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.

 

Raising Children without Violence: Part 3 by Joan Durrant

October 31, 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 of the University of Manitoba in Canada.

This week’s feature:  Understanding How Children Think and Feel

This week’s article is about the development of children’s thinking.  Seeing the world through the child’s eyes increases understanding and improves teaching.

Infancy

Young babies don’t know what causes their hunger or what ends it – or that when you leave, you will return.  They communicate through crying, sometimes for long periods.  Often, we can end their crying by feeding, changing or rocking them.  But sometimes, they just need to cry.   They need you to respond with cuddling, rocking, and carrying.   The two of you will form an attachment – the foundation of your relationship for years to come.

Gradually, your baby will begin to babble – the beginning of language.  When you respond, she learns that that you will respect her attempts to communicate with you, an important building block in your relationship.

As he grows, your baby will touch everything and put it in his mouth.  This is his instinctive way of learning about objects – whether they are soft or hard, noisy or silent.   He is not being “bad”; he is learning about his world.  Be sure to remove anything harmful or breakable from his reach.

The Preschool Years

Your child will learn to walk – and run, jump, and slide.  She is incredibly energetic and active.   She learns by moving, touching and experimenting.  Walking gives her independence; it also makes danger more of a concern.  Keep dangerous items out of reach.

Your child will want to do more by herself.  She might try to express her feelings by saying “NO!”  She might be trying to say, “I don’t like that,” or “I’m frustrated.”  She is not being defiant or disobedient, but trying to tell you how she feels.

Your child will want to know what everything is called and will ask many questions.  By talking and reading to him, and answering his questions, you can develop his vocabulary.  By listening to him, you show that your respect his efforts to communicate.  You can begin to teach him how to express his feelings in words.

Because young children are highly active, independent, and limited in their understanding, parents often say “NO!” to them to keep them safe.  But after hearing “NO!” many times, your child can get frustrated.  She might have tantrums.  The way that you respond will show her how to resolve conflict.

Many children develop fears at this age.  They might become shy around strangers.  Their imaginations are growing and they understand more about pain.  They don’t understand the difference between “real” and “pretend”.  Your child needs reassurance and support, and trust that you will keep him safe.

Young children are just beginning to understand their own feelings; they are not yet able to understand others’ feelings.  By respecting their feelings, we can teach them how to treat others.  This means not shaming or embarrassing them – and not punishing them for being afraid.

The School Years

Your child’s response to school can depend on her unique, inborn temperament.   For example, some of us are very active, while others prefer quiet activities.  Some of us enjoy meeting new people and eating new foods, while others hesitate to try new things.  Some of us are easily distracted, while others can focus on one activity for a long time.

Often, conflict results from a mismatch between the child’s temperament and that of the parent or teacher.  If the child is highly active, but the parent expects him to sit quietly – or if the child is highly distracted, but the teacher expects her to stay focused – conflict can result.  When we understand the reasons for conflict, we can find constructive solutions.

As your child reaches puberty, conflict can increase again.  Hormonal changes can lead to moodiness.  Social development can lead to greater peer influence.  At this stage, parents need to keep their children safe while respecting their growing need for independence.

Adolescence

Your child has been practicing for this stage since birth.  If he has learned how to respect himself and others, resolve conflict non-violently and communicate constructively, he will put those skills to use as he discovers his own identity.  He might suddenly change his hairstyle, friends, interests, beliefs and plans for the future.  He will try on adult roles, experimenting with things that were forbidden when he was younger.  Although he might not say it, he needs you to support him now, providing honest information, clear expectations, and a safe environment.

The most important things that parents can do in this stage are:  strengthening the parent-child connection by providing a warm, loving, stable home; monitoring the child’s activities in a way that respects her privacy; and nurturing the child’s independence by encouraging her to make decisions and negotiating solutions to disagreements.

The manual can be downloaded for free from this site.

Next week:  Problem-solving in specific situations

 

 

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.

Raising Children without Violence: Part 2 by Joan Durrant

October 17, 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 of the University of Manitoba in Canada.

This week’s feature: Providing Warmth and Structure

Last week’s article focused on identifying your long-term parenting goals. Knowing your goals helps you to use challenging situations to show your children how to handle frustration, manage stress, resolve conflict and act without hurting others physically or emotionally.

This week, we will look at two powerful tools that will help you to achieve your goals: warmth and structure. Both are absolutely necessary to reaching your long-term goals. Together, warmth and structure provide an environment in which children want to learn – and want to be like you.

What is warmth? Imagine that you are learning a new language. You need to learn thousands of new words, figure out the grammar, and find out which expressions are polite and which ones are rude. You have to learn how to pronounce each word, as well as how to spell it. You are eager to learn and you want your teacher to be happy with your progress.

