Shifting your mindset about consequences

Brooke, one of the moms in The Mentorship, shared this story with us recently that perfectly illustrates the Peacemaker Parenting approach to consequences:

"That last time we were at my mom's house, Eli (4) started playing with a ball inside. He wasn't being particularly naughty or disruptive with it, so we adults just sort of kept talking and didn't pay that much attention. Before I knew it, Eli had thrown the ball at just the right angle and knocked a picture off the credenza, breaking the glass. In the past I would have been very stern with him, scolded him for being naught, put him in time-out, and put the ball away. This time I tried to focus on future-facing consequences. Because there was glass involved I didn't make him help me clean it up. But we did talk to his Grandma and together we decided that Eli and I would go to the craft store and replace the glass in the frame. We also defined new expectations that balls are only for the back patio or back yard at Grandma's house. My mom is going to get an all-weather basket or tote to keep outside toys in for the future."

First, let us make this disclaimer perfectly clear, because sometimes it is misunderstood or misconstrued: Peacemaker Parenting does not avoid all consequences, and we personally don't believe consequences should never be used. 

That being said, when a parent's mindset is heavily weighted towards consequences, they are more likely to fail at helping children learn the skills and tools, and gain the maturity needed to do better next time. Focusing on consequences is a backward-facing approach. Focusing on empowering is a forward-facing approach. This is why, in Peacemaker Parenting, we do not rely on consequences to hold boundaries and limits or to manage and control behavior.

Nearly every choice and behavior has a natural consequence or outcome, and those natural consequences can sometimes be the best teachers. When we settle into a consequence-heavy mindset, it is easy to unintentionally hurt our children with the consequence (which breaks trust and connection and inhibits their ability to learn to do better), rather than helping them know what or how to do differently  next time. Rather than looking forward to what can be done differently next time, our child focuses on the imposed consequence (which can very easily just be a "punishment" delivered more gently).

Max Bledsoe, father of Drew Bledsoe and author of Parenting with Dignity explains why this can be counter productive:

"When a parent resorts to punishment, parent and child pay attention to the punishment, its fairness, and whether it has been enforced or followed. The child stops thinking about the decision process in his mind that brought about the negative consequences—and doesn’t think at all about what he might do differently."

It isn't that there is never a need for logical consequences - there certainly are! But removing a child from a harmful situation or taking away something to keep it safe merely fixes the problem in the moment. Our children need to be patiently coached, guided, taught, and empowered with how to handle the same situation next time. Empowering them with emotional regulation tools, scripts for respectful conflict, and what or how to do better next time equips them for the future rather than punishing them for the past.

This is where future-facing consequences can be so life-giving. 

Future-focused discipline allows us to evaluate our children as whole beings, taking into account their physical, emotional, and sensory needs, their personalities, and their development. That enables us as parents to create a robust and wholistic approach to empowering them for the future. This can take many forms, from practicing impulse control through classic childhood games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light, (which, admittedly may not feel very "discipline-y", but it is important to build and strengthen a child's impulse control "muscle" before placing an expectation on them that is rooted in controlling impulses and urges) to brainstorming a code word or private prompt for you to use when they need a gentle reminder to speak with respect and honor. 

The summer our boys were 7 and 8 they struggled with sibling conflict more than what we thought was typical. It felt like every little thing turned into an explosive argument. By that time we'd spent a few years teaching them healthy conflict resolution, but all of it seemed to have gone out the window. 

We could have punished them for fighting, or used a reward system to motivate them to focus on being kind to each other. Instead, we invited them to write and illustrate their own P.E.A.C.E. Plan. They spent a couple of hours one afternoon creating a conflict resolution guide customized to their personalities and needs, that they were then able to use any time they had disagreements or problems that needed intentional peace infused into the situation. This is a future-facing consequence - it empowers them with a tangible tool to help them in the future, rather than using negative consequences to try to deter their fighting. 

Want to learn more? Our upcoming workshop, Peacemaker Parenting: Consequences is all about natural, logical, imposed, and future-facing consequences! Learn more, and register here.

Peacemaker Parenting Tool: Time-In instead of a Time-Out

A time-in is an alternative approach to misbehavior, meltdowns, tantrums, and impulsive outbursts that involves guiding your child to a safe space where you can use co-regulation strategies and emotion coaching to help them calm their bodies and process their emotions. This helps children develop emotional intelligence and gives them tools to deal with strong emotions in a healthy and safe way. It also allows them to remain supported while feeling the full range of emotions.

While a time-in can happen anywhere, at any time (because its foundation is a connected and supporting parent-child relationship), creating a Grace Space (or calm down space) at home that is designated for time-ins will help establish rhythm and familiarity for a young child who is learning to regulate emotions. Check out this article on how to create a Grace Space

Many peaceful and respectful parenting voices use the term Time-In instead of time out, but we want to give you a helpful analogy that you can use without having to change up your language. 

