Guest Post: Avoiding Meltdowns by Redefining Discipline

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The non-stop rainy, dreary spring weather hasn't brought out my best parenting. I am not proud of it, but we have had some very, very long days at our house lately. Because I have been seriously off my parenting game, I was thrilled to hear from my friend Angela D. Hunsicker, LCSW. Angela is a mother of two and a psychotherapist and parent coach with Smart Love Family Services. She leads the moms and baby group at The Natalie G. Heineman Smart Love Preschool.

When it comes to navigating tricky parenting waters, Angela knows what she is doing. Here are her thoughts on diffusing some of the meltdowns that you might be seeing around your house.

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Like any mother of young children, I
have seen some challenging behaviors -- everything from crying episodes due to
overtiredness, to playing tug of war over something two children desire.  What I've learned is that all children's
behavior happens for a reason and it is important to try to understand the
meaning behind the behavior. 
Additionally, while I can't always predict and head off challenging
behaviors before they happen, I can control my response to their behavior and how
I manage it. This reflection also helps me be more effective and often more
patient in future situations.

Before becoming a parent, I knew that
permissiveness as well as more traditional discipline measures did not appeal
to me.  As a psychotherapist specializing
in treating children and based on my experience as a School Social Worker, I saw that
neither of these approaches help kids learn to regulate themselves over time 
-- which is really the goal of parenting.

Luckily "The Smart Love Parent" and
the Pieper's approach of loving regulation appealed to what I had wanted for my own family. Rather than resorting to punishments, timeouts, or
threats, this approach allows me to understand my child's development, point of
view and offer healthy alternatives without being permissive. This also
allowed me to intervene in a way that I felt was effective, without being too lackadaisical or demanding in the moment.

This method allows my
daughter to age-appropriately regulate herself in problematic situations while
maintaining a healthy relationship with her parents. In the long run, loving
regulation enables children to build up their ability to make healthy,
responsible decisions throughout their lives.

As any parent can attest, young
children want what they want when they want it. My kids are not immune to this
and I have found that employing loving regulation in these moments can change
the outcome of the situation. For
example, my daughter usually wants to eat her way through Starbucks, and
subsequently does not want dinner. Recently, my husband explained to her that just a hot
chocolate might be a better idea, because otherwise she wouldn't be hungry for
dinner and if she was hungry he had brought some healthy alternatives. While
initially she was disappointed, she was able to enjoy a treat, special time with
Dad, and healthy snacks if she desired.
Offering this alternative
allowed her to assess the situation and feel taken care of by her parents, who
still need to be around to help her regulate her behavior! Additionally, my
husband looked like a hero rather than the bad guy dragging her away from the candy store empty-handed.

As you find yourself dealing with
similar conflicts with your child, remember the acronym SMART to successfully
accomplish loving regulation:

1.    
Stay Positive.  Your child is more likely to be receptive to
your help.

2.    
Model Kindness.  Children copy us and learn to treat
themselves and others the way we treat them. Overtime children develop an inner
compass based on compassion that informs their decision making.

3.    
Acknowledge Child's Feelings.  Make yourself available to hear why your child is upset. This approach will sooth him and make him feel unconditionally loved.

4.    
Regulate Behavior.   It is always important to step in to stop
your child's unsafe, immature or out-of-control behavior.  Intervening to change the behavior teaches
healthy self-regulation.  Remain firm,
yet understanding.

5.    
Time in Together. Offer a kind
solution or alternative that bring you closer to your son or daughter rather
than isolating her or withdrawing your love and approval.

By redefining discipline in our home
we have reaped countless benefits. I don't see the extreme behaviors I often see
at the playground, extra curricular activities and at school. Avoiding
punishments, timeouts and threats has made our children happier, more confident
and created a calmer environment for the whole family. 

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  • I LOVE this approach, especially the "model kindness" part. Kind is a word we use often with our children and it is amazing what a little love can do instead of scolding. I also love (but do not always exhibit) being calm at all costs. When I am calm ,everyone else is calm...Om.... ;) Great post!

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