“Help! I’ve learned about parenting with CD and I started strong, but now I just feel like I’m doing it all wrong!”

First of all, breathe. The skill of composure helps us to turn off the negative responses to our situations and refocus our energy in a positive direction. Take a moment to breathe deeply and calm.

Once you’re in a calm, relaxed state, remember first the power of acceptance. “The moment is as it is.” This is important because when we fight against the moment with what we think “should be” it only creates frustration that can turn into anger or just plain giving up. Avoid giving in to the frustration and anger that can come with feeling like you’re failing. Instead, accept the moment as it is and determine to move forward. You’re a good parent and just seeking out information on how to do this parenting thing in a better way, demonstrates that your intentions and motivations are in the right place. Reaffirm that with yourself as much as possible. Change will not happen in your home overnight…it will probably take more like a few years…and that’s ok.

Next, remember the power of attention…what you focus on, you get more of. Focus your attention on one thing at a time. Practice that one thing over and over and celebrate the little victories. Don’t add or expect too much from yourself (or your children) all at once, and in the moments of upset that are sure to come, when you feel like you’ve forgotten everything else, simply remember this formula of state-changing skills to help you and your child get to a problem-solving state of mind:

1. CALM: Upload and download calm: S.T.A.R. (Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax) Conscious Discipline (and brain science) teaches us that when two eyes meet, a wireless connection is created between the orbital frontal areas of the pre-frontal lobes. From this connection, we literally download inner states into one another. The eyes contain nerve projections that lead directly to the key brain structures for empathy and matching emotions.

2. PAUSE: Take a moment here to consciously shift your focus.

3. NOTICE: Emotions are energy in motion. Emotions begin unconsciously as vibrations in the body. Conscious Discipline teaches the following formula for effective noticing:

  • Notice the body. Say, “Your face is going like this. Your arms are going like this.” (Demonstrate the child’s actions to make contact and raise awareness.)
  • Label the emotion. As emotions move up into awareness they can be named and ultimately tamed or managed. Say, “You seem _____.” (Fill in the blank with one feeling word like angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed, etc.)
  • Acknowledge with Positive Intent. Say, “You wanted or you were hoping __________.” Once conscious, then consciously help the child shift from what they don’t want to what they do want to begin the problem-solving process. In this final shift, the brain becomes an integrated unit with one goal.
  • Remember to do all the things in step 3 quickly. If you pause or move too slowly here, your child is likely to slip back down into using emotional or survival state skills.

4. PROBLEM SOLVE: The brain now has the ability to respond instead of react. Here are some phrases that Conscious Discipline teaches that can help elicit problem-solving:

  • How could you be helpful right now?
  • What would help you get started?
  • What could you do to solve your problem?
  • Did you like it when _____ did _____? What could you say to let him/her know how you want to be treated?
  • Are you telling me to be helpful or hurtful?
  • Is ______ being safe? What would be safe for you and others?
  • When you _____ then you may _____.
  • If you choose to _____ then _____ will happen. Do you understand what will happen if you choose to _____.

As the popular saying goes, “It takes time to turn the Titanic around.” We are all “preprogrammed,” if you will, to rely on our first language of discipline. This is the language that has been handed down to us over time through our interactions with the influential adults in our own lives. This language wasn’t acquired overnight and it won’t be changed overnight either. In the meantime, give yourself grace and attribute to each moment a healthy dose of positive intent. Take baby steps along the