Positive Discipline Blunder = My Birthday Gift

I have just returned from three day training with Positive Discipline founder, Jane Nelsen.  We learned to focus on teaching our children the life skills we soooo deeeeeeply desire to pass on:  integrity, responsibility, humor, problem-solving, respect....  You know them too.

Jane Nelsen regularly asks,

"How did we come up with the CRAZY idea that parents should make kids feel worse in order for them to be better?!"

“Not me,” I prided myself :-).  And yet, I have just been devising ways to make my son feel bad!!!!!  Aggggh!!!! 

When we deride others, their attention gets turned AWAY from those character and life skills we desire them to learn.  It’s like shooting ourselves in the foot...twice.  First, because we hurt our loved one and the relationship suffers.  Then because we hurt ourselves by acting counter to our goal.

My Minor Challenge Made Big

I asked something of my son and he asked something of me.  I felt that I did my part...and he did not do his.

Situation:  It’s time to sign up for high school next year and my son compiled all the papers and had me sign them.  (Very responsible, n’est ce pas?)  Only I missed one of the signatures, so the re-signed papers need to be returned to school.

No big deal.  Here’s the complication.

My son committed to writing a thank you note before lunch.  It’s not done. 

According to Positive Discipline, this is no big deal.  Just remind my son that I’ll take care of the papers when he has written the thank you note.   I sent him a fun text message to that effect.  No answer. “???” and still no reply.  His phone is turned off.

Several additional complications:  The deadline to sign up is today.  My son is off playing outdoors with friends (we encourage non-video entertainment).  To his credit, he left while I was at work and having completed the initial school paper run.

Result:  I’m annoyed.  Besides, it’s my birthday, so I am even more annoyed!!!!!   (The obvious connection!  In Positive Discipline language one would ask how these might be related :-)   :-( )

Action:  I called the school to find out if he could register for next year at a later date.  No answer. (Pressure mounts.)   I thought of not going and letting my son deal with the consequences.  But I felt it would be more respectful to speak of it before acting on it, especially regarding a task with potentially significant consequences.  So, I trudged off with the papers...and a grumpy attitude. 

In My Mind (and on the tip of my tongue):  on the journey I “practiced” reproaches (!!!! )

-          It’s my birthday!  How could you be so thoughtless? (Guilt)

-          And to think that I gave up going to a professional event because I’ll be taking you to the airport.  (MORE guilt!)

-          Don’t expect to go out tonight! (Punishment with an unrelated restraint)

-          If you don’t answer your phone, maybe you don’t need one.  (Mean Machine!!!)


I’m messing up my own birthday.  I choose what to think about.  I also choose my actions.

Ooops.  Do I sound like those Put-Down Parents that anticipate kids will grow in love when we make them feel worse?  Agggghhh!!!

From Head to Heart

At first, I felt like a failure.   What had I learned from those three days of training? 

Then I realized that this incident is one AWESOME birthday present.  Through this challenge the principles of kind and firm encouragement travelled from my head to my heart.  I had known what to do.  Today I felt it all:  the desire to be kind, the craving to be mean, and the hope that comes from making a plan to further develop respect and responsibility at home.

My Birthday Speech to the family:    

-          We (all the family) need to talk

-          You and I (each of us) are responsible. 

-          Be prepared:  I’ll be saying this with actions

So, what character and life skills have I learned?  Freeeeeeedom and responsibility.

For my loved ones it looks like less nagging (yum...like ice cream and cake).

For me it means admiring them as I allow them to step into greater responsibility.  To fulfill my legacy of seeing them grow into the best men they can be.

Learn more about Positive Discipline and Jane Nelsen here.


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