No-Drama Discipline

No-Drama Discipline

by Daniel J Siegel,MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.

Bantam: 2014.

The authors pair up the neurological development of a child’s brain with the manner in which parents react to their child’s misbehavior.

Using cartoon pictures to illustrate their points, the researchers focus on learning opportunities and less on “fear-creating” behavior (yelling, screaming, shaming) on the parents’ part.

For example: Before responding to misbehavior, parents are cautioned to take a moment to ask themselves three simple questions: Why did my child act this way? What lesson do I want to teach in this moment? And how best can I teach this lesson? Simply put, lessons are never taught with yelling, reactivity, and shaming.

Kids don’t intentionally want to hit you; frequently they are stuck in “fight, flight, or freeze” mode, primitive reactions controlled by the lower-order brain stem. Kids have to calm down through deep breathing, being held through sobs, or slowing down.   Anger from kids can be about something that isn’t necessarily obvious– an argument with a sibling or something that happened in day care/school. In those situations, they might “store it up,” letting it come out at home, where they usually feel safer. Looked at neurologically, the authors explain that, for both kids and parents, emotional, reactive parts of the brain easily overwhelm the calmer, more thoughtful parts.

Parents often think that giving a “time-out” or spanking can cause a child to think about their overreactions, the consequences of their actions. Research has shown that in such a situation children often focus on how mean their parents are and not on their own actions.

The authors do not suggest using a “no limits” or “no boundaries” approach; some response to bad behavior is warranted. But instead of either ignoring the behavior or imposing some form of punishment, they suggest giving children an opportunity for a “do-over.” Have the child try again to communicate what she’s saying respectfully, or, for a smaller child, “use your words not your hands.” Try asking a child, once they have calmed down, whether they could think of something else to do or say. Or they might practice two or three kind things to do for a sibling if they’ve been mean. A parent can also try a “time in”, by having kids sit beside them, pausing and talking about what happened. Ask them what they might do in a “do-over.” One proactive strategy they cite is by creating a “Calm Zone” with toys, books, or stuffed animals for them to practice calming down. And ask a child if they want to go there when they are upset. Internal self-regulation, which is the lesson one hopes to teach here, is a vital part of successfully growing up.

This book is NOT about making yourself feel guilty that you have not been practicing their strategies for No-Drama Discipline. After all, our discipline strategies come from observing our own parents, older siblings, or watching other parents, as well as from reading books. But the truth is we do the best we can.

But if you are concerned about how well your present method is working, ask yourself if this book may help guide you to a better approach. What children crave is connection with those they love. Think about whether you are giving them enough opportunities to connect and feel loved. The authors help us think about how we can make those connections in high-stress situations. Another point Siegel and Bryson make is that “it’s important to avoid saying “no” so often but instead to say “yes” with a condition such as tomorrow or later, and then remember to carry through.

The book ends with a “Refrigerator Sheet” with their major points clearly written on it. CONNECT AND REDIRECT is the KEY PURPOSE of their discipline approach. They then give two examples of how they “lost it” with their own children. No one, is perfect, not even an expert.