05 May 2011

The D Word . . . Not What You Think

A friend asked me recently: Why Attachment Parenting? I originally wanted to answer that question here—to make this an overview of why I choose to be an AP parent. But I quickly realized that would be impossible to cover in one post. So instead I thought, which of the principles of attachment parenting am I having the most challenges with presently? What do I *need* to focus on right now? It didn’t take long to determine this post would be about practicing positive discipline.
Looking pretty cute and well-behaved
Positive? Discipline? Doesn’t disciplining your children mean spanking them? Or at least laying down the law and letting them know who’s boss? If that is the association you make when you hear the word “discipline” please please please read on.
According to one of my favorite parenting role models, Dr. William Sears, “Discipline is everything you put into children that influences how they turn out.” Everything. Sears, who coined the term attachment parenting, also refers to discipline as “giving your children the tools to succeed in life.” The link on Discipline and Behavior over at AskDrSears.com has myriad great ideas, and I encourage you to check them out. I find 25 Ways to Talk So Your Children Will Listen  to be particularly helpful. 
So, what does positive discipline mean to our family? It’s not about a specific way of “doing” things or having set “rules” at all. Discipline is simply a part of our overall lifestyle of maintaining high expectations for our children while setting a good example.

We put relationships first. We strive to make most of our interactions with our little ones positive. We remember that our relationships (connections) with our children are the most important consideration. Everything else (including whatever specific issue you are addressing) is secondary. Connect first, address second.
We don’t make things harder than they need to be. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Remember the developmental stage your child is in right now. Keeping your expectations realistic will help make discipline go smoother. Children are not small adults. They do not think and reason the way we do. 
We do not spank our children or use other physical punishment (e.g., slapping exploring little hands). Ever. Not even to reinforce danger discipline.

Who me? Need discipline?
So what makes this so difficult sometimes? Well, we are human and therefore screw up even with the best intentions. We get overwhelmed, or cranky, and take it out on whoever is in front of us. Parenting small children can be a pretty exhausting gig. Sometimes we don’t handle things well in the midst of the day-to-day repetitiveness of it all. We over-react or under-react. No one is going to get it right 100% of the time. Many days I have wished for a do-over. As Dave Barry said, “A perfect parent is a person with excellent childrearing theories and no actual children.”

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