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WINTER 2016-2017

About Positive Discipline Positive Discipline is a program developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen. It is based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs and designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. All writers for COMPASS have been trained and certified through the Positive Discipline Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating respectful relationships in homes and schools. COMPASS—Positive Discipline E-Zine Editorial Director Ariadne Brill Copyright 2016 Distribution and/or reproduction of all materials without prior consent of each individual contributor is a violation of copyright. For reprint permission of articles, please contact individual contributors directly.

This publication is not for sale or resale. The materials contained herein are intended as educational and informational materials only. Materials are not a substitute for counseling or mental health services and not provided as such.

If you are concerned about your child’s health and development please contact your health provider.

A Little Bit of Back Talk This is my new favorite source for trusted parenting information, for my own family and for my counseling clients. –Leanne M.

Image via © jul14ka Cover design Ariadne Brill

I always look forward to reading a new issue. Thank you for this amazing magazine. –Tim L.

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In This Issue 

Cooking and Connecting Your Way Through the Holiday Season

Sharing Household Responsibilities is A Super Idea.

Finding the Magic of Elf on the Self

The Seven Parenting Tools That Helped Me Be A Happier Dad

One Question To Ask your Child for Better Behavior

Help Your Child Listen, Think & Act Without Nagging or Yelling

6 Tips for Peaceful, Cooperative Sibling Relationships

Don’t Believe The Holiday Hype

Fostering Holiday Giving & Gratitude

What Children Are Really Saying When You Hear “It’s Not Fair” 3

Q & A with Positive Discipline Educators and Trainers

Cooking and Connecting Your Way Through the Holiday Season By Amy Knobler

Connection Before Correction is a pow er ful Positive Discipline m an tr a. It’s an important one to remember when your holiday pot roast has just slipped out of your hands and is skidding across the kitchen floor, because your pre-schooler threw you off balance by hanging on your leg while throwing a tantrum. (Yes, something similar happened to me!) Connection Before Correction r em in ds us of on e of th e m ost sign ifican t tools we have for addressing challenging behavior: the quality of our relationship with our kids. When our kids feel safely connected to us, we can guide and support them with fewer conflicts and power struggles.

Let’s be honest — maintaining connection can be especially hard during times of high stress. And we’re heading into the holiday season, a particularly crazy time of year for most families. Parents may feel distracted, extra-busy and overwhelmed with social gatherings, work responsibilities, family drama and shopping for

“Cooking holiday dishes together helps kids discover how capable they are.”

gifts. They often find their kids becoming inresponsibility for the same dish each year. It’s a creasingly whiney, needy or oppositional at the great way for kids to feel ownership over an imsame time. Kids feed off our stress! The less con- portant family task. nected they feel to us, the more they react with Here’s another way to bond with your challenging behavior.

How do we counter this amped-up whining and acting out?

kids during this busy time.

Think about something you normally buy pre-made from the grocery store, an d in volve your kids in making it from scratch.

By spending time really connecting with our kids. When life gets nutty, connection is calming and fortifying for everyone. I find it relaxing to It can be an adventure for all of you, and spend time engaged with my daughter in activi- the kids will feel deeply valued w h en you ties that teach life skills while building our rela- ask for their input on this cooking experiment. tionship. Most often, we cook together. Cooking holiday dishes together helps kids discover how capable they are and allows them to contribute something personal to special meals. When we feel really pressed for time, it’s so easy to default to “I’ll just do this myself, because it will take much less time than if I involve my kids.”

It doesn’t have to be a hugely ambitious recipe. Perhaps cranberry sauce?

Many of us have a deep childhood fondness for the can-shaped molded cranberry sauce that’s so common on supermarket shelves. Others prefer I’m not going to argue with you. It will take more a refrigerated variety usually found in deli contime to involve your kids! But it’s a worthwhile tainers. investment of your time. The payoff is huge — instead of getting into mischief or pushing your This year, I invite you to try making your own. buttons, the kids will be occupied with someYou won’t believe how easy it is, or how delithing constructive, creative and fun. You’ll also cious it tastes! accomplish the task of preparing the dish you’re responsible for making for your holiday table. It’s a chance to expose your kids to new flavors Perhaps it’s even a chance to begin a new holiday and ask for their creativity. When you make it tradition, where the kids take on more cooking


yourself, you can control the quality of the ingredients and play with flavor combinations.

(This whole process takes only about 15 minutes. You can easily make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge, which helps take the pressure off your preparation the day of the meal. It tastes better the longer it sits!)

For the kids, it’s a magical process to watch whole, fresh cranberries burst as they combine with water and sugar, transforming into When we spend time with our communities, a shiny, thick sauce. our friends, and our families in meaningful Fresh cranberries are generally found preconnection, we understand why we’re bendpackaged in plastic sacks in the produce sec- ing over backwards to do all this holiday stuff tion of the grocery store, and they almost al- in the first place. ways have a simple sauce recipe on the back of the package. Generally, it’s a bag of cran- So whether you’re cooking with your kids or berries, water (or fruit juice) and sugar. doing something else you enjoy together, reThat’s just the beginning. member to look into their eyes, take in their smiles and breath deeply. Ask your kids to think of some tasty additions to flavor the sauce. You could throw in You can truly find some peace within the a cinnamon stick, or some dried fruits, or the holiday madness if you focus on conneczest of an orange, grapefruit or lime… it’s tion. such a simple way for kids to put their stamp on something for the holiday table.

AMY KNOBLER Amy Knobler is a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator with a background as a personal chef. Amy created Cook to Connect to combine her love of positive parenting education with her passion for getting kids into the kitchen! Amy teaches parents how cooking with their kids can help transform everyday parenting challenges into opportunities for growth and connection in the family.

To learn about Amy’s offerings for families, schools, and organizations, visit

A Super Idea for Raising Capable Children There are many benefits to sharing household responsibilities with the whole family. By Carol Dores

I remember never having a clean the house when my children were young. And always feeling overwhelmed. The kid’s stuff was strewn all over. The laundry was not done. There was unidentifiable stuff on the kitchen floor. Dust bunnies everywhere. My husband and I both worked full time outside the home. So it truly was an exhausting scramble to get food on the table and all of us in clean clothes.

Why is it just the parents’ job to keep a household running smoothly?

I now realize that we as a family are responsible for the house, not just us parents. Our kids actually feel better when they contribute and feel a part of the household, rather than being catered to. We as parents can share the responsibility with our kids, which helps them believe they are capable. There is also more peace and calm when we are all working together.

So how can we go about involving our kids without making them feel dumped on? Get together as family, and make a list of all of the things that need to get done around the house.


Include things like food shopping, making breakfast, lunch, dinner, mowing the lawn, laundry, dishes, feeding the cat, walking the dog, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, etc.

