Advocates’ new ‘gentle approach’ to discipline children

Kids at school

INDIANAPOLIS Ind. (WISH) – Advocates are emphasizing a more gentle approach for parents seeking a new way to discipline their children. The new style is called relationship-based parenting.

Relationship-based parenting is based on Dr. Dan Siegel’s research. He studies the effects of punishments like spankings and time-out on a child’s brain.

The idea behind the movement is to shift our thinking, “our kids are not giving ‘us’ a hard time, they are ‘having’ a hard time.”

According to D. Siegel’s research, instead of punishing them for having a hard time, parents need to use a gentle approach to help them understand and control their own behaviors and reactions. His research found that children learn self-regulation best when they are calm and collected, and have adults who help guide them.

24-Hour News 8’s Joe Melillo spoke with local a teacher, parent, and parent-educator, Malkah Bird. She suggests if you’re dealing with an irritated child to first figure out if there’s an underlying cause for the issue. Are they hungry, tired or hurt? Once you figure out the cause, deal with that while using empathy with your child. She says to try to understand their point of view, and then be there for them as they work through their emotions.

“Don’t get angry at them. Another tip is to use humor. If you feel the tension escalating, then use laughter to take power out of a stressful situation. Also, communication is important,” Bird said.

“Setting limits very clearly and calmly, using empathy when we set the limits,” said Bird. “So your [child] wants some more ice cream before dinner, we’re about to have dinner and you can’t have ice cream. Say something like, ‘it sounds really good to have ice cream, I wish I could have ice cream, it sounds delicious, but we’re not going to, we’re going to have dinner first then we can have ice cream together.’” said Bird. “So we set the limit; I said no but I did it with understanding and empathy.”

Malkah says it can be very hard for parents to switch their thinking. She says if you keep in mind the motto “our kids are not giving ‘us’ a hard time, they are ‘having’ a hard time” then it may be easier to be empathetic.

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