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Parents who don't punish, how does it work?


MeaganS
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I grew up being sent to my room or losing TV or given extra chores if I did something wrong. I've done similar things with my kids. We do talk problems out sometimes, but overall, I'm not finding punishment-based parenting to work very well for my kids.

 

If you parent without punishing, how does it work. Say your 4 year old keeps bugging her 6yo sister on purpose and 6yo sister hits 4yo sister (or vice versa). What would you do? Is there a book to teach this type of parenting?

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I won't say I never apply consequences (dislike the term punishment as it carries for me a connotation of trying to cause distress); some limits are necessary and consequences can be a part of that. But I'm not trying to create a dynamic where a child does what I say because they are afraid of the consequence.

 

So, 4 year old and 6 year old...most days I might step in with "hey guys, what's the trouble?" and try to listen to them and validate their feelings of frustration, while reinforcing appropriate behavior. So, after the 6 year old tells me their side of the story, I might say "it sounds like you were pretty frustrated. Can you think of a way you could respond next time without hitting?" and talk about options (expressing themself with words, walking away, coming to mom for mediation).

 

If emotions are out of control I focus on de-escalation. Audio books are a common "let's calm ourselves down" strategy around here (resolving problems in the heat of the moment rarely works and the physiological processI of calming down is aided by distraction). I want to teach mindfulness/meditation techniques to calm down but we're not there yet.

 

I will sometimes put a child who is yelling and screaming and not making an effort to calm down in another room (I tell them it is a "calm down" room) with the explanation that that behavior is hurtful to the people around them so they need to be away from people for a little bit. An older child who hits or kicks may be sent to run around the block or jump on the trampoline to burn off some steam--again, while the kids sometimes see this as punishment, my goal is really to get them away from the triggering situation and doing something that helps regulate their emotions.

 

I honestly can't say how good or bad this approach is. I mostly know that I as a child did not learn anything positive from punitive parenting so I don't see it as a useful or effective tool in creating positive family dynamics and helping children learn appropriate behavior.

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What the above posters said.  Talking about appropriate behaviors and responses is what obtained the best results for us.  We still used consequences, but use logical consequences rather than punitive, ie...if fighting is happening over a toy, toys get thrown, etc  then the toy needs to be removed from the situation since they cannot use it appropriately and we practiced working through interactions and how it could be handled better the next time.  We also allowed them to "talk back" respectfully.

 

Into the teenager years it morphs into things like...schoolwork isn't being finished in a timely manner because we spend too much time texting our friends, therefore the phone needs to be put away during school hours. Chores haven't been completed because someone was too busy running off to play video games, therefore teen gets reminded that if video games are becoming a priority over responsibilities that we may need to remove the video games for a few days to help reinforce that responsibilities come before leisure time.

 

We really noticed a pattern when the kids were young that punitive consequences really just caused a lot of resentment and whining.  When we moved to consequences that were a direct result of their actions, most of that stopped and they started understanding and making strides to change the behaviors.

 

As teens go, I pretty much have 2 of the best I could have ever asked for and now, as teens, if something is going on, we can usually ask THEM what they think should occur and they typically will say that the distraction needs to go, etc....DD received a fairly stern discussion today about a behavior last night and she said she completely understood my perspective and concern and would make all attempts for that behavior not to occur again.

 

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We use punishments or consequences as a last resort. Punitive measures are for people who won't listen to reason. So you get discussion, then you get a chance to comply, then you get warned that we are moving out of the discussion phase and into the 'because mommy said so' phase. 

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We use mostly natural consequences here.

 

In the OP example I would be addressing the 4 year old before it got to the point that 6 year old reacted. 4 year old might need a time in with mom, some physical activity, an age appropriate chore, other other distraction. Make it so bugging sister is not rewarding.

 

Six year old can be given some tools to cope with the bugging but focus should be on the 4 year old.

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We try not to punish.  Sometimes it is inevitable.  I do like the book Kids Are Worth It, though.  The author is a former nun who is quite honest about the content: some she did, some she wishes she did, and her kids gave input throughout.

