During the monthly "Lunch and Learn" series, which is held at Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center each month, Dr. Mary Kay Bowen M.D., presented a talk on Parenting and "Asking the Right Questions."
According to Dr. Bowen, if you are the parent of any child, you know that you learn something new everyday and that you don't really become an expert, you become a learner.
"That's what you what your kids to be too. Learners, positively motivated to learn," she said, adding, "The only way we do that is when we are encouraged and we feel good about ourselves. So, right away, let us get rid of the crazy idea that in order to make kids behave, first we have to make them feel worse."
Dr. Bowden next discussed the positive discipline techniques for parenting. Included in that were the following:
* Helps a child feel a sense of belonging and significance- Dr. Bowden pointed out that if the child does not belong to the group he/she is living with and doesn't feel connected, why would he or she feel responsible for some of the things the group does together? She added that the child is not going to engage in the group unless he feels like he belongs and is an important part of the group and that what he does affects all the group.
* Is mutually respectful- Kindness and firmness are two of the tools used. However, neither works alone. If you're too kind, you become a doormat. If you're too firm, you become a terrorist. These two need to be balanced, so the boundaries are clear for the children.
* Is effective long-term- Dr. Bowden pointed out that punishment does work, but only short term. Positive parenting works long term. "We want kids who are productive, happy contributing members to society and you won't get that by punishment. She added that punishment also causes rebellion, noting that when scolded, the child is actually thinking "I'm not going to do that no matter what." "And they dig in, and believe me toddlers and children always win over parents. They have much more determination and stamina than we do," she said, adding, "A very good principal is don't ever get involved in a power struggle." If involved in a power struggle, the best way to get out of a power struggle is to resign and stop talking. "Parents need to do that because kids need to learn that that's an appropriate response when you find yourself locked in a power struggle with someone," Dr. Bowen said, continuing, "You know that nothing good is going to come out of that time. You're both too emotionally engaged so you're not going to be thinking real well. So, the best thing in the world for a conflict or struggle is to resign. Go do something that makes you feel better, calms you and engages your higher function in the brain," she said.
* Teaches important life skills, respect and concern for others- Dr. Bowen noted that it is good for children to be assigned meaningful chores. Not only will they be learning something useful but they will also have a sense of belonging when they know they can make a real contribution to the family. It is also good to decide together what chores need to be done. And to teach and model mutual respect is to be kind and firm at the same time. Kind to show respect for the child and firm to show respect for yourself and the needs of the situation.
* Problem solving and cooperation- It is recommended to have family meetings. This is a way to solve problems with cooperation and mutual respect. Dr. Bowen adds that this is a key way to create a loving family atmosphere while helping children develop self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem solving skills.
According to Dr. Bowden, positive reinforcement works long term while punishment stops the behavior for the moment, leading to resentment, rebellion, revenge or retreat.
Four steps that will lead to winning cooperation of the child includes the following:
* Guess how your child is feeling and get into your child's world. Check with the child and see if your guess is right.
* Show understanding and to do this you don't have to agree with the child or condone the behavior. If at all possible, show an example of a time when you felt the same way.
* Share feelings about the situation in a non-accusing tone using the "I" messages. Children are more likely to listen to you after they feel heard.
* Work together on ideas so the problem will not occur in the future and to correct a present problem through a logical consequence.
According to Dr. Bowden, children should be taught that "misteaks r wunderful opurtunities to lurn! ....and have FUN!!