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No-drama parenting in hunkered down times

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Recently my daughter and I arranged a video chat. Out of consideration for my grandsons’ nap times, at three years of age for Lincoln and three months for Landry, the ideal window of opportunity was carefully planned out. However, it quickly became apparent that what was usually Lincoln’s happy time was quite the opposite. He was agitated and uncharacteristically hard on Landry. He was continuously poking at him or “tripping” and falling dangerously close to where the baby was propped. Then, each time he was corrected, he would dissolve into tears.  After about the third cycle of this, my daughter called the weeping toddler to her side.    

Holding out her arms, she pulled him onto her lap. Then she quietly said, “You seem to be having a really hard time making your body do what you want it to do.”  With this, he nodded and buried his head into her chest.  She rocked him for a few moments as his breathing slowed and the tears abated. Then she said, “You know what I think? I think you are really tired and could use a nice rest. When we act cranky like this, it often means we just need to take a break.” He considered this, and seemed ready to argue.  Then he sadly agreed, “I need break.”   

Although she had no clue she was doing it, what my daughter demonstrated in those few minutes was a perfect illustration of no-drama discipline in action. No-drama discipline is a whole-brain parenting approach developed by Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. Sure, all parents want to promote positive behaviors in their kids while discouraging negative ones. No-drama discipline goes even deeper by helping children learn self-control, emotion regulation, and empathy. The key to accomplishing this is by building a solid, trusting parent-child connection. From there, teaching and positive discipline flows.

One critical point emphasized by this approach is when kids are in the midst of a tantrum, they are operating out of what is referred to as the downstairs brain. The amygdala, a more primitive part of the brain, has been triggered. If parents respond to the behavior in anger or by sending the out-of-control child with very immature self-regulation skills away to, “go calm yourself down!” it only reinforces the fight, flight or freeze response. Instead, parents need to appeal to the child’s more sophisticated upstairs brain. How? By soothing, calming and helping them put a name to what is actually causing the meltdown, and connecting with them. This engages the prefrontal lobe. Do this on a regular basis, and the child begins to understand self-regulation.

This isn’t meant to imply that parents don’t need to set healthy boundaries or communicate clear expectations to their kids, they definitely do! But until out of control (reactive state) kids are in a calmer, more regulated frame of mind (receptive state), no significant amount of parental wisdom, guidance or teaching will be integrated by the child.     

Family Advocacy Program (FAP) currently offers the No-Drama Discipline Parenting Course via telephone or Adobe Connect. Sessions will be scheduled with a clinical social worker who will assess the family’s concerns, answer questions, process workbook insights and monitor progress. Interested parents can sign out the required course materials from FAP or order from Amazon and ship them directly to their home. 

In fact, much of FAP’s curricula remains accessible for scheduling via telehealth. A full list of classes, as well as a series of articles on topics related to family health, will be posted over the next several weeks to https://www.facebook.com/hugsnotshakes/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/497632766987620/. Be watching for them, and consider using some of that mandated down time by signing up for a class. Learn some new skills right in the comfort of your own living room!

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