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"What if you do all that, and he still won't brush his teeth? Give up for the night?"

In my post How Can You Set Limits If You Don't Use Threats to Enforce Them? we explored how to deal with the normal resistance that all kids feel from time to time. We used brushing teeth as our example, because most parents have problems with this daily habit in the early years. Why, after all, would any child want to brush his teeth?

I suggested that punishment and force will ultimately create more resistance, because force always creates push-back. After all, how would you feel if someone sat on you, pried open your mouth, forced a toothbrush in and scrubbed? Sure, you might begin to acquiesce. But I'm betting you'd be pushing back in other ways. Force creates power struggles.  READ POST

Thursday, February 27, 2014 | Permalink

"Throw the word "consequence" entirely out of your vocabulary and replace it with the term "problem-solving." -- Becky Eanes

"My 3 year old was sitting on the couch after bath wearing her towel and said NO about 5 times when asked to get into her pj's. I was busy with the baby and I heard my husband say "OK fine -- no books then!"  so I said "Hey! We've got a problem - it's bedtime and you need to be in your PJ's -- How do YOU think we should solve it?" And just like that -- she got a big grin her face, suggested we all clap our hands and march our feet and we formed a line right into her room -- happily! Same thing for teeth brushing and potty later! Each time I said "Hey, great problem solving skills! Thank you!" And her response? "You're welcome mama -- no problem!" - Carrie

Most parenting experts suggest that when children "misbehave" the best response is "consequences."  Parents are told that letting children experience the consequences of their poor choices will teach them lessons.  Makes sense, right?  READ POST

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr. Laura....In your last post, you warned parents against fighting in front of our kids. But as you always say, we're not perfect, we're human! What are we supposed to do when we disagree? And isn't it good for kids to see parents work out disagreements, and make up? And isn't okay if spouses don't always agree -- we can still love each other." 

Yes, Yes, and Yes!  The nature of human relationships is that we will sometimes disagree. It's wonderful for children to see their parents model how to work out disagreements. It's important for them to know that we don't always agree, but we always love each other. Kids need to see us ask for what we need without attacking the other person. And it's critical for them to see us make up, with affection and forgiveness.

That doesn't mean it's okay to yell at each other in front of our kids. The research shows that a civil disagreement followed by working things through to a solution, and affectionately making up, can teach kids valuable lessons about working through conflicts constructively. But the research also shows that yelling always affects kids badly. Yelling is not constructive conflict resolution. It's a tantrum.

And no, it's not "authentic." What's authentic is the tears and fears under the yelling. If we could express our hurt and fear, the anger would melt away. As the Dalai Lama said, "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

But since most of us can't stay as calm as the Dalai Lama, how can you handle the inevitable disagreements that come up in a relationship -- when you live with kids?  READ POST

Thursday, February 20, 2014 | Permalink

"Yesterday my husband and I had an argument at dinner time in front of the kids. My four year old daughter yelled at us to ‘Be quiet!’ …  My two year old had a tough time going to bed, which is unusual for him. Could that have had to do with mommy and daddy arguing?”

In honor of Valentines Day last week, my posts this week are about the intersection between being a parent and being a couple -- specifically, how to work through conflicts when you're in front of the kids. Next week, we'll get back to our Beyond Discipline series, with 10 Alternatives to Consequences and When Kids Just Won't Cooperate.

Conflict is part of every human relationship. If we live with children, those conflicts will sometimes come up in front of the kids. In the past, most experts reassured parents that there’s no harm in children seeing them fight, as long as the kids also see the parents make up afterwards. However, recent developments in neurological research challenge this view. Not surprisingly, it turns out that when children hear yelling, their stress hormones shoot up. In fact, even a sleeping infant registers loud, angry voices and experiences a rush of stress chemicals that takes some time to diminish.  READ POST

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 | Permalink

"Behind the anger, behind the disrespect, and behind the manipulation is a scared child in desperate need of connection, love, and acceptance. ... If you show up for your child in a different state, he can only be different...When you are in a loving state, you automatically do the right thing...Love never fails." - Heather T. Forbes

"Whatever the question, love is the answer." - The Dalai Lama

What does Valentine’s Day have to do with parenting?  Love. The purpose of Valentines Day is to celebrate love of all kinds. The purpose of parenting, quite obviously, is to raise children. But I believe that parenting has a secret purpose -- to transform us, the parents. Loving our child helps us to heal ourselves, so that we can live more fully.   READ POST

Thursday, February 13, 2014 | Permalink

"I'm struggling with how to enforce limits without a consequence. For example, brushing teeth -- she'll refuse. It's not reasonable for me to do it by force, so I tell her if she can't brush her teeth, I can't read a bedtime story to her. I do not understand how to set limits if there are no consequences for ignoring the limit."

Great question. How do we "make" our child do what we want, if we don't use force? And brushing teeth is a perfect example, because I've never met a child who was internally motivated to brush his teeth -- or a parent who hasn't been frustrated trying to get kids to brush.

Naturally, we're tempted to threaten our child with punishment. That is, in fact, the only way to force a human to do something they don't want to do. But look at the cost:


Tuesday, February 11, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr. Laura --  Could you write about transitioning to positive discipline for parents of older kids? If I start Empathic Parenting now with my kids 12 and 9, will it still help? How do I all of a sudden "remove" punishment? My 9 year old always says 'Oh now I guess I am grounded.' How do I change his thinking?"

Transitioning to positive parenting can be hard. Your child has already come to understand the world through a certain lens. He knows he needs to "behave" or he'll be punished by losing a privilege or being grounded. Of course, you'd rather have him choose to do the right thing because he wants to have a positive impact on the world, not because he's afraid of being caught and punished. But how do you teach him the lessons he still needs to learn, if you no longer use punishment to motivate him?  READ POST

Thursday, February 06, 2014 | Permalink