Will you learn better if you feel safe with your teacher or if you are afraid that she will hit you if you make a mistake? Will you be more motivated to learn if your teacher tells you how capable you are or tells you that you’re stupid? Will you want to tell your teacher when you’re having problems if you expect that he will listen and help or if you expect that he will get angry and punish you?

Most people will easily understand that they will learn better, be more highly motivated, and be more successful if their teacher is understanding, helpful, supportive, patient and kind. Most people will also understand that they will lose confidence if the teacher is critical and negative, and that they will be afraid to go to the teacher for help if they expect to be punished or hit. Children are no different.

Did you know that “discipline” actually means “teaching”? Many people believe that “discipline” means “punishment”, but this is not the case. Discipline involves creating an environment in which children feel safe to learn, so that they will gradually acquire their own self-discipline. To create this environment, parents need to provide a great deal of warmth.

How can parents provide warmth? Parents give warmth to their children when they: express love and affection, are sensitive to their children’s feelings and needs, show respect for their child’s stage of development, and are able to see the situation from the child’s point of view. Warmth provides emotional security. In a warm family climate, children want to please their parents.

Warmth helps the child feel safe. Children cannot learn when they are afraid, worried or anxious that they could lose their parents’ love. When children feel safe, their minds are free to learn. There are many ways to give warmth to children. Here are just a few:

  • playing with them
  • saying “I love you”
  • reading to them
  • hugging them
  • comforting them when they are hurt or afraid
  • listening to them
  • laughing with them
  • telling them that you believe in them
  • recognizing their efforts
  • trusting them

Do you remember your long-term goals? They might include security, confidence, kindness, patience, non-violence, and happy relationships. The first steps to achieving those goals lie in providing warmth to your child and building a strong trusting relationship.

What is structure?  Imagine again that you are trying to learn a new language. Will you learn better if your teacher shows you how to spell new words – or expects you to figure it out and punishes you for making mistakes? Will you want to please a teacher who discusses your mistakes with you and shows you how to improve – or hits you when you make mistakes? Will you be more highly motivated to learn if your teacher recognizes and builds on your small successes – or threatens to punish you if you make a mistake?

As adults, most of us would learn better with a teacher who actually teaches us instead of punishing us. Teaching means giving the information that is needed to succeed. Most of us learn best when we can see what we have done right and are given a chance to improve upon our mistakes. We can learn much more easily if we are given the information that we need and if we feel safe to try, than if we feel afraid of making mistakes.

How can parents provide structure? Parents provide structure when they give their children clear guidelines for behavior, state their expectations clearly, explain the reasons for their rules, and encourage their children to think things through. Structure helps children recognize their successes, and to understand their mistakes and what to do to fix them. It also helps your child solve problems when you’re not there. “Structure” is information.

Here are a few ways that parents provide structure to their children:

  • preparing them for difficult situations by telling them what to expect and how they can cope
  • discussing rules with them and hearing their point of view
  • helping them find ways to fix their mistakes in a constructive way
  • being fair and flexible
  • controlling anger
  • explaining their own point of view in a way that helps the child understand
  • explaining the effects of their actions on other people
  • giving them the information they need to make good decisions
  • talking with them often
  • avoiding threats
  • acting as a positive role model and a guide

Think again about your long-term goals. Did they include good problem-solving, motivation to master tough challenges, an ability to think independently, and taking responsibility?   These characteristics develop when children are taught – not punished, but taught. When children have good information on which to base their decisions, they are much more likely to make good decisions.   When children understand the reasons for your rules, they are much more likely to follow them.

Punishment teaches children to obey out of fear. It can lead to dishonesty and manipulation to avoid the punishment. Structure, on the other hand, gives children the information they need to do the right thing even when you’re not there.

 Warmth and Structure: The Tools of Effective Discipline

Children need both warmth and structure virtually all the time. They need to know that they are safe and loved – and they need to have information in order to learn. If you keep your long-term goals uppermost in your mind, you will begin to see how the pairing of warmth and structure will get you where you want to go.

The manual can be downloaded for free from this site.

 

Next week: We will get a better understanding of how to provide warmth and structure by exploring how children think and feel at different ages.

 

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.

Raising Children without Violence: Part 1 by Joan Durrant

October 8, 2016

Are you frustrated when your child isn’t dressed and ready for school on time?  Do you wonder how to stop your toddler from grabbing and playing with dangerous things?  Do you want your teenager to talk to you more often? You want all these, but you’re also thinking of stopping to spank your child as well?

There’s a better alternative.