 

For two kids going at it, we use two of her techniques. First the kids have to sit down. They can get up when they each give the other permission to get up, and one may not get up without the other.  It sufficiently calms them down enough to move on to the discipline part - stating the problem, each coming up with solutions, and then deciding on one that will work for them.  If it's a squabble over a toy, the toy sits out until they come to a solution.  If they're angry with each other in general, they may decide to play separate, or after listening to each other find out it was a miscommunication that started it all.  The goal is to give them as much ownership as possible with the level of guidance needed for their age (the 3yo needs someone to help him find his words sometimes, the 6yo needs a reminder to be patient and just).

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Almost no punishment here. It was get off your butt parenting and consistent follow-through that made a difference. When I gave a child my undivided attention, and followedup words with action, there seemed to be little need for punishment. YMMV. I had neurotypical kids, and only two. I am completely willing to concede that another approach may be needed with different kids.

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I try to be proactive and step into situations before they escalate instead of reacting by punishing. I try to figure out why my child is pestering- do they need to get fresh air, have some attention, have alone time, eat? I tell my kids if they can't solve their problem they can always come get me to help (instead of resorting to hitting). So, if one of my kids comes to tell me a sibling is annoying them on purpose I don't treat it as "tattling." I work with them to find an acceptable solution.

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In non punitive parenting, there is no such thing as "doing something wrong" in the moral/ethical sense. There are lots of skills that need work. The parent picks one skill at a time (usually based on what behaviour is most problematic) and clearly defines the undesirable behaviour (usually with one or two key words for small kids) and a replacement behaviour that is reasonable and attainable.

 

The parent then pro-actively teaches (cheerfully and age appropriately) we don't do x any more, we do y instead. They practice, role play, do hand puppets, talk about it every day, and generally lavish praise on the child as the child attempts the new behaviour in low stress scenarios. In a few weeks (if the new behaviour is actually attainable) the child will usually adjust to the new reality and have no further trouble with those two behaviours unless the stressors get pretty high. Then the parent picks a new pair of undesirable/desirable behaviours.

 

In cases where the behaviour is something like a true a risk or a serious disruption the parent also (while pro-actively teaching) "becomes the limit". This involves compassionately but concretely coming between the child and someone they might hurt, something they might break, or some way they might hurt themselves. It may involve standing in the way, holding a child firmly, grabbing a hand before it can hit, and taking away objects that are about to be involved in a big problem. It's done gently in attitude, but firmly in body. (Think, "Whoopsie! I can see that your baseball doesn't belong in your hand when you feel this way. I can take care of that lovey!" As you pry the baseball forcibly out of the little fist.) It also involves carrying them out of situations when the child clearly isn't coping and isn't likely to start coping soon.

 

When you do those "be the boundary" things, your child will be very upset. Openly and warmly comfort them with empathy and understanding. It *IS* hard on the child that things went wrong. Show caring, not blame. The problem is already solved: only feelings remain, and feeling deserve safety and love. (Even if the feeling is anger st you.)

 

The heart of this is that you always assume that whet you are seeing *IS* the very best that child can do in that moment. You never intentionally use a threat to just check and see if they child can try harder; and you never use a punishment to add anything (what would it add?) if a child has done their best and still fell short of applying a skill-in-development to a situation that called for it.

 

(Now, sometimes a child isn't showing you their best -- older than your kids usually, but it happens -- but, usually an offer to "help" a child that doesn't need or want help will encourage that child to rise to the occasion. A child who needs or wants help will take it.)

 

In your case one if your children hasn't yet developed the skill of relating to a sibling without "bugging" and another if your children hasn't yet fully grown into the skill of feeling anger without hitting.

 

Those are normal under-development skills for that age group. Your strategy would involve perhaps for the bugging: defining "bugging" and drawing attention to examples of it until the concept is clear, pre-choosing a strategy like 'if you want attention find mom', playing, practicing, reminding and affirming x700, and modelling play-bids in childlike language. For the hitting in anger, perhaps a definition for anger, a focus on how it is internal (and needs to stay that way) and an exploration of various child-friendly self-soothing techniques... And playing, practicing, reminding and affirming x700, and narrating your own anger stories -- complete with 'what I'm choosing instead'.