Then talk about how it’s important that everyone living in the house is an important contributor to getting things done. There are different ways of dividing up the list. You could each take turns saying what things you’d like to be responsible for. You could make a jobs wheel, and every week, you spin it to decide who is doing what job. You could put jobs on Popsicle sticks and put them in a jar, for each person to pick out.

The important part is to find a way for all to be involved and to make it fun. It is important to take the time for training so everyone can feel good about what they are doing. For example, if one of the jobs that a 4 year old takes on is putting things away in the playroom, first work side by side to teach them where things belong. Then take pictures so they can visually see what it should look like when the playroom is clean.

It’s helpful to understand that our view and our children’s view of what a complete job looks like might be very different. It’s important to think about encouraging our children, and we may need to work on letting go of some of our views. For example, if a 6 year old is setting the table, and the forks and knives are on the “wrong” side of the plate, does it really matter? Doing some things together can be fun, too! For example, having Saturday mornings designated as clean the house time, and take turns for the music you all listen to while you are doing it. Family meal preparation is another great way to help everyone feel a part of the family.

First, sit down together and decide on the menu. Together then make up a food shopping list. Having everyone go to the grocery store, and either divide up the list or have a search and find game can make it fun. You can take a few minutes to teach children how to compare prices, and how to look for good quality in the food. Then work together to cook the meal. Some children like to get

creative with the presentation of the food. You can even take out the “fancy” dish- What we found was that one of our sons es if you have them to celebrate what you loved to cook. Another enjoyed mowing the have all created together. lawn and more “heavy lifting” things. One hated bathrooms, and the other loved to have One question that comes up a lot is a shiny mirror. They both knew that if they should allowance be tied to chores? wanted clean clothes, they had to do their laundry. One learned to iron because he didThe answer based on Positive Discipline n’t like wrinkled clothes. principles is no. When our children are asked to participate in Doing chores and being responsible for the the caring of the household, they learn to appreciate what they have. They will feel less house is being part of a family. We as parentitled when they have to work for ents don’t get allowances for doing things things. They also can feel success in their around the house, and neither should chilhomes. dren. You can set aside time for each of you to be doing your part, and then enjoy a bowl of popcorn or ice cream together.

It’s amazing how capable our children can be…when we encourage them!

Carol Schilling Dores Carol is the mother of two adult sons, and lives in Connecticut. She is a Certified Positive Discipline Parenting and Classroom Trainer and the cofounder of Positive Discipline of Connecticut. Carol is available to teach parenting classes and to bring Positive Discipline in to schools and classrooms. She is also co-chair of the Positive Discipline Association Board of Directors.


Finding the Magic of

Elf on the Shelf

What do you think about the Elf on the Shelf? By Casey O’Roarty Everybody has an opinion about this creepy little guy that lives up high where no one can touch him - love it or hate it, you can’t really get away from it during the holiday season. We received our elf as a gift from the grandparents (thanks Nana!) a few years ago. Cute, I thought, a little more holiday magic. I opened the package and read the story of the elf. This is when I realized that this elf and I were going to have to come up with a new understanding. If you aren’t familiar with the story, or if Christmas isn’t a holiday you celebrate, let me fill you in. The Elf on the Shelf is designed as a way to manipulate our kids into good behavior. It’s true! The elf is place up high on a shelf and watches the kids all day – then, at night, goes up to the north pole to report about their behavior to Santa. Here is the thing, if humans could learn the skills they need to show up as easy-going, well adjusted, emotionally healthy members of society by threats like that, we could close the prisons, and I would be out of a job. However, in the long term, threats like “you better not do that or you won’t get what you want” just aren’t helpful (if you are thinking they are, reflect for a moment on how many times you have to deliver threats to “motivate” your kids). Children are doing the best they can with the skills they have. And to “punish” them for not having skills just doesn’t make any sense. Kids learn social/emotional life skills through teaching, modeling and practicing them over time.

That elf isn’t as magical as he is made out to be, people. And, the Elf on the Shelf has taken on a life of his own, right? He is everywhere!! But good news, you are the boss of your elf! You get to decide what he is all about! Maybe you even ditch the story he came with and make up your own.

Here are four ideas about how to make Elf on  the Shelf a truly magical experience for your Threats like “you better not do that family: or you won’t get what you want” just aren’t helpful. 1. Keep the “no touch” rule and move him every night tradition – if you want – this is cute and fun for your children!


2. Instead of making mischief, have you elf do nice things for the family during the night – bake some muffins, leave a note of encouragement, offer advice 3. Celebrate how lucky your family is to have an elf that wants to hang out with you during the day, then share all the things he loves about you with Santa every night 4. Have the elf challenge your children with daily tasks of kindness they can engage in each day If this is the season for giving, not receiving, and all about love and gratitude and togetherness, treat this little, slightly creepy looking visitor as a vehicle for deepening those values. Let him be an instigator for good! If you are totally over the Elf on the Shelf, check out these alternatives: The Dwarf in the Drawer

JoyfulCourage10 Holiday Edition Already feeling the stress of the holiday season? Let me help! The #JoyfulCourage10 – Holiday Edition was designed to keep you grounded and intentional as you move through the planning, cooking and caring of the holidays. It is a free 10 day program of support and community to bring more lightness, joy and ease to you and your family. Check it out and register at

The Mensch on the Bench The Kindness Elves And if you truly enjoy the mischief your elf gets into, and sharing it with all your friends – keep at it! But remember, just as YOU are a model for the behavior you wan to see, so is your elf. Happy Holidays!

Casey O’Roarty, M.Ed. Casey O’Roarty, M.Ed. is a wife, mother, Certified Positive Discipline Trainer, and Coach. She holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Arizona and earned her Masters in Education from the University of Washington. She teaches parents and teachers how to build stronger, more authentic relationships with themselves and the children in their lives. Casey encourages grown ups to recognize and embrace the challenges of parenting as opportunities to model, teach, and practice the skills we want our children to learn to embody. Read more of her work and check out her online offers at

The Seven Parenting Tools That Helped Me Be A Happier Dad By Brad Ainge


ecoming a full-time single father was quite a shock for me at first!

Like most dads, I was much better at being a relief pitcher. I would come home from work, play with the kids, and maybe read them a book before bed. I also enjoyed coaching Little League teams and helping with the other extracurricular activities. But like most of the fathers I knew, I would start to crumble if I was left home alone with the kids for more than an hour. So when I first started parenting on my own, I was completely overwhelmed.

Television became a thing of the past. My golf game began to suffer, and folding laundry became my new hobby. And then about a month into this new adventure I went through what I call single parent boot camp—when the flu hit our household with a vengeance. Of course my kids didn’t get the flu bug at the same time. Instead they each got the flu about one week apart. So for three solid weeks I was nursing kids back to health, changing sheets, and cleaning up puke. And then just when I thought the nightmare was over, I got the flu! 13

Suddenly I gained a new perspective on single parenting. Being a full-time single parent is hard, but when you try to handle that job with the flu, you realize that it could be much, much worse. So from that day forward I tried to have an attitude of gratitude.

