Community Education Family Parenting Relationships

#39: Working On So You Can Be A Better Parent with Debbie Zeichner, Parent Coach And Educator

Links for this episode:

Daniel Siegel- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Jane Nelsen – Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills

Laura Markham – Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting (The Peaceful Parent Series)

Debbie.  A mom of an 8-year old daughter and an 11-year old son, a wife, and a friend to many.

She’s so passionate with what she does. Professionally, she’s a mindfulness educator, a parent coach – teaching positive discipline, where these passions became a core part of who she is.

She’s a licensed social worker and has done a lot of parenting work prior to having her kids. That made her think parenting is going to be easy and even said she was the absolute perfect parent, until she got kids. Parenting was not as easy as she thought it would be.

Parent Coach. The anxiety of being a new mom made her dive further into the parenting work she’s done. She just couldn’t get enough of learning and growing as a parent. She and her husband were so enthused with what they were learning when introduced to parenting courses like Redirecting Children’s Behavior and Positive Discipline. It gave change and they started to grow and evolve, and their children started to listen more. That’s when she got trained for both and she started to open up her own parent coaching practice to share all the tools and knowledge with other parents.

Positive Discipline. It is a model that’s rooted on encouragement, empowerment and mutual respect. It’s a model that supports parents to learn how to be both kind and firm at the same time – it’s not permissive and it’s not authoritarian. It’s parenting in that kind of middle ground.

We’re kind out of respect for our child and to ourselves. Kids need limits and boundaries and we set them with an understanding that our child deserves respect.

What she loves most about this discipline is that it’s helping our children learn to choose to do the right thing when no one is watching. We’re so accustomed to threats, bribes, rewards, and all these things that it kind of takes a shift for us to see things differently.

It’s also a model that takes into account a child’s development and brain development. Understanding that our children are doing the best that they can with the skill that they have. And since they’re young, they don’t have all the skills that they need to get their needs met. Behavior is really a form of communication, since our children have limited cognitive development and experience they don’t have the skills to help tell us what it is that they need or want or feeling in a way that we would want or hope.

Discipline is a way of approaching behavior that respects the child and where the child is while being able to set those limits and boundaries needed.

Power Struggle. This happens because there’s this mismatch between our agenda and our child’s agenda. Once we understand that our child’s needs are important to them as ours are to us, it’s a much easier way to gain their cooperation.

Focus on connection – Connection before correction. Being able to empathize and validate what our child is experiencing and feeling. For example if you struggle feeding them with what you want they have for breakfast you can say, “I gave you eggs and you really wanted pancakes. When I put those on your plate that made you so frustrated. I wonder what we can do. Maybe tomorrow you can help me think of some breakfast idea that you would be willing to eat.”

Kids love to help and are natural pleasers. What happens is we tend to dictate and the power struggle ensues because the child feels threatened. In positive disciplining, it’s being able to identify and validate their frustration. As a parent you always have a say in what the choices are, but offering choices is one of the tools that meet a child’s need to feel significant and that they have something meaningful to contribute.

Positive Parenting. The main ones are focusing on connection. Being able to empathize with what their child is feeling and experiencing to be able to validate what they’re feeling.

If their kids is throwing a big tantrum, be able to say, “Oh my god you’re having such a hard time, I’m here for you. What do you need right now? How can I help you?” You can also set limits, “I can see that you’re really having a hard time right now, it’s okay to be angry and frustrated. It’s not okay to hit and kick me, so if you could just tell me what you need?”

There’s also special time – it’s the time you’ve devoted a one-on-one with your child and it can be as little as fifteen minutes a day. The more the better, but it doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. It could be something very simple. Ideally, it’s where you’re playing with your child which is so, so important. You’re letting them do the play and you follow their lead. This meets a child’s need for connection, to feel valued and significant. This should be spent without distractions, it’s just that one-on-one time telling your kid “I’m all yours” Anything can be a special time, as long as you have that intention to really be present with your child so that they feel seen, heard, respected and connected.

For parents who have struggles at bedtime, getting them to bed or getting them out the door in the morning. Establish a routine with your child. Kids want to give their opinion, especially in their pre-school years where they need to feel a sense of autonomy. You can say for example, “Listen, I’ve been noticing that we’re having such a hard time getting to school on time or getting out the door. You know what, I could really use your help. What are the things that we need to do so that we can get out the door on time” The paper is there with a paper and pen to really show that “What you say is really important to me” Gather these ideas with your child instead of “You’re going to do this”, “You’re going to do that”

For young children, she encourages taking a picture while the kids are doing each step of a routine. Put them on a vision board so they can see what those steps are – label it. The routine chart can be the boss.

When we meet our child’s the need, they then have much less need to act out and misbehave.

There’s no one right way in doing the special time, it’s about having that intention and doing what works for you and for your family.

Discipline. It means to teach and to guide. It’s all about teaching, guiding and giving our children the skills and the tools that they don’t yet have.

And oftentimes, discipline gets mixed with punishment, where punishment is much more focused on retribution or shame. This works short term but has long term consequences.

Parent’s struggle. A perfect parent doesn’t exist, so we have to be kind and compassionate to ourselves first and foremost.

Self-care is number one. It’s so important to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of our family. Along with that, our kids pay so much more attention to what we do than what we say. It’s so important that we’re modeling the very behavior that we want to see in them as they grow.

When parents choose to start from a place of respect. It really helps the child to internalize that. When we parent in a positive way, it allows a child to develop a secure attachment. If children feels securely attached it helps them develop that internal campus so that they then learn and experience what respect looks and feel like. That’s how they develop self-respect, self-discipline. They learn about kindness and compassion, allowing them to treat others the same. We tend to do better when we feel better.

It also helps a child develop a sense that they’re capable. It’s a sense that they’re confident, it helps them develop resiliency and adaptability.

We want our children to be happy, healthy, confident and that inner sense of “I can do it”, “I can handle this” which is so important in this day and age.

Right direction. We tend to do what’s been modelled to us and that’s where it takes a commitment.

When in doubt, use empathy and humor. Model that calm and confidence we want to see in our child helps them develop those skills they need.

Physical manifestations, like kicking, hitting, biting, screaming etc. are because children don’t have yet those other skills that’s able to make them express their feelings- that’s where our guidance comes in. We always say, “use your words” and it’s helpful for parents to give their child what words those are.

Learning how to respond in a thoughtful and skillful way as opposed to reacting in a more automatic or habitual way where it involves where our triggers are. We all have those things that kind of launch us into that unskillfull, unthinking behavior where we just fly off the handle. We have to be responsible and accountable for our own feelings. Our own experiences are our own triggers is yet another way of how we practice self-care.

How to learn more about Debbie:


Facebook: @DebbieZeichnerlcsw

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