Here are some notes from connection parenting I think may give you some insight.
If the only reason children have for not doing something is the fear of being punished, what guidelines will they have for behavior when no one is there to punish them?
we cannot control anyone's behavior but our own. true parental discipline leads children to self discipline.
though punishment may stop a challenging behavior temporarily, if the behavior is a communication of an unmet need, some form of needy behavior will persist. We cannot punish people into not having needs.
(punishment in this book includes time outs. they advocate time in's..ill get more into that in a second.) needy behaviors are temper tnatrums, whining, not listening, hitting, talking back, not cooperating, teasing, bullying, refusing to share, fighting with siblings, refusing to get dressed, name calling, hurting others, etc.
Children behave better when they feel better. Connect before you correct!
Here is how we have come to handle hitting in our house:
1) Stop the Hitting
2) Attend to the Hurt Child
3) Time In
4) Problem Solve
Stop the Hitting:
You have two choices, move the child being hit, or stop the hand that is doing the hitting. I think which is best depends on the child. For my children it depends on the situation.
"Stop Hitting. I understand you are hurting too, but you may not hit your sister." If you feel comfortable with a "mad pillow" you can add "You may hit the mad pillow"
(I do this while starting step 2 - I am comforting/holding the physically hurt child during this time)
Attend to the hurt child. At this point I have already been giving my comfort physically and by defending them verbally to the other child, but after that short statement I have no reverted my full attention to the child who was attacked. "It hurts when people are not gentle with us. Are you okay?" (usually this is replied to with - she/he hit me!) and I say "I want to hear about you right now. Are you hurt?"
TIME IN. Once the hurt child is cared for, I bring the other child with me somewhere quiet and "away" to sit down. I then give info, state feelings, state needs, listen with love, and make my request.
*give info: Hitting hurts. You may not hit your sister.
*state feelings: I feel upset when I see someone I love hurting someone I love.
*state need: I need all of us to feel safe
*listen with love: I know you must be upset too, because the only time you are hurtful to others is when something is hurting you. I am willing to listen to your feelings. (then listen empathetically)
*make request: Are you willing to work together to find a safe way to tell your sister how you feel? (this leads into the next part)
Problem Solve: you have already begun this process because you have stated your feelings and needs and your child has stated their feelings and needs. you have the concerns on the table. Time to brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution. Write down all their ideas and your ideas (best to let them give some ideas first, of they have none then you can suggest some) write down all ideas at this time, don't evaluate - write down even the ideas you don't agree with. Once you are done, then go through the list. let child know how you feel about ideas and let them let you know how they feel. you can say "there's an idea. my concern with that is _____, so I think we will have to cross that one off, unless you have an idea how to ease my concerns about that idea? Decide which ideas you like, and which you plan to follow through on. A solution might look something like this:
In the future when you get mad, what can you do instead of hitting?
hit a mad pillow
come ask mommy for help calming down
go into another room and take deep breaths
draw a picture about how I feel
tell my sibling how I feel
when you go through this list you may say "my concern with hitting and yelling is its still hurtful to others" these other suggestions sound like they would work for everyone though.
Step 5: Restitution: It is up tpo the child to apologize. I wouldnt force it. I would say "When we do something wrong, we can still make things right. We can apologize to someone by saying sorry. You may want to apologize to your sister to make things right again"
For less verbal children, some parts of this may be skipped, and some phrases may be simplified. instead of problem solving with them, you may just offer up some solutions and model them for the child.
When you see a problem escalating you can say to the child "do you need help calming down, or can you calm down on your own" for my son I say "calm down, or mommy help" he lets me know what he needs. if I see he says calm down but cant I will say "you wanted to try calming down on your own first, but you needed my help after all." then I step in to help him, we take a time in, but its a preventative time in, so we jsut talk about how we feel and what we can do when we feel that way. A preventative time in would look more like this:
Acknowledge: You feel really ... right now"
Validate: It's really hard to/when ..... , isn't is?"
Accpet: It's okay to (cry, say 'xyz')
Listen: I'll stay with you. I have a hug for you if you want it"
and then of course, give them the tools they need for the future.
You can also model time outs. instead of giving time outs, take time outs. when you feel you are getting angry say "im getting so mad! I am taking a time out to calm down." and do so. this can be in another room, or just sit down against the wall and keep to yourself for a few minutes and focus on being calm.
Children do what they see us do, not what we tell them to do. We cant control children, we can only control ourselves.
Connection Parenting p150
Parenting is a struggle because we cannot control children's behavior. When we see our job as that of meeting childrens needs we enjoy children, because we can meet childrens needs.
childrens behaviors are caused by their unmet needs, so this is solving the problem at its route. children who are action out are usually trying to tell us "i need more love" (i find this to be true with my children! I can always tell who my connection is the weakest with by who ishaving the most behavioral issues at the time.
It really helps to look at the bigger picture too. sometimes you may think something isnt working, because they arent responding to it that second, but these things take time. and it works in the long run. punishment gives temporary results only. it does not set our children up for success in our absence, or teach them what they should do. It only teaches them what not to do out of fear, not what they shoud do...
If you do yell or do something not so gentle yourself, you can model all you are trying to teach your child. You can Rewind, Repair, and Replay.
Tell your child "I am working on not yelling anymore. If I start yelling please remind me to stop by telling me 'talk to me like I'm someone you love'
when you catch yourself yelling, or they do, you
rewind "Thank you for reminding me to stop yelling" or" Oops, I was yelling. Let's rewind."
repair " Im sorry, you didnt deserve to be yelled at. what you did was not okay but yelling at you is not okay either.
replay: let's start over. I feel frustrated because I need...
It may seem like all this takes a lot of time, but it happens pretty quickly, and in the long term, it takes less time as our children learn and their needs get met and their behavior improves. Yelling/punishing may give short term results, but the problems dont go away. in fact, they may escalate because they are causing emotional pain, which creates more need in the child, which creates more of those "needy" behaviors.
I know its a lot to take in, so I really want to say that from what you concerns are and the things you have said in this post, the book I most recommend is connection parenting. It's an easy read, definitely a book you can pick up and put down, and easy to book mark a few pages that give strategies on how to handle these situations.
Remember, how we treat them is what we teach them.
Children do what we do, not what we tell them to do.
I hope this was helpful to you, I have more to say, but I think I've said enough!