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"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?" -- Danielle

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2014 | Permalink

"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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | Permalink

"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

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | Permalink

"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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | Permalink

"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

Friday, April 04, 2014 | Permalink

"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

Friday, March 28, 2014 | Permalink

"I recently discovered Aha! Parenting and am trying hard to change things at our house, but my kids seem to be acting out more.  So I still lose it. And I feel so guilty about the past. What am I doing wrong?" - Kate

"For me, this type of parenting is a daily choice. Every morning I have to make the commitment not to yell, to stay calm, to chose love. And there is something very empowering about that.  I apologize to my kids when I make mistakes and slip - I see that when they accept my apology, they feel empowerment and generosity of spirit. This influences their behavior with each other - there are more kind words and gestures, more "I'm sorry" and more "Don't worry, I know it wasn't your fault" that they extend to each other, than before. There are days when things are a big struggle, but I really feel that something is changing deep within our hearts AND I feel us grow closer together when we chose love, and when in the middle of a tantrum I hug my child and genuinely tell him that I hear his pain and that I'll help him work through it."

Shifting your parenting approach is a big transition, and you can expect some bumps as you and your children learn new patterns of relating. It doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong. In fact, what's happening is that you're healing old hurt feelings so they stop driving new bad behavior. When your child acts out, he's showing you feelings from the past when you punished or yelled. It takes extra compassion from you, but your empathic response will heal those hurts so you can all move on.

So ditch that guilt -- you're paying the price, after all, and making amends now, by helping your child through all those old hurt feelings. Besides, feeling bad doesn't help you act "good," any more than it helps your child. Here's your plan.  READ POST

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | Permalink