A manual for parents, expectant parents and those who work with children jointly published by international NGO Save the Children Sweden and the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children entitled “Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting” provides a calmer and more loving way of disciplining children.  Its author, Joan E. Durrant, Ph.D., a child-clinical psychologist and an associate professor of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. She authored parenting materials for the Canadian government, delivered talks, and led workshops in many countries about the topic of physical punishment and positive parenting.

What is different about this manual?  It’s an easy to use manual that gives parents plenty of opportunities to practice their skills that can be applied to rearing children from infancy to adolescence.

The manual brings together findings of research on effective parenting, knowledge about child development, and principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which the Philippines ratified in 1990.  It shows parents how to discipline their children without resorting to spanking or yelling, and how to help them to build mutually respectful relationships. It also recognizes the parents’ rights to information and support in carrying out this important role.

Why should parents be interested in this manual?  There are a multitude of reasons parents resort to spanking or yelling: they don’t know what else to do; they don’t understand why their child is behaving that way; they are under stress; it is what their own parents did so they are not questioning it.  To some parents, there are only two options: hitting them or doing nothing.

Today, research overwhelmingly shows that negative responses, such as spanking, criticizing and yelling, do not get parents where they want to go.  These actions can damage the parent-child relationship; build up anger, resentment and aggression in the child; crush the child’s self-confidence; erode trust and communication; and create fear, anxiety and even depression in children.

Positive discipline, on the other hand, teaches children the things that parents really want them to learn and remember – respect for others, self-confidence, trust, communication, and problem-solving.  Positive discipline is active and preventive.  It is definitely not permissive. It is respectful of the child as a person who is learning many new things every day.

Positive discipline is built on four basic principles– identifying your long-term goals, providing warmth and structure, understanding how children think and feel, and problem-solving. These principles will be discussed in a series of articles starting with “Identifying Your Long-Term Goals”.

Identifying Your Long-Term Goals

Imagine that you have planned a trip overseas for a holiday in your dream destination.  You have imagined this trip for a long time and it means the world to you that you will finally have a chance to get there.  You get on the plane in Manila for the one-hour flight to another city to catch your connecting flight. At first, you are excited and happy but then the flight attendant trips and spills a drink on you.  You are so upset at the flight attendant that you yell at her. When you get off the plane for the stop-over, you were still so angry and upset by your experience that you forget all about getting on your flight to your dream destination.

What happened?  You were so focused on the short-term situation that you lost sight of why you were on that plane in the first place – to reach your long-term destination.  You lost an opportunity to get to where you really wanted to go.  You ended up in an entirely different place – one that was only supposed to be a brief stop-over on a much longer trip.  Why?  Because you reacted to a short-term situation in a way that wasn’t constructive and it took you off-course.

As parents, we often get off the plane in our stop-over and forget that we really wanted to go to our dream destination.  In other words, we become so focused on our short-term frustrations that we forget about where it is that we really want to go in the end.

Much of a parent’s day is filled with responding to short-term situations – stopping a child from running into traffic, getting a child dressed and ready for school, reacting to a teenager’s constant use of social media  . . . the list is endless.  Often, we get caught up in responding to the immediate moment and acting on our feelings of frustration or fear.  Our responses to these short-term situations are often poorly thought-out and can result in anger, criticism, hitting or yelling.  These responses might come from our “gut” or our emotions or they might come from what our own parents did when we were children.  Wherever they come from, negative responses to short-term situations often backfire.

To understand why negative responses such as hitting and yelling are counter-productive, think about this: what do you want your child to be like when he or she grows up?  Really think about it.  Do you want him to be patient and kind?  Do you want her to be confident and a good communicator?  Do you want him to be honest and able to solve problems well?  Do you want her to be respectful of herself and other people?

Now think about what your child is learning when you spank or yell.  Is your child learning patience and kindness?  Are you building your child’s confidence and communication skills?  Are you encouraging honesty and teaching problem-solving?  Are you demonstrating respectful behavior?

The problem is that our responses to short-term situations can easily defeat us in reaching our long-term goals. Positive discipline is an approach that is based on figuring out what your long-term goals are and finding ways of working toward them, even in frustrating or frightening short-term situations.  In fact, your child will learn the most from you in the most challenging situations.  Short-term challenges are opportunities to work toward your long-term goals.

When your child won’t get dressed, when he touches dangerous objects, when she has a tantrum, you have an opportunity to teach your child something very important. By coping well in these situations, you can show your child how to cope with his or her own frustrations.

Identifying your long-term parenting goals is the first step in learning the positive discipline approach.  Once you know where you want to end up, you can begin to figure out the best way to get there.  Take some time this week to think about the person you want your child to be at age 20.

The manual can be downloaded for free from this this site.

Next week:  we will look at the two most powerful tools that you can use to reach your long-term goals – warmth and structure.

 

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.