "No-Drama Discipline" is relatable and definitely worth a full read. Here's Dr. Bryson's own summary of the key points to get you started on the path of drama-free, teachable moments:

  1. Stop and Think
    "The point of discipline is to teach and build skills," says Dr. Bryson. If your child throws a toy at you because you're too busy to play, the usual reaction is some form of punishment. But does punishment teach a child about self-control, patience or not throwing toys?

    In this situation you should ask yourself three questions:
  • Why did my child do this?
  • What is the lesson or skill I want taught?
  • What is the best way to teach that?

Listening to your primitive brain response that tells you to yell starts a pattern of drama and combat. Hugging your child, giving your full attention, then talking it out on his level gives him the tools to do better next time.

  1. Discuss at the Right Time
    According to Dr. Bryson, "the brain can only learn when it's in a receptive state, not a reactive one. We need to ask, 'Is my child ready to learn?' before we attempt to teach and build skills." When your children are fighting, for example, a lecture will fall on deaf ears. When both parties cool down, you can discover what started the argument and set boundaries to avoid future conflict.
  2. Take Time to Connect
    "The best way to get kids from reactive to receptive states is to connect with them emotionally first before we redirect their behavior. This allows us to be more effective disciplinarians so that they become self-disciplined," explains Dr. Bryson. When your daughter cries because she's overwhelmed with school work, a time management lecture will be met with resistance. Take a minute to understand the root of her frustration and figure out how to help her tackle the workload and improve her study habits.
  3. Reconsider Time-Outs
    Parents can give children tools to help them navigate their feelings and become self-disciplined. If your child often needs time-outs, she may be having trouble regulating her reactions to her environment. Instead of sending her to a negative time-out, create a "calm zone" with her favorite things where she can go to calm and soothe herself.
  4. Be There for Your Kids -- Even When They Misbehave
    "When kids' behavior is challenging and they are at their worst, [it's] probably when they need us the most," says Dr. Byron. When you send your son to his room for misbehaving, one message you may be sending is "I only want to be with you when you're doing what I want you to do." When your child heads to his room, you feel badly, too. Next time he acts out, calm things down, then spend some reflective time together. Cuddle. Connect. Talk. You'll find you're soothing your child and yourself!

Cara J. Stevens is a freelance writer living in Connecticut with her husband and two children. She writes frequently about health, wellness, parenting, beauty and hair care.

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