 

Every parent-child pair us different, but that's the skeleton of it, as an overall technique.

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One great piece of advice I heard years ago is that, as parents, we should be spending at least 90% of our interaction time with our children "helping things go right" and 10% or less dealing with things that go wrong. The more time we put into helping things go right the less need there should be for dealing with things that go wrong.

 

Some kids require huge amounts of effort though.

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Almost no punishment here. It was get off your butt parenting and consistent follow-through that made a difference. When I gave a child my undivided attention, and followedup words with action, there seemed to be little need for punishment. YMMV. I had neurotypical kids, and only two. I am completely willing to concede that another approach may be needed with different kids.

:iagree:  Exactly. We only had the two full time and I was with them 24/7.  Expectations were clear and misbehavior was discussed right away and for a long time (they often have said that they'd rather have been grounded then sit through another lecture on why we don't hit each other).  It may seem counter intuitive but we did not force them to play together.  They often did because who else were they going to play with?  But if DS didn't want to play with his little sister I didn't make him, it worked out well, they are without a doubt best friends now.

 

DD did have some anger issues that got her set on the couch or sent to her room, not as punishment but as a cool down time for her to get a hold of her emotions so she could listen and talk coherently.  She says it taught her exactly that and she uses it now when she gets mad or is having a bad day.  

 

ETA- Like a PP I have great well behaved teens who self regulate for the most part and have yet to do anything which would make me even consider the need for punishment.  DD still likes to argue (she calls it debating) but I just refuse to join in, she goes and finds someone else to have lively discussions with.  DS is a grade A procrastinator (he gets it from me) so I help him by reminding him a lot (he calls it nagging) otherwise I have no complaints and am looking forward to the late teen years with excitement. 

Edited by foxbridgeacademy
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One of the greatest hidden benefits of non punitive parenting is that you don't actually have to wait until your children break rules, behave disrespectfully, or otherwise have a "wrongdoing" event -- before you take mild-mannered action to change a behaviour.

 

This is because it's never "unfair" to help a kid gain more skills and do better at life! It's normal, engaging (not adversarial) and sometimes fun (ie finger puppets, social stories). Teaching behaviour skills isn't confrontational, so kids react differently. They believe you are 'on their team' so accepting your 'coaching' support, and (manditory) 'help' is easier. It feels like co-operation a lot of the time. (Not all of the time!)

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One thing to keep in mind if you switch from punitive to non-punitive parenting is that it might take time to see changes.  Things like spanking or grounding a child get an instant and obvious result, whereas peaceful parenting techniques can take time. I've seen people in FB groups post things like, "My daughter misbehaved and I talked to her about it instead of spanking her and then she did it again today, obviously peaceful parenting isn't working!"

 

As far as how it works, I try not to say no to dd without a good reason and I understand that when she's lashing out, there's a reason for it, just like when I'm having a bad day and acting grumpy, so we try to get to the bottom of the reason and deal with that directly. We also do natural consequences. The most common one is that if dd doesn't help me out with the cleaning, I have to do it all by myself and won't have time to do fun stuff with her. That's not a punishment, it's just the way life works- having to do everything yourself takes a lot of time. If dd wants me to drive her to the playground but doesn't want to clean up her mess in the living room, well, there isn't time for me to do both and I'm not living in a tornado of clutter.

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OK, here's one. What about whining? Dd8 is a huge whiner. A pretty great kid in every other way, but oh my goodness, so whiny. I've made sure that chores and school I've assigned are appropriate for her (changed math several times and I scribe it for her, for example). She just whines and dawdles a lot. I've made lots of accommodations and talk with her over and over again. I praise her when she does well. Besides "please do your work" and "for the love of all that is holy, just shut your mouth and please do your work!" (maybe less that? ☺ï¸) What can I do that isn't punitive? Just positive reinforcement only?

 

To be fair, she's HFA and I suspect ADD as well, so I believe she has legitimate issues with staying on task. Should my job just be to redirect over and over again?

Edited by Meagan S
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Special needs kids are hard, and figuring out what they will respond to can be tough.

 

For whining, I have a couple of ideas. One is straightforward validation. If she is whining about math "this is too hard!" I might say "yeah, math can be pretty hard work. Let's figure out together what the first step of solving this problem might be."