Parenting can be the most rewarding job in the world. But, it can also be the most challenging. That is why I embarked on a yearlong adventure of implementing one Positive Discipline tool per week. This experiment gave me new perspective on my relationship with my children and how I could improve my parenting skills. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The danger of starting something new is that sometimes we raise our expectations too high and become frustrated when not everything is perfect. A couple of times when I first started using these tools, I found myself expecting perfection from my children, and my frustration with them made things worse. But when I changed my attitude and focused on improvement, not perfection, the atmosphere in our home got much better.

Every family is different and every child is different. It is important to find what works for you and what feels right to you. Use your intuition and have fun!

7 Keys for Parenting in the Real World 1. Lower Your Expectations This may seem like bad advice at first. Why would we lower our expectations? We want our children to be the best they can be, and we expect a lot from them. The problem is not the expectations; it is our attitude about them. If we expect perfection, we will constantly be disappointed and frustrated. There is no such thing as a perfect child or

perfect parent. Focus on progress not perfection.

2. Small Steps Parenting is an ongoing process of learning and growing, and so is childhood. Take it one step at a time and learn from your mistakes. Focus on one parenting tool a week. You can even involve your children and let them help you improve your parenting skills. For example, one week you might focus on the Positive Discipline tool of “Listen”. If you let your children know you will be trying to listen more in the coming week, you’ll be surprised how often they will remind you to listen. And by the end of the week, you will be a better listener, and your children will appreciate it. If you would like to follow along

3. Mistakes Are Opportunities To Learn The goal of Positive Discipline is the long-term result of raising responsible children who will become responsible adults. Learning responsibility means making a lot of mistakes along the way. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a positive attitude about mistakes. Teach your children that mistakes are opportunities for learning.

4. Connection Before Correction When I first started applying the Positive Discipline Tools in my home, I was so focused on making the tools “work” that I lost the most important aspect of parenting—my relationship with my children. When applying a new parenting tool, remember the ultimate goal is to create a connection. Don’t get so focused on the details of the parenting tools that you lose sight of the big picture.

with our 52 Tools in 52 Weeks program, visit: https://

O n e o f t h e g re a t e s t gifts you can give y o u r c h i l d re n i s a positive attitude a b o u t mi s t a k e s .


5. Self-Care Parenting can be stressful, and we need to take breaks to fill our emotional buckets. Not only do we need breaks from our children, but our children need breaks from us. In the long run, when you take care of yourself, you will be a better, more patient parent. As a single dad, I used to have “parenting guilt” when I would get a babysitter. Then one evening I announced that the babysitter was coming over so I could go out…and my children cheered with joy! I stopped feeling guilty after that and realized the importance of taking a break.

6. Get Organized Children thrive with routines and predictably. Find ways to get organized and teach this skill to your children. It doesn’t matter what system you use, as long as you have a system. Some people have a master calendar on the refrigerator. Our family has gone electronic with our shared cell phone calendars. The most important thing is that you have a system that allows your household to be organized. 7. Have Regular Family Meetings I cannot stress this enough. In my opinion, this is the most important parenting tool. Positive Discipline is a solution focused parenting program and family meetings provide the perfect forum for finding solutions.

Brad Ainge BRAD AINGE is a full-time single dad and part-time blogger. His hobbies include: laundry, dish washing, animal control, and referee for the occasional “He started it!” “No, she started it!” debate. His goal is to someday escape to a remote Scottish village and spend his days playing golf. He started blogging to share the unique experience of juggling the responsibilities of raising kids, dating, and earning a living. Brad is father to Kelsie, Gibson, and Emma, and CEO of Empowering People, publisher and distributor of many of the Positive Discipline products through

One Question to Ask your Kids for Better Behavior by Debbie Zeichner, LCSW

Have you ever taken your children somewhere, let’s say to a restaurant, a park or a friend’s house, you think all is well and then suddenly, you are blindsided by rambunctious, “out-of-control” and/or uncooperative behavior?

The kind of behavior that seems to come out of nowhere?

know, we’re in a downward spiral of what feels like the point of no return. Ugh! Sound familiar? Aside from these overlooked, unmet needs, I realize there’s often another piece of the puzzle I forgot to include – establishing expectations for behavior.

Now, I know some of you may be thinking, The behavior that leaves you feeling at a total “But my kids should know by now what I exloss for what to do and how to handle it, espe- pect.” I get it, I really do, I often think the very cially when all eyes are on YOU? same thing! Yet, what’s important to remember is that our children’s brains are still develThe kind that makes you want to run oping the ability to regulate emotions, manage impulses, plan and problem-solve. We also away and hide? have to remember that our agenda of what we want/need to happen, rarely matches our Yep, I’ve been there too! child’s agenda of what they want/need. When I reflect on the times I’ve been in situations like these, I realize there’s typically a missing link – either an unmet need within my child such as hunger, exhaustion, boredom, overstimulation, or an unmet need within myself – I’m hungry, overtired, rushing around taking care of everyone but myself!

What’s a parent to do??

Because children thrive on structure, routine and repetition and because they have a hardwired need to feel a sense of belonging (connection) and significance (that they matter/have something meaningful to contribute), I’ve found one simple question, which I always With all this going on and without a mindful thought, I end up reacting to my child and my ask when we are going out in public or doing child then reacts to me. I get upset at his reac- something new, that has helped us achieve tion, the behavior escalates and, next thing I


better, more cooperative behavior from our kids.

fully choose to put myself in their shoes, see it from their perspective and tell myself something more realistic.

This question is…

“What do we need to remember before/when we _________?”

Essentially, they were excited and simply having trouble containing their emotions and impulses. They weren’t “spoiled,” “bratty,” or “bad” and they weren’t trying to ruin our family day.

When used consistently in the way described below, it works like a charm. They were just kids ecstatic about where we Let me give you an example of what this were going, tired of being in the car, wanting looks and sounds like in action. to be there NOW! Recently, we took our 2 kids to Legoland on a day they were off for a school holiday.

“Deep breaths,” I reminded myself.

We knew the kids were excited as our car ride was full of singing, laughter, jokes, obnoxious noises etc. As we were getting closer, their restlessness was in full force and we started to hear things like, “Stop it!” “MOOOOOM, she’s singing too loudly!” “Daaaad, he won’t stop looking at me!”

With all this in mind, here’s what came next: Me (in upbeat tone): “Hey guys, I can hear how excited you are for Legoland today!” Kids: “Yes, are we there yet? We can’t wait anymore!” With the intention of validating their feelings and engaging their interests, I responded… Me: “I know, it’s sooo hard to wait when you’re really excited to be going to one of your favorite places. I totally get it! What are you looking forward to the most?”


