Monday, December 31, 2012


The final tool I will write about this year is Mirror.  Perfect for the time of year that we are reflecting on the things that we have learned this past year.  I am feeling a little sentimental that the year is ending and we will be all finished with our year of tools.  But at the same time I am so thrilled with the experience I have had practicing all these tools and sharing them with all of you.  It has been a great year for me personal as a parent, and for Positively Montessori.  We have gained many new readers, and I am so happy to be reaching a greater audience.  I got my Positively Montessori Faceboook page up and running this year too.  This has been a great place to share articles that I come across as well as little bits and pieces of my daily interactions with my children.  Thank you to everyone who had joined me on this journey.  I hope that each of you have gained something that has made you a better parent or teacher.

The tool Mirror is another way for you to invite your children to take responsibility for themselves and their actions.  The Tool Card says, : Telling children what you observe is often enough to motivate change."  So instead of asking your child to pick her backpack on the floor you could say, "I notice your backpack is laying on the floor in the kitchen."  By simply noticing something you give the child the opportunity to come up with a solution and take the course of action that she desires.  This can also come in the form of feelings or emotions.  "I notice you and your brother are getting upset with each other while trying to play with the new toys."  An older child has the ability to take your observation and make a choice to play differently or choose something else to do, to settle or avoid the conflict.

When we keep what we tell them limited to a simple observation we show faith in them and their ability to find a solution.  This is respectful to them and you.  They are not constantly being told what to do, and you are not always giving orders.

The funny thing is that when you start using this tool, as with many others, your children will begin to use it too.  One day my daughter came home from school and instead of telling me that I really need to remember her napkin and spoon in her lunchbox, she said "I noticed that there was no spoon or napkin in my lunch today, so I borrowed one from the school!"  I almost laughed out loud when she said it, but then I felt pretty good.  Not only had she learned an efficient way of communicating, but she also made me feel encouraged to remedy the problem right away.  Where as if she had said, "Mom, you keep forgetting my spoon and napkin, can you please remember tomorrow?"  I might not have felt quite a motivated to do something about it, instead I would have probably felt guilty about making the mistake, again!

All 52 Positive Discipline Tools that we practiced this year were helpful in some way.  I feel like they have contributed to an atmosphere of respect and love in our home, and taught us all how better to treat others.  Thank you again for coming along on this journey with me.  I have some fun ideas in mind for the upcoming year and I hope you will stick around to continue learning, growing and laughing with me!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Curiosity Questions

Curiosity Questions are yet another way we can empower our children.  The Tool Card says, "Asking instead of telling invites children to think and choose."

Although this might not be the first thing way you go about addressing your children, it is a pretty easy thing to implement.  While teaching Positive Discipline Parenting classes, I often find that parents respond well to this tool.  They often ask me for copies of the examples that we use during the class.  While I am happy to send out copies of my questions, I think they are pretty easy to come up with when you practice a little.  Right before you tell your child to do something, pause and rephrase what you would like them to do into a question.  For example: You see your child's shoes laying in the middle of the kitchen floor and you say, "What could you do with these shoes to make sure that nobody trips over them?"

Instead of constantly telling then what to do, you invite them to take responsibility for themselves and to come up with the plan to do it.  Instead of telling them what to wear, ask them "It is going to be cold and rainy today, what could you wear to make sure you are warm?"  You empower them to be in charge of themselves.  Sometimes they might not make the same decision that you would.  This is an opportunity for you to allow them to learn from their mistakes.

At our home we really like to ask our daughter what her plan is to get specific things done.  When she comes home from school and spreads her homework out on the dining room table,  often ask her what her plan is to get the table ready for dinner.  Sometimes she will just start picking up, and other times she will tell me when and how she plans to take care of it.  It really works!

However, you have to be careful with this as with all tools, nothing works all the time.  This last week I explained this tool to my husband so that he could work with it too.  He started using it A LOT.  Yesterday, after hearing him ask yet another curiosity question, my daughter said, "Why do you keep asking me all these crazy questions? Can't you just tell me what you want me to do!"  Hahaha!  I had to laugh, then I thought about it, and realized that when we are trying too hard and not being genuin our children can tell.

I invite you to try this tool, just don't use it too much.  Like I always say, "too much of anything, even a good thing, is bad."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Limited Choices

Maria Montessori said, "Choice and execution are the prerogatives and conquests of a liberated soul."