 

When it is the whiny tone in particular that is a problem ive been known to say "you know, I have a hard time understanding when a person's voice goes up and down like thiiiisss (immitate whiny tone modulations); could you please say that again in a normal voice?"

Edited by maize
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I grew up being sent to my room or losing TV or given extra chores if I did something wrong. I've done similar things with my kids. We do talk problems out sometimes, but overall, I'm not finding punishment-based parenting to work very well for my kids.

 

If you parent without punishing, how does it work. Say your 4 year old keeps bugging her 6yo sister on purpose and 6yo sister hits 4yo sister (or vice versa). What would you do? Is there a book to teach this type of parenting?

 

 

Correct immediately and have them then copy or do the right thing.

 

 

4yo bugs sister.

 

Mom, "You're being rude.  Stop."

Sister does it again.

 

Mom: "Apologize immediately.  Now, I want you to pick up the toys please."  (Mom watches to see if child does it - make it a short thing, instills the ability to obey.) Then look at the scenario - some days kids peck at one another. Plan an activity - like play-doh where they will work tandem.

 

Here's the thing - I believe in punishing young children if necessary. I just don't think it is NEARLY as necessary as people think it is.  What is time out except an opportunity to self talk and sulk?  Better to give them an assignment, sit near and insist it is done, recognize the scenario that caused the problem, remedy it.  

 

Much less used and should be more utilized is modeling behavior.  I insist my kids model - for example.  

 

3yo is rude, rude, rude to sister.

"Cate! Don't say that to Sarah.  Listen, say it this way, "Sarah, will you please get me a glass of water?"

Cate says it.  Sarah gets the water.

 

Why punish there?  Isn't it more effective to show her the correct way to do something, have her do it, and accomplish her goal?

 

Also, people don't nip things in the bud fast enough. I'll guarantee long before it got to hitting, it was escalating. It is rare (beyond the 3yo boy) for a child to hit out of impulse rather than frustration.

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I'm never sure where the line is between natural/logical consequences and "punishment".  We have a lot of logical consequences because my kids really struggle with the idea that actions have consequences.  The consequences are not spur of the moment, but rather well established and discussed well in advance.  

 

For example, my 3.5 year old is going through an aggressive, hitting/tackling/biting phase.  Before he plays with any of the other children, I remind him of the consequence of any of those types of behaviors:  If he lets his body hit or tackle or bite someone else, then he will have to play by himself in his room for the rest of that play period, because I have to protect the other children.  We talk about one or two simple things he could do instead of being aggressive.  I stay close so I can coach him and intervene if necessary.   When five minutes later he leans in to bite someone, I feel no guilt stopping him and plopping him in his room for a bit.  We discussed what the consequences would be, and now I am calmly following through on those consequences.  He is free to play or cry or go to sleep or whatever he chooses, but I must enforce a boundary for the good of the whole family.

 

I don't know if that is considered punitive.  I fully understand that he is still figuring out that he has control over his body, and when I put him in his room, I'm not mad at him for immaturely losing control.  I don't put him in his room to be mean to him or to get back at him for his actions, but I certainly do hope that he will learn that being aggressive to people leads to not being allowed to play with them.  I understand it would probably be less punitive to let him continue to play but stand right next to him so I can physically stop him from hitting or keep him right next to me or hold him as he screams in frustration, but his needs must be balanced with those of the rest of us.  The other children must be protected, the baby's diaper must be changed, the meals must be cooked, the bills must be paid.  

 

When I go and get him in 15 or 20 minutes, I do so cheerfully, with no grudges held.  I empathize that it must feel frustrating to not be allowed to play with the others because his mouth bit someone.  I encourage him to keep trying to use the other strategies we constantly talks about (and model and role play and read about, etc) in order to not bite so that he can play with the others.

 

Lather, rinse, repeat.  I hear people talk about these types of behaviors being changed in a couple of weeks or months.   :lol:   With my kids, I always gear myself up to be super consistent for 6+ months; occasionally, but certainly not always, I see improvements in the behavior by that point.

