Monday, July 30, 2012


We will be taking a look at the tool: Praise vs. Encouragement toward the end of the year.   In the mean time you should check out the blog of a friend and fellow Montessori mom, The Full Monte(ssori).   There is a nice post about this topic from a purely Montessori perspective, yet it still falls right in line with Positive Discipline.  That is why I love both philosophies so much.  They both respect the child for the adult he will become and aim to construct him to his fullest potential.  Check out the post!

Five Criteria for Positive Discipline

There are five criteria that effective discipline methods must meet.  Positive Discipline:

1.  Is kind and firm at the same time.
2.  Creates a sense of belonging and significance.
3.  Is effective long-term.
4.  Teaches valuable social and life skills.
5.  Teaches children to use their power constructively and to discover they are capable.

If you can honestly look at what  you are doing with your children in the form of discipline and say that it meets all five of these criteria then you are doing great.  If you can say that it meets them even half the time, then in my opinion you are still doing pretty good.

Kindness and firmness are an underlying theme in Positive Discipline and Montessori.  I will be discussing them in greater detail in a few weeks from now.  For now just think of kind and firm as sticking to your guns with a smile on your face and in your tone of voice, and less in the good cop bad cop way.

Belogning and significance are what Alfred Adler and Rudolph Dreikers  found that all people, especially children, are looking for.  Jane Nelson then goes on to say that when children don't get belonging and significance from the family, they are more likely to go looking for it the wrong way.  When they do this, the behaviors that we observe are often called misbehavior.

Discipline that is effective long term, teaches instead of punishes. Rather than making children feel bad, positive discipline aims to make them feel better, so that they will do better.

Through Positive Discipline we aim to teach our children valuable social and life skills, like how to communicate, problem-solve, and to feel capable and self confident.

By teaching children to be independent, capable problem solvers, we enable them to use their personal power constructively.  Adolescents and young adults are filled with energy and power and they are capable of doing so much, good or bad.  It is essential for parents and teachers to help them to use this power to contribute to their family, community and world.

I hope this was a helpful overview of the Five Criteria of Positive Discipline!

Next week we will work with the tool: Empowering Children.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Decide What You Will Do

This week, I got a great reminder with the tool card: Decide What You Will Do.   Before, an emotional interaction with your child, you need to have a plan as to what you will do or how you will handle the situation.  Once you have a plan in mind, let your child know what you intend to do.  This can be dependent on the actions of your child or not.  This goes hand in hand with the tool from week 16, Follow Through.  These tools are most effective when used in combination.

I don't have a great example to share with you about using this tool, but I can tell you that when you don't do it things go bad, very bad.  The other day, in the midst of an emotional dinner table confrontation between my daughter and husband, my husband started making threats and I joined him.  He tried to get her to put her dishes away by raising his voice and telling her to do it, then he told her that she wouldn't be able to have her friend over for a sleep over the following night if she didn't get her dishes cleared from the table.  Of course we had already committed to the sleepover with the friend and would not be taking that away, so it wasn't something that should have been threatened.

Children, especially young children, love routine and consistency.  They need to know that they can count on certain things in their day to be the same and true.  When they know that they can count on us to mean what we say and say what we mean then they don't have to spend time in their day worrying about what will happen "when" or "if".  When we decide what we will do in advance we can tell our children, then they know what to expect should they make certain decisions.  It is comforting for a child to know what you expect of him and how you expect him to behave.

When our daughter didn't clear her dinner dishes from the table, we should have reminded her that we would not be able to play any games with her until it was done.  She loves to play games after dinner, and she has been told that she needs to clear the table in order to do so.  All that she really needed at that moment was a simple reminder.  We had already decided what we would do, we just didn't do it!  Our emotional reaction caused our daughter to feel insecure, because it was unexpected, and equally emotional due to mirror neurons.  It is no surprise that she responded the way she did.

I guess this week I learned that we need to decide what we will do and then actually DO it!

Next week we will discuss the Five Criteria for Positive Discipline.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Distract and Redirect

This week's tool really is more than just a tool.  It is a way of life when you have a toddler in your life.  Fortunately for you all, I got to practice it at least 1000 times just this week, so I have a ton of first hand experience to speak from.  The tool is Distract and Redirect, and unless you enjoy yelling and constantly saying "NO" and "STOP", then you ought to at least give this one a try.

The idea is simple, instead of saying "no" or telling your child to "stop", you simply steer them toward an activity that you find more acceptable.  Instead of telling your child to stop banging on the t.v. with his ball you invite him to a hammering toy.  Or my favorite, when my son is struggling against me as I try to put him into the car seat, I offer him a book or snack to distract him while I buckle him in.

Toddlers and babies under the age of two don't fully understand the meaning of the word no.  They may understand that you don't want them to do what they are doing, but that is the extent of it.  Montessori speaks of young children being lead by their inner teacher.  This teacher encourages them to do the things that they need to do to create themselves.  As your child goes through the various sensitive periods (periods of intense interest in one area), their inner teacher guides them to the activities that will best fulfill their current interests.  When a child is "misbehaving" (according to you) and you tell them no, they have no desire or interest to follow your instruction because their inner teacher is much louder (and more fun) than you at that moment.   Your "no" may even be an obsta

It comes back to the foundation of the Montessori philosophy: Observation.  Maria Montessori developed her theories on the development of children by simply observing them.  To observe a child is to silently watch the actions of your child.  Without judgement or critique you must learn to look beyond your ideas of what they should be doing and see what they are doing.  That is the only way that you can meet the needs of your child.