When we give children choices, we empower them.  Choices give children control over their lives and teaches independence.  Choices free up parents from ordering and nagging.  Choices free children from our constraints.  Choices make life interesting.

While giving choices to children is a wonderful tool, it only works if you limit the choices that you offer.  The extent of the limits is based on the age of the child.  The younger the child the narrower the choices.  For example:  You would like your two year old to put away his toy car.  You say, "would you like to carry your car to your room in your hands or in your clean up basket?"  To ask your six year old to complete the same task you might say, "would you like to put your car in your room now or after dinner?"

As you can see, there is no choice given to not do what you are asking them to do.  You are simply giving them the opportunity to choose how they would like to accomplish the job.  Notice that you don't give them the opportunity to say no, their only choice is to do what you want them to do, but at the same time they feel as though they are in charge of that decision.  

Not only do you limit the spectrum of the choices, but you limit the amount of choices as well.  A two year old may be able to pick between two shirts to wear in the morning, where as a four year old can choose between three or four, and a six year old can choose from her closet full of clothes.  

When you offer choices rather than open ended questions you allow your children to learn how to make successful decisions.  If I ask my toddler what he wants for lunch he will say "umm".  He will then either choose yogurt (every single day), or continue to say "umm" until I give him a couple choices.  

Choices can also make not so fun tasks more fun.  For example:  To get your four year old to put his toys away you might ask "Would you like to pick up while we sing the clean up song, or while pretend we are monkeys."  Adding a silly choice will almost always ensure buy in and make things more fun for everyone.

While it may take more time for you to think of a couple creative choices the next time you would like your child to do something, why not give it a try.  In the end it will most likely save time, and make parenting easier and more fun.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Encouragement vs. Praise

One of my favorite tools to teach in parenting/teacher Positive Discipline classes is Encouragement vs. Praise.  A close look at the difference between the two strategies and how to use them can be very eye opening for many people.

We live in a world that is FILLED with praise.  There seems to be this idea that if we tell children how great they are all the time, then they will grow up to be great adults!   We want to encourage our children, but instead we often end up praising them and robbing them of their accomplishment and self-worth.

Some people don't know the difference between Encouragement and Praise.  Encouragement provides children with the opportunity to develop an "I am capable" perception.  Praise creates approval junkies who only attempt things they know they will succeed at to avoid making mistakes or not receiving praise.  Alfie Kohn writes about the importance of avoiding praise and rewards in many of his books, and this article.  When we constantly cheer our children on, praise them at every turn, and tell them how good they are, we make them dependent on our approval and fearful of not getting it.  I remember Jane Nelson saying that we should think of encouragement like water, something children need everyday, and Praise like candy, a treat that we only give every so often, knowing that it isn't really that good for them.

In my daughter's 1st grade class there are four separate reward systems that are built into the classroom "discipline" program.  They get "terrific tickets" whenever they demonstrate the pillars of character that they are learning about.  These tickets can be used to buy stuff like toys, books, and candy in the "terrific store".  They have a marble jar, that gets marbles put in it any time the entire class does good.  Whatever that means, I am not quite sure.  When the jar is filled they get to have a pizza party.  The children are seated in groups of five and each group gets points on the board when they are good.  The group with the most points at the end of the week gets to go to the treasure chest and get a toy.  There are also behavior cards that get moved from one color to another if they are not behaving as desired by the teacher.  At the end of the week the children come home with a paper describing the status of their card all week.  Parents are then encouraged to reward them for good weeks and address the alternative. They also get smiley faces and stars on classwork done correctly and stickers when they are good during their special classes.  Parent volunteers are encouraged to tell the children that they are doing a "good job" and report back to the teacher when the children they are working with are "good"!  No, I am not exaggerating.  Oh how I wish I could explain the benefits of encouragement rather than praise to the entire staff at her school.  It seems to be a school wide program, and it makes me cringe every time I hear about it.

According to Rudolph Driekers, encouragement recognizes the doer not the deed.  Instead of "good boy", or "great job", a parent could say, "I see you put a lot of effort into that", or "wow, you must be proud of yourself."  Jane Nelson outlines five questions you can ask yourself to discover whether you are being encouraging to your children.   Allowing your children to self-evaluate, learn from their own mistakes, and feel pride in what they accomplish will go a long way toward helping them grow into self-confident adults.