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Hilber Psychological Services

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No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 4

Last week, I began to discuss the second of three principles, Chasing the Why, in the article “No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 3.” These three principles, based on the book “No Drama Discipline” by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, examine how parents can connect with their children during discipline, utilizing the moment to teach a child rather than make a child feel bad. To learn about the foundation of No Drama Discipline, please review articles “No Drama Discipline: The Foundation, Part 1,” and “No Drama Discipline: The Foundation, Part 2.” To review the first principle in No Drama Discipline, Turning Down the Shark Music, please refer to the articles “No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 1” and “No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 2.” A parent’s goal throughout discipline is to play the role of a detective. Chasing the Why asks parents to internally ask themselves, “what is my child trying to communicate through his or her behavior?” By remaining curious about a child’s behavior, a parent allows him or herself to look into a child’s internal state rather than the external behavior.

Let’s review an example of what discipline may look like utilizing the connection principle, Chasing the Why.

Dave is a single parent raising 12yo Alice. Alice has always been a good student and Dave hopes that Alice will follow in his footsteps to become a lawyer. One day, Dave receives a phone call from the school stating that Alice has been disruptive in class by frequently talking to classmates. Embarrassed about the call, Dave begins to become anxious. He imagines Alice's grades dropping and her future jeopardized. For Dave, his shark music regarding his own fears for his daughter’s future become louder. Instead of letting the shark music grow, Dave takes a deep breath to clear his head. He allows himself to become curious as he asks Alice questions about her behaviors rather than make assumptions about the motivation behind them. He may begin by asking Alice, “Alice, tell me about your day,” to first connect with Alice. Dave may then ask Alice specific questions about the conversation with Alice’s teacher. “Alice, I heard from your teacher today. She seems to think that you have been more talkative in class than usual. Tell me a little about that.”

By taking the time to explore the reasons behind the child’s behavior, a parent may be surprised from what the child’s motivation is rather than the parent’s own perceived motivation. In the above scenario, Alice may reply that she has been more talkative because she recently made a new friend, or that her friend had a bad day and she wanted to make her feel better. The parent will still have to help the child learn strategies to handle these situations in an appropriate manner, however, by chasing the why the parent is creating a way to connect with the child rather than dismissing the child and missing the opportunity to understand the child’s motivation for the behavior.

Tips and Tricks: It is important for parents not to directly ask, “Why did you do this?” For many children (and even adults) asking “why” can cause defensiveness in those being asked. Furthermore, depending on the age of the child, the child may not be at a developmental level where he or she could tell you the motivation for the behavior. It is not uncommon for parents to hear “I don’t know” when asking a child about an event. Try asking open-ended questions (i.e. “What did you do in school today?”) instead of closed-ended questions (i.e. “Did you get into trouble today?"). Closed-ended questions will limit the interaction between parent and child.

Chasing the why is asking parents to ask “why” in their own heads in order to create that curiosity and let that open mindset guide the conversation. In this way parents can begin to not only address the external concerns, or behaviors, but look into the child’s internal concerns, or the root cause underneath the behavior, to prevent future problematic behaviors.

If you would like more support in parenting your child, whether in couples therapy or individual therapy, please do not hesitate to contact us at Hilber Psychological Services to explore options. Therapy can be a great way for parents to discuss personal concerns that may get in the way of parenting. If you have any general questions, please visit our FAQ.

Tune back next time as we examine the third and final principle, Think About the How based on the book “No Drama Discipline” by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.