 

Wendy 

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Special needs kids are hard, and figuring out what they will respond to can be tough.

 

For whining, I have a couple of ideas. One is straightforward validation. If she is whining about math "this is too hard!" I might say "yeah, math can be pretty hard work. Let's figure out together what the first step of solving this problem might be."

 

When it is the whiny tone in particular that is a problem ive been known to say "you know, I have a hard time understanding when a person's voice goes up and down like thiiiisss (immitate whiny tone modulations); could you please say that again in a normal voice?"

 

This works so well with my younger kid.  If I go on and on about his whining he just keeps at it.  If I say, "Oh that's so hard, I know what you mean." Boom he stops.  It's like what more can he say about it?  He just wants some validation. 

Edited by SparklyUnicorn
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 It is rare (beyond the 3yo boy) for a child to hit out of impulse rather than frustration.

 

I think this sums up my entire life's struggle right now.

 

I have three boys who are all, developmentally, about 3-4 years old.  The impulsive hitting, grabbing, smashing, dumping, throwing, leaping, screaming, pushing, etc. goes on all day long.   :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:

 

Wendy

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My 8yr old is whiny too. It drives me crazy. Usually I just ask him to say it again in a less whiny way. We also talk about how other people don't like to listen to whining, so if he wants people to play with him he shouldn't whine.

 

I have 4 kids and he is really the only one who whines. It always interests me how everyone is so different and everyone has behaviors they need to work on (my other kids don't whine but they have their own weaknesses).

Edited by lovinmyboys
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OK, here's one. What about whining? Dd8 is a huge whiner. A pretty great kid in every other way, but oh my goodness, so whiny. I've made sure that chores and school I've assigned are appropriate for her (changed math several times and I scribe it for her, for example). She just whines and dawdles a lot. I've made lots of accommodations and talk with her over and over again. I praise her when she does well. Besides "please do your work" and "for the love of all that is holy, just shut your mouth and please do your work!" (maybe less that? ☺ï¸) What can I do that isn't punitive? Just positive reinforcement only?

 

To be fair, she's HFA and I suspect ADD as well, so I believe she has legitimate issues with staying on task. Should my job just be to redirect over and over again?

 

Is she on medication?  My 7 year old has ASD and ADD; when we found an effective medication, the difference was like night and day.  Before, he really, really struggled with focus, staying on task and impulse control.  Now, both school time and daily life are sooooo much more manageable.  We are thrilled with the change, but just as importantly, he is thrilled with it.  He likes how he feels on the medication, he likes being able to focus, he likes being able to succeed in sports classes, he likes feeling more in control. 

 

Wendy

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I think this sums up my entire life's struggle right now.

 

I have three boys who are all, developmentally, about 3-4 years old. The impulsive hitting, grabbing, smashing, dumping, throwing, leaping, screaming, pushing, etc. goes on all day long. :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly:

 

Wendy

Yeah, special needs kids are a whole different world.

 

I'm accustomed to mine and forget sometimes that not all kids are this intense and difficult to parent. When I spend much time around other kids though the differences are obvious.

 

A friend and I were doing an exchange for awhile where I was teaching her kids violin and she was teaching my kids piano. I was consistently amazed at how I could say to one of her kids "do x" and they would promptly and cheerfully do x. My kids? Teacher says "do x", kid sits and fidgets and turns around in chair and tries to do a headstand and...doesn't do x. It really wasn't a fair exchange :D

Edited by maize
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I think this sums up my entire life's struggle right now.

 

I have three boys who are all, developmentally, about 3-4 years old. The impulsive hitting, grabbing, smashing, dumping, throwing, leaping, screaming, pushing, etc. goes on all day long. :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly: :willy_nilly:

 

Wendy

Wendy, you are my hero!

 

I am a part time nanny to 4yo boy twins and their 23 mo brother. One of the twins has some sensory and behavioral issues, and that is challenging enough. I can't imagine doing what you do all day every day.

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OK, so I'm doing great today. We have co-op and have to leave in 45 minutes, which means lunch is in 10. Is it consistent with this philosophy to make dd8 wait to eat her lunch until she's finished with work? (only about 10 minutes worth of work, so doable) Or would that be considered punitive?

