Positive Discipline for Adults

It’s been a tough year, as many of you know. I won’t go into the details again, but moving and trying to figure out a new town and new schools and a new job for Peter has taken it’s toll. And as the year has gone along, I’ve been convicted of two things: I complain too much, and I don’t take care of my body the way that I should.

It’s tempting to take a punitive attitude. To eliminate certain foods, like cheese or wheat or white wine. To excoriate myself every time I step on the scale. To forbid myself from complaining.

I’ve been learning for some time now about “positive discipline” for children, in which I try to say what things are for instead of simply admonishing my children (“Marilee, forks are for eating, not for banging on the table…”). I try to observe instead of yell (“William, I can see in your body that you are very upset” when he is running in place and roaring over a spilled glass of orange juice). And I try to offer choices instead of acting as the resident dictator (“Penny, do you want to eat your strawberries now or after your bagel?”). I don’t always succeed, but over time, it has seemed to work for our family. William’s tantrums are slowly abating. Marilee’s are heating up, but she did just turn two and at least I’m not yelling at her all the time. Penny listens to us a little more every day (note that we started talking about listening ears five years ago, but still. Progress).

So I’m trying to offer myself the same approach. Instead of forbidding, I’m trying to invite and replace and redirect myself towards the good. I’m trying to take care of myself by drinking lots of water, going to yoga class, and waking up around 6:00 to spend some time reading and praying. I’m trying to overcome my wont to complain by instead articulating my gratitude.

Now, it could be just that our circumstances have changed. We’ve moved into the new house. And we’ve turned the corner into spring. For whatever reason, I’m finally drinking more water and eating more fruit (without feeling as though I’ve denied myself much of anything). And I’m far more able to articulate my gratitude than I was just a few weeks ago–for the tulips that Peter put on my desk, for the view out my window of the foothills of the Berkshires, for a good night’s sleep last night, for Marilee’s request for a sweater this morning (“I want to wear it on”) and William’s curiosity (“How do they get that rug to have stripes on it?”) and Penny’s delight over her new Clementine chapter book (“Can’t I please stay up longer?” after reading to page 60 after her brother and sister went to bed last night). I’m starting to laugh with my children again, often.

Positive discipline for adults. For myself. With thanks.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Many a beautiful thing to be thankful for, AJ! And yes, I’ve done positive discipline on myself as well. It works!

  2. A delightful post; one I very much need to contemplate.

  3. Kelly Pfeiffer says:

    Hi! I’m a Positive Discipline Trainer and am sharing this article with my facebook followers today. I’m a big believer in mom self-care and think your words are inspirational.


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