In traditional parenting, time-outs are more like a penalty box in hockey -  a penalty or punishment, that leaves a child alone to "think about it". Because parenting as a peacemaker means that we do not withhold our affection, connection, or protection, a time out is more like a time out in football - when the team takes a break to regroup, rest, regulate, and problem-solve. This will look different from family to family (and sometimes even within families moment by moment!). The key is that the parent or caregiver is regulated and able to meet the emotional, physical, and sensory needs of the child so they can learn to regulate as well. 

Sending a child to their room or a timeout isolates them for being dysregulated, which is largely outside their control. Their central nervous system learns how to calm down by being in the presence of a calm adult nervous system, a process called coregulation. They may come out of timeout no longer screaming or crying, but their nervous system likely will not have truly calmed down, which keeps them in a cycle of big feelings > bad behavior > time out.

Isolating a child for their behavior or immature expressions of feelings punishes them for what they did wrong, but it doesn't teach them how to do better. Discipline requires us to teach (disciple) them and guide them towards maturity. A time-in is essentially a collaborative time-out, and it provides an opportunity to teach a child through difficult situations.

Time-out in the form of isolation teaches the child to focus on themselves and their behavior. Approaching timeout as a team-building opportunity (like in football) teaches a child to be aware of the family as a whole, and allows children and caregivers to learn from each other and problem-solve together.

Time-Ins are especially helpful for toddlers and preschoolers due to their under-developed skills of self-regulation. As children enter middle childhood, they will begin to grow their ability and capacity for self-regulation, meaning they will not need the help of a parent or caregiver quite as often. However, neurodiverse children, as well as kids who are still learning how to calm their nervous systems, may need a supportive adult to guide them.

REMEMBER - THE KEY TO AN EFFECTIVE TIME-IN ISN'T A PRETTY SPACE OR HAVING LOTS OF TOOLS, IT IS YOU! So when it's really rough - taking a parent time out is totally okay! You can't help a child learn to regulate if you are dysregulated!

How to Teach Young Children about Emotions

Emotions are an integral part of the human experience, and helping young children understand their emotions is an important part of parenting!  By equipping them with emotional intelligence early on, we empower them to navigate life's ups and downs more effectively. 

Parenting as a Peacemaker means we look first to Jesus. As both fully God and fully human, He experienced the full range of human emotion. From joy and delight to frustration and anger, from compassion and empathy to grief and anxiety, Jesus reveals to us that emotions are natural, neutral, and necessary

Why Teach Children About Emotions?
Emotional Regulation: Teaching children to recognize and understand their emotions helps them learn how to manage and regulate them. This skill is essential for maintaining healthy relationships, making thoughtful decisions, and coping with stress.

Improved Communication: When children can express their feelings effectively, it enhances communication with peers and adults. They can better articulate their needs and concerns, reducing frustration and misunderstandings. This also helps mitigate emotional outbursts that become physical. 

Empathy: Understanding their emotions also fosters empathy, as children become more attuned to the feelings of others. Empathetic children are more likely to build strong, positive relationships and contribute positively to their communities. Remember, this is something that grows and matures over many years, and is largely dependent on brain development!

Conflict Resolution: Emotional awareness equips children with the tools to resolve conflicts peacefully. They can identify the emotions driving a disagreement and work towards finding solutions that address everyone's needs and concerns.

Practical Activities to Teach Children About Emotions
The Emotion Thermometer: Use a thermometer to help children gauge the intensity of their emotions. This visual aid makes discussing emotions easier and more concrete. Encourage them to point to the temperature that matches how they feel, from icy-cold (calm) to blazing-hot (angry).

Emotion Charades: Play emotion charades by acting out various emotions without using words. This fun game helps children recognize and express emotions through body language and facial expressions.

Feelings Faces Art: Create a "Feeling Faces" art project. Provide magazines or printouts of different facial expressions and ask children to make a collage of various emotions. This activity encourages discussion about emotions while being creative.

Feelings Flashcards: Craft a set of emotion flashcards with pictures depicting different emotions. Show these cards to children, ask them to identify the emotion, and share a time when they felt that way. This helps them connect emotions to their own experiences.

Books + Stores Read books with emotional themes together. After each story, discuss how the characters felt and why. Encourage children to relate the emotions in the book to their own experiences and feelings.

Teaching children about emotions is a sacred journey of nurturing their hearts and souls. It's an opportunity to help them develop not just emotional intelligence but also a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Just as Jesus embraced and understood the emotions of those He touched,  we can guide our children toward emotional maturity with a gentle, Jesus-centered spirit. By doing so, we provide them with a strong foundation for emotional well-being and for living out the teachings of Christ in their daily lives.

In nurturing a child's emotional intelligence, we equip them to better serve others, build lasting relationships, and walk in the light of God's love.

Peacemaker Parenting Tool: Find the Yes

In the fast-paced world of parenting, it's easy to find ourselves uttering those familiar words: "No," "Don't," and "Stop." But did you know that these seemingly harmless words can trigger a cascade of stress-inducing reactions in both your child's developing brain and your own? In this blog post, we'll explore the power of "yes" and why telling children what to do, rather what not to do, can be a game-changer in cultivating harmony in your home.

