I know some people would read chapter 2 of Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline and misconstrue its advice as impractical or permissive. If understood and applied as intended, though, this chapter offers very practical, properly-boundaried ways of gaining self-control. It cannot possibly be permissive, because permissiveness involves ignoring issues, and this chapter is about being in control of yourself so you can appropriately and lovingly respond to issues. Think about it; if you are aware of your own thoughts and feelings, you are capable of being in control of yourself and being self-disciplined. Then you can effectively discipline children, because you will be teaching what you know. As we discussed in chapter one, you cannot teach what you do not know. Self-control is very important, not just in our relationships with our children, but in our relationships with other people. In this chapter, Becky Bailey discusses what she calls "The Seven Powers for Self-Control." I will give a brief summary of each of them here.
Attention: What You Focus On, You Get More Of
So many of us (myself included) are guilty of focusing on what we do not want in a given situation rather than focusing on what we do want. This shift in focus can make all the difference in a situation. While adults are able to make a connection between a spoken "Don't do this" and the unspoken "Do this instead," young children (under about the age of five or six) are not cognitively capable of this yet. Many of us say things like "You've made a huge mess, just look at your bedroom!" or"Don't hit your brother!" In those examples, we are focused on the problem, not on finding a solution. Instead, it's best to focus on the specific action you want your child to take. For example, "It's time to clean up your room. Start by putting the blocks away," or "Use words to get your brother's attention. Say, 'I want to play with you.'" If you're upset, chances are your focus is on what you don't want, and it is helpful to take a moment to shift your focus to what you do want.
Love: See the Best in One Another
In any given situation, you can choose to assume positive or negative intentions on the part of others. Unfortunately, in situations with children, it is common for parents to assume negative intentions. "She's trying to manipulate me," or "He's out to embarrass me." Once we've decided what we think another person's intentions are, we respond based on that. So if we assign a negative intention, we are more likely to respond with frustration, impatience, or anger, whereas choosing to attribute positive intentions will help us respond more lovingly and patiently. I will quote Becky Bailey here because I think she says it very well: "You assume your tantruming child is trying to make your day difficult or is just mean. You see intentional acts of meanness instead of innocent mistakes. Alternatively, you could assume your child is hurting inside, needs some love, or is misbehaving because she lacks better skills for getting what she wants. The choice is yours. If you choose to attribute positive intentions, you will feel peaceful inside and can use that inner stability to form your response. If you choose to attribute negative intentions, you will feel inadequate yourself and bring less patience to your handling of the conflict."
Acceptance: This Moment Is As It Is
Many times in life, we waste our time and energy resisting the way things are because we are overly focused on how we think things "should" be. It makes more sense to accept the moment and respond from there. Please understand that acceptance doesn't mean you approve of or ignore what is happening; it means that you are shifting your perspective and responding to the moment in a practical, effective way rather than freaking out because it isn't as it "should" be. It's not helpful to go berserk because there are crayon markings on the wall, for example. The moment is what it is: there are crayon markings on the wall. Okay- now what are we going to do about it?
Accepting the moment as it is has helped me in so many areas in my life. No one ever has everything go exactly the way they want it to or the way they think it should. I've noticed that when things aren't going the way I'd like, I can either waste my time fuming about it and resisting it and feeling angry and upset, OR I can say, "Okay, this is what it is- now what am I going to do within this reality?" Accepting that my reality is, in fact, my current reality has brought a lot of peace to my life.
Perception: No One Can Make You Angry Without Your Permission
How often do you say things like, "You are making me angry" or "That really made me upset"? The fact is, while another person or action may have triggered your emotion, you alone are in charge of your own emotions. You have become angry; don't blame your emotions on someone or something else. Own your own feelings and take responsibility for them. If you let someone else have control over your feelings, you have given them a measure of control over you, and you are no longer in control of yourself.
Intention: Conflict Is An Opportunity To Teach
Rather than viewing conflict as an inherently bad thing that must be avoided, view it as an opportunity to teach and to learn. If you see conflict as a negative thing, you are more likely to resort to blaming and punishing. Instead, look for a way to use the moment to teach important life lessons and skills. In a conflict situation, ask yourself what your intention is. Are you trying to make your child feel bad, or are you trying to help him or her learn and be more successful in the future?
Free Will: The Only Person You Can Make Change Is Yourself
I've already mentioned that other people can't "make" you act or feel a certain way because you are ultimately in control of your own self. Likewise, you cannot make other people act or feel a certain way. We all have free will. A parent's job is not to force a child to behave; attempts to do so will teach them that it is acceptable to try to force others to do things your way. We certainly must not abdicate our responsibility to guide and teach (in other words, to discipline), but we would do well as parents to let go of the notion that we can "make" children obey.
Unity: Focus on Connecting Instead of Trying to Be Special
When people are unified, they connect with each other and are more caring and compassionate. In a conflict situation, unity can be found if we are willing to connect rather than insisting upon being right. Ask yourself, "Do I want to be right or do I want to connect?"
I have plenty more I could say about these, but this post is already longer than I'd like it to be. ;) If anyone would like to start a conversation in the comments, feel free. I'd love to talk over these ideas.