Once you have spent time observing you will know the current needs and interests of your child.  If she is constantly pushing furniture or the laundry basket around the house, then she is trying to coordinate her gross motor movements. She needs to be given an open space and a push cart or such toy to use freely until the interest has been satisfied and the skill attained.  Instead of telling her no and taking away the item she is pushing you give her an acceptable option for performing the activity of her choice.

Recently, my son has been taking our things from around the house and putting them places they don't belong.  I find my husbands socks in my purse, my daughters library books in the laundry basket and bath toys in the toilet.  This is an exasperating activity to all the members of my household except my son.  He clearly has an interest in transferring objects.  To meet this need I filled one drawer in the kitchen with extra kitchen items that are safe for him to handle and I leave out a reusable grocery bag.  He has spent many hours transferring the things from drawer to bad and back.  We also made him a new activity called a mystery bag.  It is a small bag with a draw string that you can't see through.  Inside are many different objects that he can feel with his hands, then pull out to discover what they are.  As he takes them out he puts them in the basket that we keep the bag in on the shelf.  He really enjoys this, but I do continue to find new items in there regularly.  I guess it is a mystery bag for all of us!

The next time you find your child doing something that you would rather he didn't do, instead of saying "no" and stopping his behavior invite him to do something else.  If possible, make it something that will meet his needs and yours.

Even if you can't redirect to a related activity, this tool is still effective.  There are certain things in life that we just have to do, even if we don't like them.  By distracting your child at theses moments you can make things go a lot more smoothly for both of you.  We use the "cleaning monster" in our house to wash our son's face after meals.  After he has had a turn cleaning his face, the cleaning monster comes along with a silly sound and cleans up the rest.  The job gets done and everyone is a lot happier.  My almost six year old still loves to race to get our p.j.'s on or put our laundry away the fastest.  A boring task becomes a fun game.  We are not taking away from the lesson, "Like it or, it has to be done", instead we are teaching our to find the joy in an unwelcome situation.  Don't we all need a little distraction every now and then!

Next week's tool is: Decide What You Will Do.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Winning Cooperation

Winning Cooperation, another tool in the Positive Discipline tool box.   In the dictionary it says that cooperation is the process of working or acting together.  It says in its simplest form it involves things working in harmony...  Ah, working together, in harmony?  Doesn't that sound like the kind of parenting you want?  I think it is essential for children and parents to cooperate with each other to maintain a peaceful home.  To coexist in a way that encourages instead of discourages growth, development and love.

The Winning Cooperation Tool Card says Children feel encouraged when you understand and respect their point of view.  It says that after you have showed empathy and understanding for the child's feelings, you can share your thoughts, feelings and similar experiences.  After sharing feelings, and making a connection with your child, the two of  you can focus on solutions together.

We know that we want cooperation, and now we know a way to work toward it.  I think we should also look at this from a Montessori perspective.  In the Montessori classroom we are constantly striving to give the children independence.  One aspect of being independent is the ability to solve problems or conflicts on your own.  Children are not born with this skill, it is something that they learn from doing and watching.  As with all the other lessons in the classroom, we model how to interact and solve problems by working with the children to find solutions.  Teachers benefit from taking time to win cooperation before modeling the problem solving.  Eventually children begin to negotiate problems on their own, and they can often be observed working to win cooperation from their peers before attempting to solve their problems.  Remember, children from birth to six, have absorbant minds.  Everything we model for them they take in and use again.  Make your interactions count!

Next weeks we will work on: Distract and Redirect.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Back Talk

This week's tool card was: Back Talk.  The card says that when you respond to your child's back talk with more talk you create a power struggle.  Remember last week we talked about the brain, and how sometimes we lose control of our emotions, we flip our lids and respond with our non-thinking brains.  Another important thing to know is that we all have mirror neurons in our brains.  These neurons are great from a Montessori perspective.  We give "lessons" to children in the Montessori classroom by performing the action while the child observes, their mirror neurons pick it up and then they get the opportunity to repeat the exercise as many times as they like until they have mastered the skill involved.  The negative side of these neurons is that they sometimes cause us to repeat negative behaviors that we observe.

A frequently occurring example of this happens in my home.  My husbands asks our five year old to sit down on her bottom while she is eating.  She sits for a minute and then is back up on her knees or feet moving around.  He asks her again, this time a little frustrated, so he adds in an annoyed explanation as to why she should sit while eating.  Her mirror neurons react and she responds with an annoyed, "I AM sitting down".  When of course she wasn't.  His mirror neurons fire and he responds with, "no you weren't, I just saw you hoping around on the bench".  This goes on and on for a while, until one of them flips their lid and either something gets spilled or broken or someone says something they don't mean.  It is a definite power struggle that no one wins!  It isn't always my husband that gets sucked into these situations either.

We have really been working on the suggestions on the card.  We have been trying to validate her feelings, acknowledging how she feels often is enough to stop the cycle.  We also try to take responsibility for our part in the argument.  If the situation continues to escalate we try to take some time to cool down so that we can be respectful of each other.  This is something we get to work on together very often.  Hopefully, we will master this tool very soon!

Next week we will work with Winning Cooperation.