You’ve read about it. You’ve been inspired by it. You’ve tried it…but you’re still frustrated. Despite your attempts to respond more positively and less punitively, your child’s behavior hasn’t changed much. Perhaps it looks worse than before. Perhaps you’re ready to throw in the towel on this positive parenting thing. Before you do, consider these 3 reasons why non-punitive parenting might not be working for you:
1. It’s too soon. You’re expecting immediate results. Depending on the age of your child, the state of your relationship, your previous degree & style of discipline, you’ll have to give it more time to see a noticeable difference. The more extreme your responses had been (either towards the authoritarian or the permissive side of the spectrum), the more time is necessary to see change. You were in a “dance” with your child…you had moves, she had counter moves. If you’re changing your moves, the two of you will have to learn a new dance. That’s why things might actually look worse before they look better. Your child needs time to get accustomed to a new dance and be able to respond in sync.
Tip: Keep going. Keep practicing your new “dance moves.” With consistency, your child will come to understand the kinds of supportive, trustworthy responses she can depend on and relax into.
2. Your child doesn’t feel connected to you. If there were lots of behavior struggles, there was also most likely a disconnection in the relationship between you and your child. Your child has been accustomed to your interactions being based on control, punishment, shame, or physical or emotional isolation. He had gotten used to feeling distanced from you and had perhaps put up a wall to protect himself from vulnerability. Really work at bringing this wall down and coming closer together, emotionally. Once it does, the tools of positive discipline will work much more effectively.
Tip: Special time. Make time every day for 10-15 minutes of one-on-one time with your child. The only focus is on staying open to his temperament and personality and getting to know what makes him tick.
3. You’re still focused on the behavior. Let go of the idea that you will have a perfectly behaved child and that discipline (even positive discipline) is supposed to be the answer that will solve everything. You won’t, and it isn’t. Nothing about parenting is perfect and nothing is foolproof. Remember that your child is maturing–physically forming new connections in the brain that will help with self-regulation in adulthood. That process of development will never look perfect. Every example of imperfect behavior you see along the way is an opportunity to come alongside your child with help and support. In other words, they are not opportunities for you (to assert control, prove you’re right, or make a child mind), they are opportunities for the child (to grow and mature).
Tip: Reframe your perspective. Successful parenting is not about controlling a child’s behavior. It is about teaching children to control their own behavior.