Daughter: “I want to see the Lego 4-D movie. Madeline saw it and said it was so good! And, I want to drive those fun cars and get my drivers license!”

I felt myself becoming irritated, frustrated and worried that this day we all looked forward to wasn’t heading in the direction I had anticipated. Son: “I want to do the new Ninjago ride…you get to shoot stuff…And I want to go on that Feeling this avalanche of negativity, I took twisty roller coaster!” some deep breaths and reminded myself I had a choice. I could choose to act on these Me: “That sounds super fun! I’m excited to negative thoughts and feelings by threatendo all those things too! You know what? Dading to turn the car around, yelling, getting dy and I could really use your help. We all impatient, telling them how lucky they are to want to have a fun day, right? (Both kids go to such a fabulous place OR I could mind- agreed).

To make our day extra fun, where everyone gets along, what do we need to remember about how we behave at Legoland? Son: “We have to be good listeners.” Me (laughing, as he knows me well :)): “Yes, Daughter: “Yes, FBN!” and what does that mean? What does being a Me: “Mmmm, I haven’t heard that one. What good listener look like?” does it stand for?” Son: “It means that when you ask us to do something or stop doing something we do what’s being asked the first time and that we have respectful behavior.”

Daughter: “Friends Be Nice.” Son: “Or K and R for Kindness and Respect.” (This is a phrase we commonly refer to when behavior gets wild :)).

Respect is something we talk about often.

Me: “I love these! Ok, you guys said that to have a fun, easy day, we all need to rememMe: “Yes, thank you. What else will make our ber to listen to what’s being asked and follow day fun and super easy?” directions the first time, be respectful of each other, take turns with rides, keep our hands Daughter: “That we take turns with rides and to ourselves and be kind to each other. are kind to each other.” Me: “Yes, love it, anything else?”

Son: “Keeping our hands to ourselves.” Me: “These are some awesome ideas guys, thank you for helping us come up with them. What happens if we start to get a little tired or hot or bored and we forget some of these ideas? Should we come up with a special code (a word or signal) that can remind us to get back on track?”

Did I forget anything? (Both said no). If Daddy or I see you’re getting off track or if one of us gets off track, we can say “FBN!” or “K and R!” to remind us about our agreement. How does that sound?” Both kids: “Great!”

Respect is something we talk about often.


Asking Vs. Telling The beauty of this lies in the ‘asking versus telling’ and discussing it all ahead of time. And, guess what? It only took a few minutes! You may be wondering, “Why not just tell them what you expect?” Whenever I’ve done that in the past, I’ve found it falls on deaf ears and only creates a disconnect between me and the kids (not to mention some resentment.)

Plus, who likes being told what to do all the time? So, instead, I choose to express faith in my kids ability to make good choices by coming up with “rules,” or more respectfully, “agreements,” that will benefit all of us. Engaging them in this way meets their need for belonging and significance, while fostering the essential life skills of decision-making and problem-solving. This simple question also allows them to feel part of the solution, rather than the problem. It’s a true “win-win.” Give it a try and let me know how it works for you. Expect a little push back the first few times. It’s a new skill, which, like everything else, takes time, patience and lots of practice! All the best, Debbie

Debbie Zeichner, LCSW

Debbie Zeichner, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Parent Coach who has specialized in working with adults, children and families for over 18 years. As a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and Mindful Parenting practitioner, Debbie facilitates engaging parenting classes, workshops and individualized coaching to support parents in creating a greater sense of calm, confidence and connection within themselves and their families. In addition, Debbie is also trained in the Mindful Schools curriculum and offers mindfulness training to youth in schools and within her community.

To learn more about Debbie and her parent coaching services, please visit:

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Help Your Child Listen, Think & Act W I T H O U T N A G G IN G O R Y E L L IN G by Ariadne Brill

Walking into our mudroom I noticed three of every-

But I didn’t go looking for a megaphone.

thing on the floor. Jackets, backpacks, sweaters, folders,

Because as proud graduates of “Put your Shoes Away 101”

snack boxes and shoes. So many shoes….A quick estima-

and “Special Topics In Jacket Hanging: From Theory to

tion put the count at about 11 scattered shoes…( why do 3

Practice” my children know what the hooks and cubbies

tiny feet need so many shoes?!).

in the mudroom are for.

I had walked into a truly overwhelming mess.

Sometimes children don’t do what they are supposed to do. An d this can be fr ustr ating. It can

I stepped out of the room and saw my three children re-

bring up nagging, screaming, and threats of consequenc-

laxed, playing, giggling and totally carefree. As if that

es too.

mess didn’t even exist. Like that mess was going to take care of itself. Or maybe they thought I would handle it?

But often children don’t do what they are supposed to because they are immersed in something else. In this

OH no...that’s not how we do things around this house.

case, my kids were just totally relaxing after a long day of school. They were happy to be home. I was happy they

Could a megaphone get my kids into ac-

were home too - but not so happy about the floor being


covered in jackets and shoes.

Hang your coats! Pick up your folders!

Often our perspectives and that of our

Snack boxes in the sink - STAT!

children are so very different.


“Noticing” means we can create Where we see messes, our children just see their belongings. Many children see their homes as safe spaces, and

opportunities for our children to listen, think and act.

they can’t wait to just drop their stuff into the giant cubby they call home and simply get on with important things

Noticing reduces confrontations and power struggles.

like rest and play. Because noticing isn’t about power but instead about em-

And this is where the positive discipline tool of Noticing can save the day:

powering our children to do their best with the information and skills that they have. Using “I notice” instead of nagging, allows you to be kind, firm and respectful while providing opportunities for

If you find yourself annoyed, overwhelmed or maybe very frustrated with an undone chore, a mess, an out of place sock or three…

your child to listen, think and feel capable. These are key components of Positive Discipline. Remember how there were 11 scattered shoes in the mud-

Try giving “I notice” a go:

room? Well, after “I noticed” that big mess, my kids jumped into clean up mode. That’s when I realized my

 I notice th r ee backp ack s on th e gr oun d instead of their hooks.

son was hobbling about with just one shoe on!! I couldn’t help but smile. He looked up at me and said “I notice you

 I notice jack ets gettin g cr u m pled o n the floor . are smiling mama! When I am done with cleaning up my  I notice shoes scatter ed an d block ing m y w ay

stuff can we play a game?” Sure, I had answered him. What are we playing? “One shoe monsters!!!!” Quickly

into the laundry room.

the mess was gone -all nagging and power struggles free Noticing can offer children information without

and we had plenty of time to play.

the negativity of nagging. When we notice and communicate, we automatically

Noticing, like all the positive discipline tools are so in

show faith in our children. Faith that our child will be

tune with what children need to feel and grow well. It is

able to listen and make a choice that is responsible and

amazing what can happen in your home and family when


you take the time to teach skills, trust children to do their best and welcome their cooperation.

