Articles

Raising Children without Violence: Part 4 by Joan Durrant

November 7, 2016

In this series of feature articles, we are presenting the principles of positive discipline for parents, future parents, and those who work with children.  These principles are taken from the parenting manual “Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting”, published by Save the Children Sweden and the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and authored by Joan Durrant PhD from the University of Manitoba in Canada.

This week’s feature:  Problem Solving

When you build a house, you begin with a plan.  Then you select the best tools and learn about your materials.  As you begin to build, you realize that many unexpected situations arise.  You need to problem-solve so that you can fulfill your plan.

So it is with parenting.  You begin with your plan – your long-term goals.  Then you select the best tools – warmth and structure.  You learn about your materials – how children think and feel at different stages.  But many challenging situations arise.  You need to problem-solve to reach your goals.

This week, we will examine some typical challenges and see how a problem-solving approach can lead you to where you want to go.  This approach has 4 steps:

1) Remembering your long-term goals;

2) Thinking about providing warmth and structure;

3) Considering how your child thinks and feels at this developmental stage;

4) Responding with positive discipline.

Example:  Your two-year-old touches everything he sees.  He reaches for a sharp knife.  What should you do?

Step 1:  Remember your long-term goals (respecting others, confidence, strong relationship with you).

Step 2: Think about providing warmth (emotional security).  Think about providing structure (clear information).

Step 3:  Consider how your child thinks and feels at this stage (needs independence, learns through touch, doesn’t understand danger, highly motivated to learn).

Step 4:  Think about your options.  You might slap his hands or shout at him.  But would this teach him how to show respect, give him confidence, and strengthen your relationship?  Would it provide emotional security?  Would it give him information and maintain his motivation to learn?

Slapping and shouting will not lead you toward your goals or provide the warmth and structure that children need.  So what can you do?

You can remain calm, pick up the knife, tell him what it is called and show him what it is for;  explain that it can hurt him and demonstrate by cutting a piece of fruit; explain that you will put it in a safe place so that no one gets hurt.  Put it in a place your child cannot reach and shift his attention to a safe object.

What have you accomplished?  You have shown your child how to treat others with respect.   You have strengthened your relationship by communicating respectfully with him.  You have shown him that you will keep him physically and emotionally safe.  You have given him useful information.  You have respected his developmental level by putting the dangerous object out of reach.  You have responded with positive discipline.

Example:  You are in a hurry to leave the house.  Your five-year-old is playing.  When you tell her that it is time to leave, she doesn’t come.  You tell her again and she still doesn’t come.  What should you do?

Step 1:  Remember your long-term goals (respect for others, confidence, strong relationship with you).

Step 2: Think about providing warmth (emotional security).  Think about providing structure (clear information).

Step 3:  Consider how your child thinks and feels at this stage (needs independence, doesn’t understand others’ needs, rich imagination).

Step 4:  Think about your options.  You might threaten to leave without her.  You could grab her and pull her out the door.  But would these responses teach her how to show respect, give her confidence, and strengthen your relationship?  Would they provide emotional security?  Would they give her information to help her learn?

Threatening, frightening and using physical force will not lead you toward your goals or provide the warmth and structure that children need.  So what can you do?

You can tell your child where you are going and why you need to go; set a timer to go off in five minutes; tell her that you must leave when the timer sounds so she should finish what she is doing; reassure her that she can return to her play when you get home.  Let her know when there are two minutes left and challenge her to a race to getting your coats on.

What have you accomplished?  You have shown your child how to treat others with respect.   You have strengthened your relationship by communicating respectfully with her.  You have given her emotional security and information to help her understand. You have respected her developmental level by recognizing that she becomes lost in her play.  You have responded with positive discipline.

The four steps of positive discipline can be applied in a wide range of situations, from infancy through adolescence but these require practice.  It can be difficult to think and problem-solve when you are frustrated.  Just remember that it is when you are challenged that you have the best opportunities to teach your child how to cope with stress, control anger, respect others, and resolve conflict without violence.

The manual can be downloaded for free from this site.

 

About Joan Durrant

Joan E. Durrant, Ph.D. is a Child-Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Family Social Sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.  She conducts research on the factors that lead parents to strike their children, as well as on the impact of laws that prohibit physical punishment.  She was the principal researcher and co-author of the Canadian Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth; a member of the Research Advisory Committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children; and a co-editor of Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward to Constructive Discipline (UNESCO).  She has written parenting materials for the Canadian government, and has given speeches and workshops in many countries on the topics of physical punishment and positive parenting.