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Discipline is a concept that occupies much of a parent’s mind no matter how old the children – nobody wants to be an ogre or a bully, yet we all want a peaceful household and our children growing up happy.  We got some insights and tips from Kiran Paek, an early childhood educator with more than 18 years of field experience. She has been certified by the International Network of Children and Families (INCAF) and offers a 5 day course on Discipline through Redirecting the Child’s Behavior. Mrs. Paek is Director of the Lawrence Montessori school in Lawrenceville, NJ. Here are some snippets from the conversation:

How would you define Discipline?
Very simply defined, discipline is the ability to control one’s self in order to achieve one’s goals. It is an essential ingredient to accomplishing any goal in every person’s life – child or adult.

What are some issues faced by families today?
The biggest issue for families today is the pace of modern lifestyles.  Often both parents hold full-time jobs, while kids have a packed schedule with schoolwork, after-school activities, sports practices, play dates, birthday parties and more!

Also – the Extended family system of past generations has almost completely given way to the Nuclear family, removing the supporting network of grand-parents, aunts and uncles, who often could fill a child’s needs when a parent was absent. In an increasingly mobile world, grandparents may be located in a different hemisphere from their adored and adoring grand-children! The responsibility for meeting all of their children’s needs – physical, social and emotional rests squarely on parents today.

Kids still need what they have always needed over the generations – they need to feel heard and valued, unconditionally loved, and yes, they do want power in their small sphere of existence.  They’re not that different from adults!  

What is Discipline through Redirection? How does it differ from Traditional Methods?
The core of Discipline through Redirection is to create agreement with your child, leading to a win-win situation for parents and child. You agree together on the rules as well as the consequences of breaking the rules in advance when both parent and child are in a calm space. It is vital to get the agreement of the child to minimize arguments in the heat of the moment.

Traditional methods of discipline do not focus on creating a win-win situation and looks unfairly skewed from a child’s point of view, making it harder to apply. Instead of a meaningful dialogue, the conversation may end abruptly with a stern “Because I say so!” It’s not just the child who is left feeling frustrated. Too many times, (think reality-TV show Supernanny) children get their own way through temper-tantrums, leaving the parent feeling powerless and frustrated.

With the Redirection technique, both parents and children feel in control, though the parent needs to be the one to ensure consistent application of the rules and ensuing consequences when rules are not followed. Importantly, parents need to ensure that they respect the rules even if it feels inconvenient, in order to ensure respect and compliance from kids.

How do I set an agreement with my child, especially a toddler?
With a toddler, you need to keep things simple. Take a scenario that you want to improve for the better and lay it out for your child when both of you are in a calm, receptive mood. For instance, my 3 year old had taken to wailing loudly in stores whenever he wanted something that I did not want him to have. I talked to him about it when we were snuggled up together at bedtime.

 “You know how you screamed in the store today when I said we couldn’t buy the toy car? Mommy didn’t like it. Did you like it when you got upset?”

“Nope”, he shook his head.

“Next time when you scream in a store, I’m going to stop shopping and carry you out to the car. We can stay in the store as long as you are calm and listen to Mommy and Daddy. OK?”

“OK”, he said. “What about if I calm down in the car, can we go back to the store?”

“Yes, if you calm down quickly. If you cry for a long time, we’ll go home.”

The agreement was made. The next time he threw a tantrum in the store, I abandoned the shopping cart, picked up my screaming kid and walked out to the parking lot, feeling like an abusive monster, while other shoppers cast (what I imagined as) judgmental, pitying glances in my direction. We had to drive home but later in the day, I was rewarded by a comment from my son – “Next time I’m going to calm down quickly so we can go back to the store, Mamma”. The message had gotten across!

With my older child, we asked what consequence he thinks should occur when a ground-rule is broken – for e.g. if he doesn’t put his toys away at the end of the day. We both agreed that he should not be allowed to play with those toys for a week, so now there’s no argument at clean-up time. He did request a clause that he should be allowed to ask for my help if he’s feeling tired, which I thought was reasonable.

One time, my husband even got my 5 year old to co-sign an agreement stating he would share the swings on the playground without a fuss before going for a large family picnic with lots of younger kids. It worked like a charm because my son felt so important signing a contract with his daddy!                

These are just some of the ways but the important point is that you do in it in advance when the child (and the parent) is calm.

What age group does this method work best for? Is it better for younger children vs. teenagers or vice versa?

Redirection works well for all ages. As kids grow through various developmental stages, the approach you take and the specific strategies and rules in your household may change but the underlying principles remain the same.

An inside joke, nevertheless true, among educators is that the teenager and the toddler are very similar in behavior. For instance, both are prone to overly emotional, agitated outbursts, and both are focused on “Me”. With a toddler, one can direct physical action such as picking him up and removing him from an upsetting situation. With a teenager, discipline would involve more dialogue. In both cases, clear boundaries need to be set and applied in a consistent, but loving manner.

You may find yourself repeating the same things on a day to day basis “Sorry, I love you – AND can’t go there” or “I love you – AND I can’t allow you to wear that” or “I love you – you need to go to your room NOW and calm down”!!

Can you think of a situation where Redirection would not work as a disciplinary technique?
The keyword to successfully applying this technique is consistency. As a parent, once boundaries have been set and agreements been reached in the family, it is your responsibility to ensure that the agreements are upheld and applied constantly and consistently. Otherwise, it’s not going to work.

Would you have any quick tips for the reader that could have an immediate impact at home?

  • Start the dialogue with your child and calmly talk through the scenarios that seem to upset you both on a regular basis.
  • In the heat of an argument with your children, pause, take a breath and consider your response instead of simply reacting.
  • Most importantly, never feel embarrassed or guilty about your response to your child’s misbehavior in a public place. Whether you are at your in-laws or the supermarket or in the privacy of your home, your response should be consistent and without apology. This makes it simple and eliminates confusion for your child.

What topics are covered in your 5 day course? How can I register for it?
At present, the course is offered in the Princeton area in New Jersey. If interested, you can contact Kiran Paek via email: kiran@lawrencemontessori.com.

The course is conducted in small groups with plenty of discussion, and sharing of experiences so that everyone has a chance to learn from others’ experiences. There are role play exercises and even homework! The following topics are discussed in depth:

  • Self-reflection by each participant – Who am I, what experiences shape me as a parent, why are certain issues hot buttons for me?
  • Relationship building within the family, including Sibling Rivalry. There is a component that includes the participant’s own experiences with sibling rivalry that may be affecting the family dynamic
  • Identification of Mistaken goals that children have that causes them to act out or behave inappropriately and techniques to redirect their behavior
  • Conflict Resolution and Consequences
  • Coming together as a family/Conducting Family meetings

Thank you Mrs. Paek.

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