Noticing means we activate in our children the possibility of repairing a mistake without feeling shamed or

Happy Noticing….Peace & Be Well, Ariadne


Ariadne Brill Ariadne is the mom to two boys and one girl. She is a Certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator and her specialty is helping parents find more calm and confidence on their parenting journey. Ariadne has training in Psychology, child development, communication and family counseling.

Let’s Connect!

Connect with Ariadne over at the Positive Parenting Connection, an 23online resource for parents and caregivers dedicated to promoting peaceful, playful and positive parenting. Positive Parenting Connection

A Tale of Two Siblings . . . And 6 Tips for Peaceful, Cooperative Sibling Relationships By Marcilie Smith Boyle

This tale is true. And recent. Although names have been changed to protect the (somewhat) innocent. We were boarding a plane, on our way back from Spring break. My two daughters were in front of me, moving down the aisle toward our row, and arguing about who would get the window seat. I was trying to stay out of it but felt quite self-conscious as they passed aisle after aisle of people eavesdropping on their argument. (Would these eavesdroppers know that I was a Parenting Coach? I hoped not!)

The older one: “You got the window seat last time. It’s my turn!” The younger one: “But you got it on the longer stretch to Miami! I only got the short stretch!” The younger one, who also had the advantage of going first down the aisle, moved into our row first, and took her seat at the window. The older one sat next to her, and continued to argue her position. My son took the aisle seat next to my daughters, while my husband and I sat across the aisle on the same row.

The argument got louder. So I tried my favorite “phrase that pays” in such situations: “I see two girls and only one window seat. What can you do to solve this problem?” Older daughter replies, “Jessie can just move over!” Younger one says, “Serena can give me a turn!” Dang. Phrase did not pay.

No tool works every time, with every child, in every situation. That’s why you need many tools! Argument continues, louder. Mom’s embarrassment increases. I look over and see that my older daughter is now pressing her whole body (which is about 2.5 x’s the size and weight of younger daughter’s) over into my younger daughter’s seat, squashing her into the corner. In my best “whisper-yell” (you know what I’m talking about, right?), I say, “Serena, what are you DOING?!! You’re squashing your sister!” (So much for the question.) Serena replies, “I’m not squashing her. I’m just trying to see out the window.” “Really?” I ask, incredulously. I get up from my seat, lean over into their space, look them both in the eye and say very firmly but calmly, “I know you two can come up with something that’s fair for everyone. Once the seat belt sign goes off, I’ll come back to hear what you’ve come up with.”

And what do you know? They did. It took a bit more squabbling, and me biting my tongue (it helped that I was locked into my seat during takeoff,) but by the time the seat belt sign went off, they both looked at me and gave me the “thumbs up.”

Why were they able to figure it out? For sure there’s some luck here, but also, we’ve been training for these moments for years. Here are some of the elements of our work out: Teach siblings tools for conflict resolution and compromise for exam ple, “I Statements” (see image next page), taking turns, rock-paper-scissors, pick a number, and Wheel of Choice to name a few. It’s so easy to just yell, “Stop fighting!” But that kind of edict doesn’t help kids learn what they can do when they’re angry at each other. “Put them in the same boat.” This Positive Discipline tool is simply about treating siblings evenly. (As in #3 below.) When parents rush in to pity the victim and vilify the bully, we push our kids even farther to opposite corners of the ring. Describe what you see without judgment, and then invite them to find a solution. For example, “I see two kids and one window seat.” No judgment, no blame, no victims, no bullies. I followed it up with, “What can you do to solve this problem?” OK, it didn’t work this time. But often it does! Express faith in your kids’ ability to solve problems. I did this by saying, “I know you two can come up with something


Give siblings some space to work things out for themselves. that’s fair for everyone. Once the seatbelt sign goes off, I’ll come back to hear what you’ve come up with.” Give siblings some space to work things out for themselves. When we parents jump in and solve our kids’ problems for them, they don’t get the opportunity to practice solving problems for themselves.

As long as you’re willing to reflect on your parenting, and learn from mistakes, you’re doing an amazing parenting job. Who cares what other people think?! Click here to leave a comment. I always enjoy hearing your thoughts and questions!

Stop worrying about what other people think of your parenting skills. Wow, this is a hard one for me, but I find that when I parent to win the approval of others, I make some pretty bad decisions. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that my kids’ squabbles aren’t always so nicely resolved. (See “The Surprising Parenting Lesson from My Morning from Hell”) But even when they don’t have happy endings, we are all learning along the way. And that’s what it’s all about.

Marcilie Smith Boyle Marcilie coaches high achieving parents and professionals toward authentic success so that they can live, work, and parent with more peace, purpose, and joy. A Certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator and Life & Leadership Coach, she leverages her previous sixteen-year consulting and marketing career to ensure her clients get a return on their coaching investment. Marcilie earned her MBA from Harvard Business School, and CPCC from The Coaches Training Institute. She offers 1:1 and group coaching (live or via phone/Skype) on topics such as parenting, work/ life balance, career transition, and leadership as well as “Parenting with Positive Discipline” More info here.

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Don’t Believe The Holiday Hype By Paige Michaelis What do you want for YOUR family this holiday season?

Have you ever felt that way? For me it is a weight on my right shoulder, as if I have a parrot resting there. I want it to go away and keep Over the summer I moved from one community willing it to do so, but that doesn’t usually work to another and in this new community, there is a so well and I end up in this process of fighting lot more pressure to “do as my neighbors do” with myself. and “go big” for the holidays. Usually once I take a breather and get some It is funny that I can already tell this is the case, clarity, I remember that one way to eliminate but it is true. I have been told, “If you don’t buy that “parrot” is to work through the process Halloween candy early, it will literally be ALL here. I hope it might help you too: GONE” or, “You MUST register for holiday Ask yourself this one question: activities for the children WAY in advance”. I almost feel like someone is going to say, “DON’T even THINK about seeing Santaever!” LOL. With this move, I am feeling pressured to perform and to keep up.

I can literally feel the weight of this pressure on me.

What do I want the holidays to look and feel like? This is about getting clear on YOUR values, not someone else’s. It is about what YOU (and your co-parent) want for YOUR family. Truthfully, do you know anyone who really enjoys running around crazy 27

At the end of the day no one will remember the turkey or the fact that you ran yourself ragged finding the perfect gift.

looking for the perfect this and the perfect that?

Not slaving over the kitchen 24/7?

