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Discipline Scenarios

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This site is brand new...a collection of scenarios and possible Present Parenting solutions will build up over time.

If you have a parenting "situation" and would like Present Parenting insights, or if you'd like to share your positive prefrontal cortex experiences, Contact Us or visit our Facebook page.

Sample Questions:

Q: "I have two children under the age of 3 who don't like to share. How should I respond?"

A: Two children under the age of 3 are most likely in the transition phase between Attachment and Following. They are quite aware of their surroundings and they probably have had some mirroring experience (where they notice and try to copy). This is both wonderful and a source of the "problem" or as I like to say, "immaturity". Children at this age are naturally self-defensive (because they have enough brain development to notice when things don't go as hoped), so it is quite normal for them to bicker back and forth with one another (because if one of them gets started in self-defense mode, of course the other will mirror and do the same). 

If a parent feels emotionally prepared, giving a Present Response can help absorb the inevitable immature energy that comes from two little ones who are mature enough to choose favorite things, but not mature enough to neurologically process the disappointment and shock of having a conflict, or even a potential conflict, over those favorite things.

If my under 8-ish children are fighting over toys (so this certainly applies to kids who are under 3), I no longer dish out a consequence for them because they have out of control emotions or even for grabbing, hoarding, yelling, etc. I see their out of control behavior as a sign that they need help processing a conflict. I put accountability on my shoulders. I know they don't have access to a mature prefrontal cortex to calmly manage the conflict (which is why they started using "other" brain areas--arms flailing, mouth spouting--in a wild way), so the last thing I want to do is isolate them with a consequence (like time-out or shameful looks/words from me) that adds to the conflict and causes them to summons those "other" brain areas even more in order to find temporary relief from the stress hormone that's obviously raging in their bodies.

Instead, I want to assist them in developing the part of their brain that has the capability of managing stress peacefully--the prefrontal cortex. To do this, I must model how I use my prefrontal cortex during a conflict, and so I enter the room to share my brain skills. If I am present and sincere, their defensive walls will tumble and give them a chance to feel safe and peaceful. After many, many similar experiences together, they will begin to practice mimicking this peaceful approach, too.

Of course their squealing and fighting jolts my body into high alert as soon as it reaches my ears, and I'm frequently tempted to go into a defensive or offensive or absent response myself in order to process this "alarm" and calm back down again. But if I pause for a second, I can thank my body for the legitimate warning that something is awry and at the same time gather my senses to figure out what to say/do upon approaching the situation.    

When entering a 'war zone' I try to naturally show appreciation for each child's "highly functioning" brain areas before pointing out areas that need improvement. In doing so, I try to encourage natural attention towards their bodies and towards the natural and normal consequence of feeling sad when immature energy bounces around the room. I ,of course, focus on the negative energy in the room as "the Bad Guy" and not the children.

An example of what I might say (but do be in  tune to your own prefrontal cortex inspiration) includes (stated with deep awareness and focused empathy for both children equally): "I hear screaming in this room. I see that you both feel angry and sad. Can you share with me what is happening?" (Even if the child can only cry or tattle, I take a minute to listen sincerely to each...to let them 'spill' their feelings out onto me...because long-term relief comes from someone who is willing to absorb the wildness--as opposed to tossing it right back--and exchange it for peace and wisdom.) "I understand. You feel nervous that you might not get another chance with that toy." Or maybe, "I see. You feel hurt that someone took your toy from you. Your body is letting you know that something went wrong while you were playing with your friend. That makes sense. I know what to do..."

At this point, because it's likely that each child's "immature" behavior has caused emotional or physical damage to the other child, I look carefully at each child and apologize that they were hurt in this situation. If it feels natural to invite a child to apologize as well, I may do so. However, I make it clear by my sincere apology that I am willing and able to take accountability for their young actions and for their future guidance and teaching towards more mature behavior.

Then, I might model how to play and talk nicely or how to take turns or how to communicate with each other. ("I'd like a turn with that toy when you're done. Can you tell me when you plan to be finished?") Or I might spend time with one child while waiting for her "turn". Or if emotions are really out of control, I might help them switch activities all together and then mark down in my notes that I should spend quality time playing alongside them in the future to help them see how the "sharing" thing works. 

Q: "My 3-year-old jumps out of his seat and runs around the room when he's in a classroom situation. What's an appropriate response for a teacher? a parent?" 

A: coming...