A couple of weeks ago, I hit a wall with my parenting strategies. Specifically with discipline, I realized that what we have been doing is not working. I suddenly saw our interactions with the kids and our methods for handling misbehavior as if from an outsider’s perspective, and I didn’t like what I saw.
For about two years now, we have been using 1-2-3 Magic as our main form of a discipline system. This involves counting to three and giving timeouts for misbehaviors. Of course, to be fair, 1-2-3 Magic includes a lot more than that—the system is also full of tools for encouraging good behavior, fostering strong relationships between parents and children, and reducing negative interactions between parents and children.
Using 1-2-3 Magic properly, parents would not yell, nag, lecture, shame, or disrespect their children. Unfortunately, at least for me and Cory, we have found it impossible to use correctly. We had developed a habit of using a disrespectful tone and unkind words with our children, and even yelling at them, on a regular basis. One day I just realized that it was all falling apart.
As is my typical response, I turned to research. I decided it was time to look for something better. That was when I found Positive Parenting Solutions, and the online parenting course that they offer. I signed up and started learning all that I could right away.
It took me a week to complete the course, and I did spend a lot of time working through the material. I’ve taken this week off from homeschooling in order to finish the course and make a plan for implementing all that I’ve learned. I really felt like this was an urgent matter to deal with, because I didn’t want to go one more day without treating my children like the treasures they are (and being the best parent that I can be)!
Now that I’ve come out of the other side of it, I wanted to share some of the most important things I’ve learned and how Cory and I plan to change our ways as a parenting team.
This course is gold, in my opinion. I’ve read a lot of positive parenting and discipline books, but I have never found them to be practical or realistic. This course is incredibly actionable. It taught me a lot of concepts I already was familiar with from my studies of child development, but I had not been able to put to use with my children because of the realities of day-to-day parenting. Simply put, this course is not just a pile of theory—it’s a pile of tools that I can actually use—and I am!
To start, Positive Parenting Solutions finally changed my mind about punishment. As much as I’ve always wanted to be able to remove punishment from my parental arsenal, I have never found a replacement that would actually work. Kids need to learn how to behave in ways that are responsible and respectful, and their natural inclinations are anything but! How will they learn without experiencing consequences? How can we modify behavior without using the basic behavior modification tools of reward and punishment?
It turns out, there are ways. Is it as “easy” as simply doling out rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior? No, it’s not. But guess what? Parenting is not easy. It’s not simple, either. It’s complex, and challenging, and requires a high level of effort and creativity and energy and patience. Oh, so much patience.
The problem with punishment, though, is that it causes animosity between parent and child. It doesn’t teach the child to behave better because they have learned an important lesson—though it may teach them to behave better out of fear or the desire to receive external rewards. I don’t want my children to be motivated that way! I want them to have an internal compass of right and wrong, and feel good about doing good because it’s right. I certainly don’t want them to act out of fear.
This concept hit home because the reason I even took this course was directly tied to my realization that punishing my kids with time-outs wasn’t helping them learn to behave better. It was causing me to feel more anger and frustration towards them, and them to feel less connected to me as well.
Now, I have better options in my toolbox. A whole lot of them are focused on preventing misbehavior by laying a strong foundation of positive attention, empowerment, and training in appropriate behavior. These positive tools, such as having daily one-on-one time with each child and providing many opportunities for the kids to make choices throughout their day, are already making a big difference in my family. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!
For the times when children still misbehave, because they will, I now have calmer, kinder, more respectful ways of handling it that really work, without threatening anybody’s dignity. I can use natural consequences, control the environment and the order in which privileges are enjoyed, ignore certain inappropriate behaviors, and use coaching to help my children learn better ways of behaving—just to name a few of my new tools.
This course also directed me to an extremely valuable resource for handling Cody’s potty training struggles, one of the bigger areas of conflict we’ve been dealing with. I learned that kids his age having accidents are experiencing a health problem, not misbehaving. It turns out, there is a little known but strongly established link between constipation and accidents, and kids over the age of four who are still having accidents are almost always chronically constipated and have blockages in their colons. (It often goes undetected because constipated kids can still poop every day, even with those blockages!) Now that I have this knowledge, I can help him rather than blame him for something he can’t control.
But anyway, that’s really a topic for a different post. My point is, I have learned an incredible amount of valuable information and I have so much hope that my parenting is going to improve tremendously now, and our lives will all be so much better for it.
This is all an amazing answer to prayer, by the way! The night before I found Positive Parenting Solutions, I wrote in my prayer journal asking God to help me figure out a solution to our parenting struggles. I told him I didn’t know what I needed, but I trusted that he did. The next day, I started researching and found this program, and I have been moving in the right direction ever since. God is good!
Here’s to always growing and becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be—with God’s help! I can’t wait to see the type of parent I become in the months and years ahead.
Side note: I am not saying I am a bad parent, or that people who use punishment and rewards are bad parents. I happen to believe I am a wonderful mom, though not perfect, and I know that intentions matter. There are many styles of parenting and I am focused on parenting in the best way I can, based on my research, understanding, and beliefs. That’s all any of us can do! No judgement here.