Ok, maybe there ARE some people, but I would All can be discussion points to share and process venture a guess that many are probably living up to through with your children. what they think they are “supposed” to do or have felt And, I say, too bad if they’re different from other pressured into doing. people’s values. I decided years ago that I wasn’t going to buy This is YOUR family. It can be what you everyone a present anymore. We couldn’t afford it, want it to be. nor did I enjoy it, so I stopped doing it. Have fun, and ENJOY yourself. If this means you buy Did it bother some people? Yes it did. Was it a shift the Thanksgiving dinner from the grocery store for my family? Yes it was. instead of cooking, then make it happen. But I didn’t feel aligned with our family values when Or if it means that you don’t visit every relative while we were doing this, so we stopped (and had to you’re in town, then so be it. At the end of the day no explain WHY to a few folks..) one will remember the turkey or the fact that you ran When a family gets clear on THEIR yourself ragged finding the perfect gift. What will be values, the decisions to DO or NOT DO remembered is you relaxing and laughing with the come much more easily. kids, engaging with your relatives, playing games, having conversations, and truly BEING with your If it is helpful, here is a sample family values exercise values driven family. for you - here. Once you get clear on your family values, let your children know WHY you are making the choices you are. 

Not buying a multitude of expensive presents?

Not going into debt over the holidays?

Not seeing Grandma?

So don’t believe the hype. Create your OWN hype, just for YOU and YOUR family and have a great holiday season!

Warmly, Paige

Paige Michaelis Paige Michaelis is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator, Coach and the Founder of 1 Minute Mommy. She is also the mother of two amazing girls and wife to a very child-like husband. She can be found at .

Fostering Holiday Giving & Gratitude While living in a in a Commercialized Culture By Kelly Pfeiffer The holiday season is upon us. If you’re like me, you may look towards the winter holidays with a mixed bag of feelings – excitement, stress, joy, dread. I know you are the kind of parent who wants to create meaningful experiences for your child. Like me, you may be wondering . . . how can we add more enjoyment to our holidays? How can we create a meaningful holiday for our children without wearing out ourselves?

Whatever holiday or holidays you do celebrate throughout the year, I’d like to offer a suggestion to make them more meaningful by seeing your child as a giver, not just a receiver.

How can children grow their “giving” skills and attitudes if they get plenty of opportunities to receive gifts, but rarely get opportunities to give gifts?

How can we teach a child the true merits of any holiday celebration among the shininess of commercialism?

As parents, we want kids to experience the joy of selfless acts and to internalize that it is truly better to give than to receive, but how do we foster those attitudes and actions? It isn’t always easy in a world filled with stuff, fluff and ads for more stuff. Here are some ideas to spark your thinking about what “gifts” you really want to give your child and your family in the coming weeks. There’s no need to agree with every idea or to implement all of them. I only invite you to “begin with the end in mind” (as Stephen Covey suggests) and make small changes that fit with your own personal style and your family traditions.

Give Children Opportunities to Give

If your holiday customs involve gift giving, make this holiday season more meaningful by giving your child opportunities to truly contribute to some gifts for others. 29

A few concrete examples are: Make Gifts with Your Child: Set aside time to work alongside your child making a gift for family members. There are so many possibilities for this and of course, it depends on the age of your child. Even preschoolers can contribute to baking cookies and other cooking tasks.

Get supplies for Your Child to Make a Gift

Create a Family Gratitude Ritual for the Holidays An article on the website, Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, reports on the recent research touting the benefits of adding gratitude as a life habit. Among the spinoffs cited, a mindful gratitude practice can improve the immune system plus add more joy, optimism and happiness to one’s life. Consider adding a large dose of gratitude to your family’s holiday plans.

There are endless ways to include gratitude into family rituals for the holidays. I’ll list just Think through this idea to make sure that your expectations are not too out of range for a few here. If you want to see more, go to Pinterest and search for my board collection your child. For a super simple gift, ask your called “Gratitude Rituals & Project Ideas.” child to create a piece of artwork and buy an Gratitude Vision Board - Hang a piece of postinexpensive frame for it. er board or butcher block paper on a wall in Family Project Idea– Make Fleece Scarfs. One your home and label it “Gratitude.” Each day, ask family members to write, draw or add a year I took my kids to the fabric store to choose a piece of fleece fabric for each relative. photo to the “Gratitude Board.” They had fun choosing colors and patterns that they thought each relative would like. We took the fleece fabric home and I showed my kids how to cut into the ends of the fabric a number of times to create “fringe” on the ends of each fleece “scarf.” Then I showed them how to wrap the gifts and they wrapped them. These warm scarves can also be made to give to homeless shelters.

Mealtime Gratitude Expression – Each time the family sits down together for a meal, ask each person to name one thing for which he/ she is grateful.

Gratitude Playlist – Ask your family to contribute song ideas for a gratitude playlist. When you’re traveling in the car, play the songs!

Family Project Idea 2 – Make Bird Feeder Su- Take Interesting, meaningful family photos all year long. et Shapes: Give these as gifts to relatives or homebound friends. The ideas of family bonds, gratitude and celebration of our values and beliefs can be etched permanently in a child’s mind by creating memorable images. Use photography (with

 The ideas of family bonds, gratitude and celebration of our values and beliefs can be etched permanently in a child’s mind by creating memorable images.

any camera or a smartphone camera) and your family’s imagination to design and snap photos or slideshows that capture positive values aligned with your holiday beliefs, values and traditions. Photos can be silly, poignant, spoofy, or whatever fits for your family. Capture meaningful family rituals in photos as well. A picture says a thousand words. Have fun and bond by getting the whole family involved with ideas for taking photos that communicate your family’s unique qualities and gratitude for each other. I wish for you a meaningful holiday season and a few magical moments with your family. Kelly

Kelly Pfeiffer A Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer, Kelly teaches live interactive workshops to parents and child care providers on child development, social-emotional skills, selfcare for parents, conflict resolution for families and Positive Discipline tools. She’s authored over 100 web articles on child development topics, blogs about Positive Discipline parenting and also teaches creative writing as a writer artist in residence in elementary schools. Kelly is mom/step-mom to two teenagers and two young adults.


What Children Are Really Saying When You Hear “It’s Not Fair” By Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW It’s Not Fair! Ever heard those words from your child? Remember saying them yourself? With two children in the home, I have the opportunity to hear that whiny jingle quite frequently.

