The best place to observe the wide range of parental discipline styles is any grocery store between the evening hours or four and seven. Here you will hear one mother screaming at her whining toddler, one father threatening to withdraw a privilege from his nine-year old, another mother bribing her children with treats and sweets if her children will only cooperate so they can finish their task quickly, and finally another father grabbing his preteen by the jacket as he walks/drags his son out of the store.
Do you want to improve your family life and discipline methods, even when faced with every day family hazards? Try implementing these two strategies based on how the brain works and human biology.
1. Eat, drink and breathe deeply.
The second worse time of the day for every family is in the evening, when all are transitioning and switching gears from the busy day into the evening time. For most people, children and parents alike, this is physiologically when the body is tired, needing more energy through nourishment and oxygen. Too often parents choose this time to run needed errands including grocery shopping. But neither children nor adults have the necessary physiological stamina to handle this seemingly mundane task.
What’s the solution? Before you go to the store, eat a snack, sing a song and dance a jig. Fear you would feel foolish engaging in such silly and childish behavior? Then drink a cup of herbal tea while your children drink a glass of milk and you all enjoy some raisins and peanuts. Then do ten jumping jacks or play tag or musical chairs. If this doesn’t sound like it fits your style either, then make up your own ritual. Just be sure that you include drinking and eating a modest amount of nourishing food (over indulging on sugar will only contribute to the physiological drag) and engage in a moderate amount of deep breathing. With children, the best way to get them to breathe deeply is by playing an active game for a short time. They will gladly participate! And if you can just lighten up a little and play a game, you not only will improve your oxygen level, you will also inspire a lighter spirit.
Now you and your children are ready to face the challenge known as shopping for groceries.
2. Choose an open position for growth and learning.
What you do and say either puts your child in an open position for learning and growth, or protection. New research of the human cell has revealed that a cell can only be in one of two positions: protection or growth. And since the brain is a system of cooperative cells, the brain is then only in a position of protection or growth.
Have you ever wondered why you must continually make the same kind of correction for your child’s repeated misbehavior? Are you tired of threatening or punishing your child, only to discover that you must repeat the same process many, many times? The reason is that you are using strategies that put your child into protection rather than asking your child to grow and learn. Your child perceives your scold, threat, or punishment as something he must protect himself against. He is not in the frame of mind to be open to learn and grow. Instead he is protecting himself from you. This may be shocking to learn. The last thing you want is for your child to feel as if she has to protect herself from you! In many parental situations when you scold, threaten or shame your child, you aren’t even thinking about anything other than trying to get your child to do what you want her do do. But your mindless behavior is perceived differently by your child. On a cellular level your child believes he must be in protection. He may comply with your request, but he has learned nothing. His mind is not in a state to learn, grow, and change. His mind simply goes into protection. With this new information perhaps you are less surprised that you must repeat the same correction, or threat, or punishment, over and over again. Your child’s brain is not in a learning state of mind.
What’s the solution? Stop doing the kinds of things that your child perceives as threatening. Make a simple request for what you want your child to do, rather than attempting to get your child stop doing what you don’t want. “Sit please.” “Use your inside voice please.” “Hold my hand and walk with me please.” Can you see how each of these requests keeps a child in an open position for growth and learning rather than “No standing.” “Quit shouting and screaming.” “No running.” It is equally important to use a neutral, calm, friendly tone of voice. How you speak to your child is as important as what you say. Remaining calm, friendly and engaged with your child, even during nonverbal times keep both of you in an open and growth state, rather than needing to retreat into a state of protection.
Now you are your child are ready to face any challenge you encounter at the grocery store and beyond.