Authors: Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph.D.
One of my sons has had a very difficult school year. He was lonely. Unhappy. Frustration turned to anger, and then outbursts spread from school to home. I was taken by surprise: where was my happy kindergartener?
Enter Stress-Free Discipline. This book, a shorter take on my favorite parenting book The Power of Positive Parenting by Glenn Latham, helped me identify what my son was feeling: stress. He was having a mental and emotional response to a situation—a new class with no friends. I had forgotten his primary love language was friendship. Had I tuned in to his needs and this book a little earlier, I would have realized the source of his behavior and addressed it sooner.
Basic Overview: Stress-Free Discipline takes a unique approach to helping parents train themselves: it teaches parents the motivations behind child responses. “Knowledge is always a great de-stressor,” they say (10). If parents learn to see what precipitates a child’s response (the trigger) then parents can help steer the consequences. In other words, how could I act as a parent to make it likely the behavior won’t occur again?
“Most behaviors that we consider inappropriate are simply part of child development” (11) is a theme throughout the entire book. My reactions as a parent change for the better when I have a firm handle on what age-typical reactions look like. I love that this book takes a scientific, behavioralist approach to parenting, asking me to track the responses of my children and seek out patterns in behavior. A more clinical view helps me emotionally detach from my frustration with my child and gives me a perspective of power. When I’m yelling or punishing, I feel powerless. Proactively coaching my child, on the other hand, gives me hope and self-respect.
Parts I Liked Best: Their big motto is “Behavior is communication; discipline is education.” I love this! My child’s actions are trying to tell me something, something about what he needs. My kids aren’t trying to irritate and hurt me, even if that happens. They are trying to meet needs. And discipline? It’s not about punishment—it’s about training.
There are chapters on how to model, role-play and apply these coaching principles to various situations. These ideas are helping me to have a long-term perspective on raising my little guy. My goal is to help him become a thoughtful, functioning adult, not just to stop his wiggles or fix an attitude problem.
How this Book Made an Impact in My Life: Although not revolutionary, I needed to be reminded about the importance of “time-in” or one-on-one time with each child. The authors assert that this may be the most important aspect in influencing behavior in children.
Building relationships builds desirable behavior. We can build relationships during all activities (housework to homework) by having a listening ear and quick smile for our children.
As I read this book, I came away with a real sense of hope. Hope in myself—that learning the skills of parenting is just like cultivating positive behavior in our kids. It can be learned! I feel like I can take every five pages from this book and apply a skill that will help me love my child and train him better.
As for my little guy, I am excited at the prospect of not introducing more stress into our lives through my reactions! So much of the bumps in parenting are normal according to the authors. This gives me greater patience and respect for my son, as well as for myself as a mom.
QUESTION: What connection have you seen in your life between the one-on-one time you’ve spent with your child and his or her behavior?
CHALLENGE: The next time your child acts out, ask yourself, “What need is this behavior communicating?”
Edited by Aubrey Degn and Sarah Monson.