Respecting Yourself – A Big Part of Positive Discipline

by Heligirl on April 3, 2010

in Parenting Articles

Find time to relax.

During one of my parent group sessions at preschool last year, our parent facilitator shared a handout with us about the importance of caring for ourselves in the overall scheme of providing positive discipline for our children. Yes, it seemed rather intuituve that if my needs were met, I’d be in a better position to meet other needs. Anyone who knows me knows they are best served staying far away if I’m hungry because I get really short tempered and annoyed. Jen’s full tummy means more patience with Sweetness and Mr. Man.

That said, the things the faciliator shared went far deeper than that. After she gave us a short reminder of the importance of seeing that our basic needs are met (eat, rest (as much as possible), some personal time, etc.) she delved a little deeper and showed us that by caring for ourselves, and as such displaying a respect for ourselves, we were in a much better position to more easily and intuitively help our little ones develop skills and habits that help build their own self esteem.

Here are five points she shared that really hit home.

1. Empathize with, but do not take care of, your child’s feelings (much like you’d expect your spouse, partner, or friends to do with you). Taking care of/being responsible for your child’s feelings:

  • Denies him his feelings.
  • Assumes he is not capable handling his feelings. He feels that if he is angry (or lonely or sad) he is bad.
  • If he must always be happy with you and with life, then he does not get a true picture of life and is not being prepared for it. This makes it hard to separate from you and go to school, friends’ houses, daycare, etc.
  • Assumes he is not capable of beginning problem solving. If you are always there to jump in with the solution, he has no ownership of the ultimate solution and the good feelings (self-esteem) that follows.

To avoid this pitfall, I use positive commenting and empathy: “You really are angry about not being able to play outside today. I’d be angry too if I really wanted to do something and I wasn’t allowed to.” Then, depending on her state of heightened emotion, I might offer her outlet ideas, “Do you want to stomp around to help let out the angry feelings?” or help her take control with a suggestion, “I know it’s upsetting that we can’t go outside, but what can we do? Do you want to play with the trains or help mommy with the laundry?” Seriously, the laundry is a biggie with her.

When the issue is a problem she can’t solve, trying to put on her shoes for instance, rather than jump in and do it for her (unless we’re desperately late), I’ll try to break it down for her and suggest steps: “Humm, that doesn’t seem to be working, does it? Maybe if you try it on the other foot? How about we pull out the tongue more first?” (I show her with one of the shoes or even my own.) For a toddler, hints, clues or even a demonstration then letting them try again is a great way to put them on the road to solving their own problems, as well as build a sense of pride in doing it themselves.

2. Never do something for somebody else that they are capable of doing for themselves.

  • Children feel good when they feel capable and when they hold an important part in the running of the family. For toddlers this may be as simple as learning to put on her coat or clear her plate from the table.

I like it when someone holds the door open for me, pulls out a chair for me and other such chivalrous moves, but sometimes things beyond that go a bit far and I wonder if people are offering to do things for me because they think I can’t. I’m such a fiercely independent person it really comes naturally to teach the kids to do for themselves. Where I get caught up is when I don’t realize they can do it. It’s never too early to suggest they try to do something themselves, like hang up a coat or clean up toys. Sweetness was helping clean up at about 12 months, which I wouldn’t have believed she’d be able to do that early if the nanny hadn’t suggested it.

3. If you are indispensable, you inadvertently close out other people.

  • It is easy to set up a “triangle.” You want your partner to help, but he/she is closed out because your child doesn’t feel as comfortable with the partner (who probably has “different” ways of doing things).

This goes hand in hand with taking time for yourself. Give up control and let your partner take the kids out, put the kids to bed, etc. so you can have some time to yourself. This lets the kids be just as comfortable with their other parent/caregiver, AND gives that person a sense of pride and joy. And you get to soak in the tub or veg out in front of the TV for some quality Hugh Jackman time. I may be projecting here.

4. Model handling stress by taking care of yourself.

  • For the future that faces our kids, learning to handle stress is probably one of the most important skills we can teach.

When our kids see us taking time to take deep breaths, stretch, do yoga, exercise, or whatever your favorite stress relief recipe may be, they’ll follow suit. My parents were always finding time at the end of the day to just read. To this day, I read before bed to relax. When I think back, I must have gotten it from them.

5. Modeling taking care of yourself helps ease both you and your child out of “babyhood” and into “toddlerhood” and “childhood.”

  • As infants, we followed the child’s lead (feed on demand, nap when they are sleepy, etc.).
  • As toddlers, they are now looking to us to lead. The message you want to convey is: “You are an important part of my life and of this family, but not the most important part or only part.”
  • Permissive parents raise insecure children. Take small steps to ensure she understands you are of value too (for instance, teaching her not to interrupt your conversations, asking her to wait briefly for you to finish something before you attend to her, not allowing her to bite or hit you).
  • Toddlers are very imitative. Model “self-care” behaviors that he might imitate for himself (for instance, “I need a little time out now.”)

Basically, make respecting yourself your first priority and you will have the energy, patience and ability to not only provide positive discipline, but teach valuable self discipline skills through your own actions. Getting to spend time with Hugh Jackman is just the bonus.

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