When we constantly resort to "no," we unwittingly release a slew of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters in both our children's and our own brains. These chemicals can immediately interrupt crucial brain functions, leading to diminished logic, reason, language processing, and communication. To make matters worse, a disapproving frown when saying "no" can release even more stress hormones, contributing to increased anxiety and irritability. Ultimately, this can undermine the precious bonds of connection and trust between you and your child, which ultimately can result in more power struggles!

Of course, we're not suggesting that you should never say "no" to your child; that's simply unrealistic. No is a complete sentence and children do need to learn it! (Though you may have noticed your young child has most definitely learned the power of "no!" and you hear it quite often!) 

Rather than relying on "no", we suggest a powerful alternative: the art of finding the "yes" and telling your little ones what to do rather than what not to do.

Here are some practical examples to illustrate the shift:

"Find The Yes" is just one of the valuable tools we're excited to share in our upcoming Peacemaker Parenting Preschoolers workshop this month. If you're THE parent of a 3-5 year old who is seeking to parent with peace and purpose while breaking generational cycles of harsh parenting and physical punishment, this workshop is designed specifically for you.

Lessons My Toddler Taught Me About Meltdowns

My toddler seemed to be having fun. Everything seemed great–but then she saw that her brother had one of the 20 yellow fish toys they’d been happily sharing for an hour. She began to melt. We were outside in our yard, but we were living in a busy neighborhood and the screams and flailing became really intense. My mind immediately went to “What on earth will my neighbors think of us?!” and I became dysregulated myself. The logic I tried to use to help her was not working and things were just ramping up. So I carried my three-year-old upstairs to a quieter place to try to figure out what was going on–also to hide from the public eye, because who wants that kind of pressure?! I was trying to stay calm but to be completely honest, I was in tears too. I did not grow up in a community that “navigated” toddler meltdowns with much grace–they weren’t really allowed and moms who navigated or tolerated them with anything besides punishment were often shamed. I didn’t really know what to do, but I do remember mustering all of the willpower I could and I decided that even if I didn’t know what to do exactly, I wasn’t going to lose it with my kid in this moment. The screaming lasted longer than I’d ever seen–20+ minutes. Nothing I mentioned seemed to help. My child was not interested in breathing, or I spy, or hugs, or connecting with me. She was just loud. But then I got a clue and she said something I won’t ever forget– “Help me, Mommy!” That was something I needed to get me through not only that meltdown but every other toddler meltdown I’d experienced with my children from that day on. I stayed nearby. Reminding her I was there when she was ready and that she was safe. It lasted a long time, but she settled and crawled into my lap. Sobs became less and less until they stopped. We re-connected and after a snack and a juicebox, we went back to playing. 

Surely I’m not the only one who has taken a big ole toddler meltdown personally–right? (pssst, if you’re wondering the difference between a tantrum + a meltdown read here)

The intensity of demonstrated emotions can be a super huge burden to bear–especially if toddler emotions were met with punishment when you were a kid. Your toolbox may feel a bit empty as you find yourself in the middle of these instances. But the thing I took from that experience I shared above is this:

 A meltdown isn’t any more fun for your toddler than it is for you. 

I used to think a toddler who was screaming and yelling was doing something that they really wanted to do and just needed a lesson in self-control to learn how to control what they desired to do. That isn’t the case. I repeat: that is not the case! 

That recognition of the frightening struggle a child is having during a meltdown opened my eyes to some other mindsets that have helped significantly as I’ve navigated more and more of these big feelings with my kids:

  • A meltdown doesn’t feel any better for your toddler than it does for you–they are out of control 
  • When meltdowns happen, your toddler doesn’t know how to immediately get out of it
  • Trying to force an end to a toddler meltdown doesn’t teach or help them with anything–suppression isn’t the answer
  • One of the only things a parent can offer a toddler in the thick of a meltdown is a calm body of quiet support
  • When a toddler is in meltdown mode reasoning is not an effective strategy
  • Don’t set a time limit in your mind– you’re in this for the long haul with them and your love won’t waver. You are both safe
How does this help? Well, when we can get ourselves into such a posture of peace that their behavior doesn’t shake us, it helps everyone. And for as icky as it can feel for everyone during a meltdown moment, they do always end. That is another big one – These big feeling moments are loud and can feel so long, but they do not last forever. Being a calm and safe body in the middle of a feelings storm for your child is one of the few tools they can actually use to pull themselves out–remember that, mama. It’s a tough job–but you’re helping your child way more than you know when you’re able to keep, or reclaim your peace through these intense moments.

Want to hear more about what each of these things look like in practical everyday life? Do you have a particular struggle you’re trying to navigate that you want some coaching in? We have a toddler workshop coming up that will cover these things and more and we’d love to have you join us! 

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