Effective, Gentle Discipline that Works
Do you ever find yourself repeatedly telling your child to stop doing something? Do you get tired of sounding like a broken record?
My husband and I faced this challenge until recently. Here’s what would happen:
Our dinner time, which I had always envisioned as a peaceful time where we would connect as a family had turned into a power struggle. My son would kick us incessently under the table.
And if he wasn’t kicking us under the table, he would lie down on his chair. How anyone can eat while lying down is a complete mystery to me.
Repeating the phrase “you need to stop” and other variations did not help. If anything, it exacerbated the situation. We were at our wits end.
Until I discovered the use of the “I-message” in The Parents Handbook. Authors Don Dinkeyer, Sr, Gary D. Mckay and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr. caution parents against using “you-messages” that “put down, blame or nag.”
Instead they focus on using “I-messages” that encourage cooperation. An “I-message” has three parts:
1. State what is happening.
2. State your feelings.
3. Give an explanation for why you feel that way.
We used the simpler route and calmly said: “I feel disrespected when you kick me under the table.” My son looked vaguely confused for a few seconds, muttered something about needing to support his feet and wonder of wonders, he stopped kicking!
Encouraged by our success, we tried the “I-message” when he began to slide off his chair. “Sid, I feel frustrated when you lie down on your chair instead of sitting on it.” “O.K. mama,” was what he said as he sat up straight. It was as simple as that.
It was absolutely surreal! Try it for yourself. But don’t be surprised if your child uses “I-statements” to verbalize his or her feelings. Incidentally, “I messages” also work well in marital relationships.