I have ruminated on this lately because I just finished reading the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline on the advice of the staff at The Kid's preschool. As a family, Grandma included, we're reading it so we are all approaching discipline for The Kid from the same place.
While I will not be giving a full book report, there are a few things that make the approach advocated in the book difficult for me to follow because it is not a part of my nature. For example, I am learning to tell The Kid when I notice her doing something we want to reinforce and to "notice" without judgement. Instead of saying, "good job clearing your plate," I have been saying things like, "I see you doing your part to help our family by clearing your plate."
The reasoning behind the exercise is sound, so it makes sense to try it and so far, it seems to be helping us through some typical 4.5 year old behavior.
Another example is to give your kid choices. For example, do you want to put the toothpaste on yourself or would you like me to do it? There is no third option, so I end up reminding The Kid that not brushing her teeth is not an option occasionally. Again, the reasoning is solid, especially at this age.
Frankly, the approaches the book advocates have helped us all help The Kid navigate what her feelings mean and how to work through them in a healthy way. But to get there and to really help her, I need to be better. Which is why I say she's a great teacher. The Kid does occasionally remind me if I am getting frustrated to do STAR (stop, take a deep breath and relax), but that is not where she does her best teaching.
She teaches by motivating me to be more patient, more mindful of how I act and react. It takes mindfulness to watch your child and "notice" when exhibiting a behavior you want to reinforce. It takes mindfulness to do so without adding judgement or shame to the conversation. It takes mindfulness to be patient and firm with the choices given after The Kid has asked for a third option for the 18th time. It takes mindfulness because it is a method that is counter to the way demonstrated to me by several adults in my life growing up.
That is not a dis on the way I was raised, or a slap at anyone. Instead, every parent I know wants to provide a better life for their kids than the one they have. I am no different. That bar was set pretty high for me, and to get there, I have to do things differently. It means growing more, learning more, changing more so I can help guide my daughter.
This journey has taught me a great deal already. I am grateful to have a mostly patient, earnest teacher in the form of The Kid.