This Doesn’t Feel Like Discipline

“What did you just do?” I asked Daniel. While I was reaching for his DS I caught a very rude gesture out of the corner of my eye. He repeated what he had just done. In my head I had to count to ten to avoid exploding. I handed him his DS, completely the opposite of what I would have done in the past, and asked him a quick question “How much do I love you?” He responded with “Forever and always, no matter what.” “That’s right, I’ll always love you. We need to discuss what just happened, go play on your DS for now, I’ll be over in a few minutes and we can talk about it.”
Let me set the scene: Yesterday I was feeling under the weather and Daniel was running a low grade fever, so I stayed home with the boys for the day. It was tough in the morning trying to function. Making breakfast was a chore, walking was a chore, I just wanted to go back to sleep. My head pounded, I was in no mood to to ANYTHING. That said, life happens and I’ve committed myself to a new approach to interacting with and disciplining Daniel. My goal is to have him orient to me, rather than his peers. This new approach involves a lot of thinking before reacting – not the easiest thing to do when you’re at the extreme end of grouchy.

A few minutes later, after I had fed Andy his breakfast and changed his diaper, I sat on the couch beside Daniel. “How’s your game going? Please pause it for a moment, let’s talk.” To my surprise, he actually co-operated. We faced each other on the couch, sitting cross-legged. We looked at each other and chatted about the puzzle he’d just been working on. Now that all three components of ‘collecting’ have been covered off (eyes, smile, nod), I moved on the meat of the discussion. “Can you tell me why I might be displeased with …?” He replied “because people think it’s gross.” This provided an opportunity to explain why his actions were inappropriate and allowed me to script his behaviour a little. We ended our discussion with a hug, an ‘I love you’ from both of us and I believe he genuinely understood the point I was trying to make.

In a nutshell here are the guidelines I used from Dr. Neufeld’s lecture last Friday evening: I didn’t overwork the inappropriate behaviour, but bridged it by reinforcing my unconditional love, then had my discussion with Daniel after collecting him. I even did a bit of behavioural scripting. Sounds like a lot of jargon, doesn’t it? Let me explain the jargon a little bit, from my point of view. I really should check my notes before putting anything down in writing, but here goes: Overworking the incident: you know how you feel feel when someone drones on, and on, and on about something and you can hardly wait for them to shut up? That’s overworking the incident. Bridging: providing a sense of continuing attachment and that together you’ll cross the bridge and get beyond the incident together. Collecting: gathering the person to you, bringing them close, establishing a sense of togetherness. Scripting: “This is how we…” Some of the other guidelines were already in place such as my belief that he wants to ‘be good’ for me and also that I had accepted responsibility for my role in guiding the two of us through the incident without trying to punish or teach Daniel a lesson.

I’ve also made a point of smiling and having my eyes ‘light up’ when I see Daniel, and Andy too for that matter. Whether I’ve just come upstairs from switching a load of laundry or I’m picking them up from daycare. Dr. Neufeld’s book “Hold Onto Your Kids” mentioned this in one of the first chapters. Makes perfect sense, who doesn’t want to be around people that adore them? I wouldn’t want to be around someone who is only annoyed or disgruntled in my presence either.

Without getting into the nitty gritty details of Daniel’s inappropriate gesture, I’ll just say that I’m very pleased with how our conversation went. I’m certain we came out of the incident with a stronger bond. Only a few days have passed since I’ve been trying to implement Dr. Neufeld’s guidelines and I’m already seeing the benefits. Daniel’s morning routine is much easier to deal with, neither of us are as frustrated as we had been in the past and Daniel’s even interacting with Andy much more nicely now. Yesterday, for example, he taught Andy how to clap, and in the afternoon they played with blocks and balls on the living room floor together. I can sense that we’re all closer. I love this – I don’t want it to stop. It feels as though we’re making a fresh start.

Does this work with adults? (laughing) I think I’ll subtly try some of it with Daryle.

About Christine N

I'm married to Daryle, Mom to two wonderful boys - Daniel and Andy.
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