Why is this the go to phrase? What are they really saying? And, how do I respond with something other than the dreaded, “Life isn’t fair, son?" Imagine if your boss held the power to decide what you ate, when you ate, who you sat next to, and whether or not you got a treat at the end. Not only that, but the person at the cubicle next to you gets to have a longer lunch break...because they are older than you. What might you say to yourself, your boss, or anyone else you can find? All together now, “It’s Not Fair.”

times. It’s not all about being “controlled” though. Families who have worked to find constructive uses of power for children, giving them choices and involving them in decision making, still hear those three little words. One of the most common times we hear this phrase is when our children think someone else is getting something that they are not. Someone else gets to stay up later, someone else doesn’t have to eat broccoli, and someone else gets to have ice cream. Even worse is when the other person is a sibling! I believe there are two key reasons why kids (and adults) go to this phrase:

1) We are born with a belief that this is a just world, where every person is worthy of having It’s easy to understand why children feel pow- their needs met. Yes, we grow up and realize that, sadly, we won’t get all of our needs met erless. So much is decided for them that at

all of the time, but down deep, we want to believe the world is just. 2) We compare. One of the earliest ways babies make sense of their world is through sorting. We continue doing this comparing throughout life as a check-in, asking ourselves, am I normal? Am I loved the same? Am I worthy of what that person is worthy of? Siblings seem to be the perfect specimen for comparing ourselves to.

Jane Nelson, of Positive Discipline, says it so well: “Children are great observers, but poor interpreters.” Children pick up on subtle nuances that many adults miss. They often have mistaken beliefs as to why something is happening. As adults, we know that fair does not mean equal. We know that judging ourselves and others usually leads to feeling worse instead of better, and creates a competitive environment instead of a cooperative one. Here’s something else adults know: Life is, in fact, unfair. We know this from the horrible injustices that occur all around us. We shield our children from this though. We avoid the hard conversations; we don’t want them to ask why some children are born in to poverty and violence.

at our kids and think, “do you even understand how fortunate we are to have what we have?” The problem is, we have a role in this too. As we do things for our kids that they are capable of doing for themselves, as we rescue them from difficult emotions and never let them fail, they never get to see that life is full of challenges. Even more importantly, they miss the opportunity to develop resilience-the tools to handle hard emotions and the belief in one’s ability to use those skills.

What Are They Really Saying When They Say It’s Not Fair? Picture in your mind some little thing that seemed unfair to you recently. Does your inner child say, “It’s not fair,” as you think about it? Any feelings of anger or jealousy showing up? Often what lies underneath the anger is something different: fear. Somewhere in our brains, our sense of safety is threatened. We are afraid someone is loved more than us. What could possibly be worse than wondering if your parents love your sibling more than you? This plays out in all of those situations where we feel powerless and out of control.

I think one of the reasons “It’s not fair” pushes our buttons so much as parents is that we look Thinking to ourselves, "Someone else is deciding my fate." Feeling the fear doesn’t mean that we rationally believe in it. Nevertheless, in that moment, the feeling is there. We don’t like feeling afraid though. It feels well, scary! It feels overwhelming and powerless. To many of us, anger feels better. It feels powerful. Jealousy and judgment feel more powerful too, so its pretty easy to see why we go to those feelings first. 33

Let me guess, you are saying to yourself, “My child does not seem scared, she seems needy and helpless.” Sometimes it seems those 3 words are code for “I am not getting what I want and I don’t like it.” I think these still have a deep down fear attached. It goes back to that overdoing for our kids, and the mistaken belief that comes from doing too much for them. Our children start believing that the way to feel connected and loved is to have us providing special service for them.

Bottom line, “It’s Not Fair,” is actually a code for “I am feeling scared.” Do our kids know that’s what they mean? Most likely, the deeper fear is not a conscious thought for them. Even as adults, we often don’t realize that the same thing is happening in our moments of jealousy and “poor me”.

So now we have a better understanding of “It’s Not Fair” here are some tips for how to respond in the moment. (And how to help your child work through their feelings.) Create a family culture where each family member feels connected and know their thoughts and feelings matter. You can do this through the positive discipline tool of family meetings. And including children in problem solving and decision making, practicing active listening skills and making sure the message of love gets through even when kids make mistakes.

responsibility allows them to have some constructive use of power. I am continually amazed how cooperation increases and whining decreases when we up the level of chores our kids help with. Our children get to pick a significant new chore on their birthday each year, and they really look forward to having a greater sense of ownership in their home and life. Show Empathy. 

“Sounds like you really are enjoying that ice cream and wish you could have more.”

“Sounds like you are feeling angry that you didn’t get as much ice cream as you wanted.”

Avoid the Urge to Lecture. Start with one empathetic statement and let it sit. So often, we just keep talking. Trust Your Child’s Ability to Handle Discomfort Your child may continue complaining and trying to change the outcome of the situation.

When children, and adults for that matter, feel a sense of belonging and significance, they Your job is to stay out of negotiating in the feel less helpless and more of an active partici- moment, unless you are really open to changpant in life. ing the outcome. Give your child opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways. Giving our children more

You can continue to offer more empathy, share a time where you felt that something

was really unfair, offer to help them explore how they can solve the problem, or ask if this is something they would like to put on the family meeting list to discuss at a calmer time.

the boundaries on their behavior.

The conversation might look like this:

If we acknowledge feelings and then think of ways to reframe the situation in a positive perspective, we teach our children how to do that as well.

Child: It’s not fair; Sara gets to stay up later than I do! Why does she always get to do more than me? Parent: Sounds like you are feeling angry that you have an earlier bedtime than your sister.

It’s important to keep in mind though that children learn so much more from what we do than from what we say.

Focusing on the positive helps us feel empowered instead of hopeless, and models for our kids resilience in action.

Child: I should get to stay up that late too! I want to stay up until she goes to bed tonight.

Have a Conversation Around Fairness. Share with each other what your definition of fair is. Ask the children what fair means to them. Parent: I remember that my brother got to stay up later than me, and it bothered me too. Share times that you felt jealous or that life was unfair and what helped you move Child: (crying) So then why are you doing this through those feelings. to me? Please mom, please let me stay up toThis conversation is most helpful when NOT in night? the midst of a major "It's Not Fair" meltdown Parent: I know you are upset, and its time for from child or parent. bed. I'm looking forward to reading to you Small discussions in calm moments can help when you are in your PJs. your children develop their own concept of At this point, your child may be upset, and it justice, which will grow and change along with can be hard to see. Trust them. Trust them their own development. Hopefully reducing that they can be mad, sad, jealous, or any oth- the familiar sound of “It’s not fair!” er emotion and they will get through it. They will be ok, and so will you. You can still be empathetic to their feelings, without letting go of

Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW is a parent coach, speaker and author in the Seattle area. She provides parents with the tools they need to raise healthy children and find more joy in parenting. Check out her blog ( for more great tips on common parenting challenges. 35

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Questions &Answers with Positive Discipline Educators & Trainers


I read Nathan M McTague’s article in your fall 2016 issue of Compass and am just compelled to ask, “How then do you respond when one of your children pulls the other one’s hair ‘for the umpteenth’ time?” He presented that example of a conflict and talked about why it doesn’t make sense to punitively discipline the child for that action. So what practical example/solution would he suggest? How does the sibling who got their hair pulled react if you do not stand up for him/her and make it clear that they shouldn’t hurt each other? Thanks, Celena D. mother of three in MT


Thanks very much for your letter. It’s super fun to get to respond to a reader’s thoughts regarding a previous article.

