“I'm so tired of parents who can't say No to their
child and let them rule the roost. No wonder kids today don't have any
Most parents assume that not punishing means permissive parenting. But resisting the urge to punish doesn't mean we don't set limits! In fact, neither permissive parenting nor authoritarian parenting work to raise self-disciplined kids.
Kids raised permissively may not have the opportunity to develop self discipline, which is about giving up something we want for something we want more. Kids raised with authoritarian parenting, however, don't develop self-discipline either, because they aren't choosing--they're being forced. Often, they stop cooperating, rebel, and become very good liars.
So yes, in my view LIMITS are an essential part of raising great kids. But not just any limits. EMPATHIC LIMITS Which means we:
- Set limits in a way that empathizes with our child's feelings and helps him to process them.
- Stay connected while we set limits.
- Resist the urge to make our child suffer or feel bad while we set limits.
Parents often ask me for a "script" so they can see this in action. Here's a situation posed to me by a parent. READ POST
"Dr. Laura – I'm not one of those
'Count to 3 and They Jump' parents. I was raised that way and it always
seems to involve threats and harshness. But when I say 'It's
time to clean up' they ignore me unless I yell. What's the secret of getting them to listen and to take No for an answer, if I don't use punishment?" --
Last week, we explored why kids don't jump to it (Obedience: Why Do You Have To Tell Them Five Times?) when we ask them to do something, as part of my series Are Kids Today Spoiled and Undisciplined? Many parents told me that post helped them understand conflicts from their child's perspective, which made it possible to find some common ground and more cooperation. As always, a few parents advocated more harshness: "Parents just need to learn to say No and back it up with punishment!" But even many parents who are committed to loving guidance wondered, "How can I say No if I don't resort to threats?"
This is, of course, the million dollar question. But it is indeed possible to get kids cooperating, without resorting to yelling, threats or harshness. The secrets? READ POST
"Dr. Laura, I was wondering if you could
do a post about empathic limits. What is an appropriate response to bad
behavior from an unconditional parenting approach? For example, every
time I come home with my daughter I remind her that when we go inside
she must take off her shoes. She often will immediately run to the couch
and climb onto it with her shoes on. I know she does this precisely
because she knows she's not supposed to, and now I warn her if she
doesn't get down she will get a timeout. Usually she gets a timeout. I
can't not respond when she does something like this. What can I do
instead of a timeout?"
“You don't seem to ever discuss discipline in terms of teaching acceptable behavior. I really think its a lot of bull to give people an excuse not to have decent expectations. Sometimes these kids are brats and they need to be aware of it. I'm not saying that Screaming is good but screaming or other tactics besides hugs are necessary."
The Aha! Parenting website is loaded with hundreds of pages of examples of how to teach acceptable behavior using empathic limits, so if you aren't getting enough from these posts, please do some exploring on the website. I'm hoping you'll have an Aha! moment, which is this:
There is no such thing as a brat, only a child who is hurting. When our starting point as parents is a close bond with our children, we are their North Star, the point around which they orient. They want more than anything in the world to protect that relationship and meet our expectations, as long as that doesn't compromise their own integrity. If our child is acting like a "brat," she's either signaling that she needs a stronger connection with us, that she's got some big feelings she needs our help with, or that she can't meet our expectation without some tailored support. After all, that (along with modeling) is how we teach acceptable behavior!
So given that Aha! insight, which would be the most effective tactics to transform "bratty" behavior into cooperative behavior? READ POST
"I try to use positive parenting, but there always comes a point where I'm stuck and threaten a timeout. Without punishment, how do I enforce my limits? I can remind him until I'm blue in the face about the things he's supposed to do, but I can't actually MAKE him. What do I do to make my child behave, if I can't use force?" – Lisabet READ POST
"I had just read Dr. Laura’s blog about staying calm and acknowledging his desires. When the screaming and stomping began, I stopped what I was doing and sat down next to my three year old. I made eye contact, listened to his complaint and did not let the screaming anger me; I then calmly explained that I hear him. I know cheesy poofs are so tasty and I love them too but he will have to wait half an hour until dinnertime. He blubbered briefly, collapsed into my arms for a minute and then went to play with his toys. My husband congratulated me on keeping my cool. The best part? He was perfectly pleasant the rest of the evening. Wow!" – Aimee
When parents begin using gentle guidance, they're often amazed by how well empathy "works" to calm their child. For most people, just having our views and feelings acknowledged makes us feel better, so we're more cooperative. So once parents get past their fear of "agreeing" with their child's "negative emotions" they quickly learn to empathize when their child is having a hard time: READ POST
"Isn't there a time and a place for a parent to just plain 'be in charge'? So often, and especially now, with this new approach, she pretty much does whatever she wants...I don't want my child to be an uncontrollable brat." - Amber
Often, parents get confused about peaceful parenting. They think that if they stop punishing, their child will do whatever she wants. But that assumes there are only two choices -- being permissive or punitive. What about holding to your expectations while at the same time offering your child support and understanding?
Let's say you tell your child that it's time for bed, and she ignores you or says NO! What are your choices? READ POST
"I can hear those readers unfamiliar with positive discipline saying: “How can you reward bad behavior? You’ve got to be kidding!” I understand your reaction because I had the same one. I changed my mind when I tried it and saw that it consistently decreases unacceptable behavior and helps prevent the child from repeating the same problems. My experience is that kids learn more about self-control using the Comfort Corner than they would after 100 Time Outs." - Peter Haiman, Ph.D.
Do you use Time-Outs? They’re certainly better than spanking to show your child you’re serious about whatever limit you’re setting. But time-outs aren’t the best way to help kids want to cooperate, or even to help them calm down. Why? READ POST