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OK, so I'm doing great today. We have co-op and have to leave in 45 minutes, which means lunch is in 10. Is it consistent with this philosophy to make dd8 wait to eat her lunch until she's finished with work? (only about 10 minutes worth of work, so doable) Or would that be considered punitive?

Yep, it is fine to have her finish her work before eating lunch.

 

Now, if you were dealing with a child who was melting down and struggling to finish their work because their blood sugar was low, it would be smart to address the underlying problem (give them some food) rather than insisting they finish their work first (one of mine seems to struggle to keep her blood sugar up; food is my first go-to when she is in meltdown mode).

 

You haven't indicated such an issue though.

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OK, so I'm doing great today. We have co-op and have to leave in 45 minutes, which means lunch is in 10. Is it consistent with this philosophy to make dd8 wait to eat her lunch until she's finished with work? (only about 10 minutes worth of work, so doable) Or would that be considered punitive?

Something like that can be done punitively or non-punitively. If she has been dawdling, you can say, "Your lunch will be right here for you just as soon as you finish up that work." You are stating it positively: you want her to eat, you have prepared her food, now it is up to her to do her part.
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For whining: Are you more interested in a change of tone? (If so, the teaching elements would be a 'tone game' and lots of trying again.) Or is "whining" for you more about phrasing -- that a complaint is voiced in a blame-ish or other insensitive way? (If so, you want to help her with supportive scripting, followed by lots of trying again.) Or is the issue you have that she complains at all -- that it's a problem for you that she shares verbally when she has negative feelings? (It's not very wise to try to solve that one completely.) Or frequency more something like proportionality? (These can be worked on.)

 

Before you say 'all of them' -- you can't teach four skills at once. Choose one aspect to help her learn her way out of first. You can follow with working other aspects later, after your top priority is mostly attained. (Choose your top priority based in which aspect bothers you the most.)

 

About the meal:

 

You can get totally punitive around meals, but it can be done well. Many non punitive parents use when-thens as a primary technique... Though some avoid when-then-ing around food for other reasons (food issues, food values, picky eating, power struggles).

 

As long as: (1) you are kind, cheerful and openly anticipating her success when you tell her the when-then, and (2) you are legitimately content with either way it goes or (3) you have a plan for if the when-then doesn't go your intended way -- that *isn't* blaming the child for choosing an option you gave her... It should be fine. If it lacks (1) it's a threat, and it's likely to to feel like one. If it lacks either (2) or (3) the parent has tricked a small child into an encounter with a fake choice and hidden consiquences: not cool.

 

Edited to add: yes, you passed! Flying colours on (1). (Possibly you were missing a backup plan of what you would do if she was excessively behind. You didn't need to use it that plan, fortunately, but it was important to have it.)

Edited by bolt.
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I think this sums up my entire life's struggle right now.

 

I have three boys who are all, developmentally, about 3-4 years old.  The impulsive hitting, grabbing, smashing, dumping, throwing, leaping, screaming, pushing, etc. goes on all day long.   :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:  :willy_nilly:

 

Wendy

 

 

NT and non NT kiddos are the difference between night and day.  (((Hugs)))

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I joined a FB group on this style of parenting and they linked me to some stuff today. I guess there's an actual book and cards that go along with this method. I am still learning.

https://www.positivediscipline.com/products/positive-discipline-parenting-tool-cards

 

The title says discipline but I'm led to believe it's not really about punishment. I need to look into the book. I just put in her name on Amazon and there are various titles.

 

I have the Peaceful Parent book on audible as well as others, but I haven't been able to finish them all. Some of them probably overlap with similar styles of parenting. One is The Whole-Brain Child. I'm currently listening to Simplicity Parenting though as I'm trying to declutter.

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A kid bugging another kid would be sent to sit on their bed until they could behave in a civil manner.

 

I don't think we've ever given extra chores, taken anything away, or "grounded" someone.  We just have a chat and it's all good.  We believe in "failures" as a learning experience, and kids need to feel safe making mistakes, but my kids haven't ever done anything very "bad".  We've always had a culture of respecting each other, so we haven't had any oppositional or defiant behavior either.

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