To begin with, let me say, I totally agree with you that “Discipline without Disciplining” is a conceptual piece more than a step-by-step how-to. That was by design, because for me, the concept and it’s underpinnings were more important than a list of to-do’s which might vary from family to family depending on lots of other factors. But this simple notion -- that trying to “teach them a lesson” (with coercion or punishment) often blocks our kids from being able to hear, remember, and learn the lesson.

However, I get that you now have the concept, and you’re looking for how to apply it. And I’m happy to oblige in providing you with some ideas! So, to begin with, remember that what we’re trying to do is prime our children’s brains to be able to receive, assimilate, and store information about how we would prefer that they conduct themselves.


In the example I used, and to which you refer in your letter when one sibling pulls the other’s hair again, I’d suggest (and in our home, we would do) the following:

ing, they are neurally compelled to act out (it’s usually not as much choice as it is reflex). So, if we can retrace that line back to the source(s), then we can help our children get their needs met in ways we’d prefer and/or that keep everyKeep Everyone Safe – We’ll let our children one safe, etc.. Maybe the hair-puller needs to argue for a pretty long while before we intervene, wrestle, or to feel significant, or to stop the sibbut if safety is an issue, we move in immediately ling from taking a toy. These are all legitimate and put ourselves in between the warring parties. needs that can be met in other ways, and needs We’ve never had to, but in some families, if the that might remain unmet if we don’t engage at two kids have gone nuclear and can’t calm down this level. enough to stop trying to hurt one another, some period of further separation may be in order. So long as it doesn’t become a punishment, that seems reasonable.

If we just punish to stop the “bad behavior”, we haven‘t met the need or assuaged the feelings, so some other “bad behavior” is coming soon from the same sources – guaranteed.

Empathize with Both Parties – We usually start by addressing the injured one, but maintain proximity, touch, and/or an open posture with the hair-puller (or what have you…) as well, and after hearing out the former, offer the latter empathy, too. We ask the first if she is “all right”, if she feels “scared” or “angry” or “upset”, and wait to hear the full response, rubbing her back or holding her hand if that feels welcome, until she’s finished for the moment. We then ask the Sometimes the unmet need is just to let out some second if she’s “all right”, if she felt “angry”, or “scared”, or “upset” when she pulled her sister’s stuffed feelings and get some connection, which the above processes will also provide. hair, etc.. Then keep going back and forth, unwinding the layers of feelings involved and leading up to the incident, making room for each – In the Positive Discipline series from not trying to fix anything, just listening. In this process we’re seeking to help make room for Dr. Jane Nelsen you can find the misthem to let out their feelings about the experitaken goals chart to help decode these ence (and any other stored emotions hanging out unmet needs. near the surface). Mine for Unmet Needs – Processing feelings together presents us with the opportunity to “take a look under the hood” of our children’s brains, often revealing some of their otherwise hidden inner workings. When listening to our kids name their feelings, we can check to see if those feelings might be associated with some underlying unmet need(s) they may be/have been carrying. The psyche works in such a way that when our kids have unmet needs, they feel bad, and in order to discharge the uncomfortable feel-

Then, of course, as much as we’re able, we want to help meet whatever outstanding needs remain. Share Information / Make Requests – When, and only when, the feelings have been processed, and unmet needs addressed, and upper brain capacity restored, and all parties back in a co-operative state, will we give our kids all the information they need about how we’d prefer them to handle themselves; boundaries we want

to claim, renegotiate, or clarify; social customs around respecting others; and/or anything else generally helpful for them to know concerning what just happened. This is also a good time to see if either party has a request for how they’d like things to go in the future, and/or to solve the “issue” if there still is one. We usually find that after processing the feelings and restoring optimal brain chemistry, the “issue” dissolves, but sometimes there’s still a little something to figure out, and that’s done more easily because everyone’s creative upper brains are back online! In the case of the hair-pulling again, the hairpuller has seen the pain caused, and instead of being sent away to muse on her own feelings, she’s been at hand to see and feel the empathy offered and the processing of emotion happening for her sibling (from which she has received some mirror neuron benefit as well). She then has been helped with her own feelings, instead of being ousted with them, and had the opportunity to have her unmet needs addressed as well. Her brain has shifted to a more ready learning state and she is open to information and to choosing compassionate actions toward others.

When we say something to this child, she is able to hear it, assimilate it, and remember it. And in this state, she might even want to. Therefore, this is the only moment since the altercation began when it makes sense to make a request, or claim hair-pulling out of bounds.

The other question was about how the injured party would react if we “do not stand up for him/her and make it clear that they shouldn’t hurt each other”. In my experience, unless children are taught to think of retribution as their only solace, kids don’t hope for each other to get punished. They hope for getting along more easily with each other, and this process provides for that in ways that retributive justice never could. Furthermore, the urge for revenge is a


lower brain response to emotions like antagonism or powerlessness. When we process those feelings instead, the brain doesn’t need to act out to feel better. If they’ve been trained to think of punishment as necessary for correction or restoration, then there may be some resetting of expectations to do. For families who have used punishment in the past, I often suggest a discussion ahead of time about the intended shift away from punishment. Then, if/when one of the children says the other should get a time-out or a spanking or whatever, it’s easy to just remind them of this new approach. If you’re used to relying on punishment, it make take some getting used to this approach before it begins to feel natural.

One reason we parents go for punishment is to do something with our own feelings. To help ease that impulse, we can use “self-empathy” – simply naming the feelings we’re noticing in ourselves (angry, frustrated, scared, etc.) without delving into the story underneath; and we can rub our own arm or shoulder as we name the feelings to add some brain-calming touch. It sounds weird, but it totally works! For further readings on this topic from Nathan, you can visit his site. If you’d like a cool tool to help you and your children process feelings as described above, go here before January 1st 2017, to receive a special 30% discount on the Feeleez poster -- for Compass readers (enter promo code “COMPASS”). Thanks again for writing in, Celena! We’re glad to get mail and be able to speak specifically to our readers’ interests and needs. Be well, Nathan M

Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE Nathan is a life coach, parenting mentor, and certified positive discipline parent educator, committed to empowering people to reach their greatest potentials in family, work, and life. He is the cofounder of the Center for Emotional Education and cocreator of the Center’s line of emotional support and education tools, Feeleez.

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Compass Positive Discipline Magazine Winter 2016-2017  
Compass Positive Discipline Magazine Winter 2016-2017  

Positive Discipline, encouraging gratitude, reduce stress during the holidays, learn tools that increase happiness. Encourage kids to Listen...