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When my son was four years old, he was sweet, funny and quite mischievous. Just a moment unsupervised and something was likely to get opened, spilled or broken. Most days my son was content to play with his toys in the garden or to make an art project. Other days, it seemed like he was set on pushing every boundary and breaking every rule.


If you have a young and energetic child at home I'm sure you know what this is like.

One time, I found him in the bathroom with several open containers of shampoo and soap. The shower doors completely white with suds. “Beau-full" art he told me very excited. Another time he cracked open magic markers and ran them under water to “catch colors."

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Each time we caught him bending a rule or breaking something we had to do something about it. But that something wasn't your usual discipline. There was no sitting in the corner. No making him feel bad.



Instead, we tried something else: connection before correction.

Whenever we noticed off-track behaviors, we tried to look for solutions or alternatives to what my son was doing. Even before we did that, we actually just sat with him, played and talked. Often we hugged and chatted a bit. Then, we gave him opportunities to fix mistakes and to think about what he was doing.

Sometimes there were consequences, but not made-up ones—only ones that were directly related to what had happened. Washing up the soap or gluing together a broken vase for example. This wasn't even presented as a consequence but as an opportunity to make amends or fix a mistake.

Maybe you are thinking this isn't even discipline. That it can't possibly work.

I totally get that, because I worried about that too. In fact, there was a time when I was skeptical about positive discipline and wondered if this was the right choice. And then I started to notice how much my son was growing and feeling capable.

The more opportunities we gave him to play and make mistakes freely the more he started asking before taking something that didn't belong to him. When he made a mistake he came to tell us or to ask for help.

Positive discipline specifically aims to involve children in respectful ways and encourages parents to remember that children are capable of doing better.

Young children are often curious and very much into pushing boundaries. Connecting with your child before making any corrections is a surefire way to better behavior. Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline says, “We cannot influence children in a positive way until we create a connection with them."

Each time your child pushes a limit, breaks a rule or a bottle of shampoo, before you correct the behavior, try to slow down first. Create a deliberate moment of connection. A moment when you can confidently provide safety and understanding for your child.

Enter into your child's world. Look beyond the naughty mess and notice the learning and discoveries taking place.

Remind them you are their ally, you are on their side. Even when you are saying no or stopping unhelpful behaviors.

Of course it's not always easy to stay calm and pretend that spilled soap is no big deal.

The thing is, your child really needs your confident and calm guidance when they make mistakes. Having realistic expectations about childhood behaviors can help you make connected and positive discipline choices.

These early interactions matter because how to choose to discipline shapes your child. Siegel and Payne write, “The moments when discipline is called for are actually some of the most important moments of parenting, times when we have the opportunity to shape our children most powerfully."

Back when my son was making all those mischievous mistakes, I didn't assume he was being bad or disrespectful. Instead these moments were treated as opportunities for offering guidance. I tried to calm the need to lecture and correct, and instead simply joined my child in his world. I realized he was curious and playful. He was also open to suggestions and often happy to have some guidance.

Connecting before making corrections helps children trust you. It helps you see your child. Really see your child, in that moment and what they need.

Connecting lets you create a meaningful moment to listen, validate and acknowledge your child.

How connection before correction might work for you:

  • Calm your own expectations or fears (remember your child is imperfect just like you)
  • Enter into your child's world, think about the experience from their point of view.
  • Listen to what your child might have to say.
  • Focus on solutions and possibilities.
  • Use gentle physical touch to engage with your child.
  • Speak kindly and clearly—say what you really mean.
  • Make eye contact and get down to your child's level.
  • Offer corrections that are encouraging and respectful.
  • Believe that when you work together, your child can learn to make a new, better choice.

Discipline that comes from a place of love and care teaches. When you connect first, you speak to your child's heart and mind at the same time.

That is powerful. That is discipline. That is the surefire path to better behavior.

Back when my husband and I were creating our wedding registry, it was a fun, low-pressure opportunity to select some new dishes and linens. After all, I knew a thing or two about stocking my home and making the "wrong decision" with thread count was the only thing that posed any risk to my sleep at night.

Fast-forward a few years to when I created a baby registry before the birth of my first child—and I found the experience to have a much steeper learning curve. Unlike those sheets, it felt like a bad swaddle or bassinet selection would be catastrophic. Unsure of what to expect from motherhood or my baby, I leaned heavily on advice from friends who already ventured into parenthood. (Starting with their reminders to take deep breaths!)

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Now a mom of three little ones under the age of four, I'm happy to be in a position to pass along some baby registry wisdom.

Go shopping with a veteran parent

As first-time parents, my husband and I barely knew the difference between a bouncer and a swing, let alone what specific features we would want. So when a mom friend recommended we head to Walmart to build my registry together—because she found them to carry the trendy brands she loved AND make registering a breeze during her pregnancy—I leapt at the chance.

By walking through the aisles together and actually getting to see the products, I was much more confident in my registry selections. Thanks to that quick, in-store tutorial from my friend, I understood exactly how to match a perfect infant car seat with an extra base and stroller—which is something I would have been clueless about on my own.

Include items at a variety of price points

When it comes down to it, a registry is really a wish list. So, while I had a personal budget for a stroller if it had to come out of my own pocket, this was an opportunity for me to ask for the stroller of my dreams. And, wouldn't you know it? A few family members went in on it together, which made a bigger price tag much more manageable.

At the same time, it's nice to include some of the smaller ticket items that are absolutely essential. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I was to skip buying my own diapers for those first few weeks. (With super cute patterns, these are also surprisingly fun to give, too!)

Think about the gifts you would like to give

The first time I bought a mom-to-be a gift after my own child was born, I knew immediately what to look for on her registry: a diaper bag backpack, which I had come to have very strong opinions about after battling falling straps with my first diaper bag. This allowed me to feel like I had a personal touch in my gift, even if I brought one pre-selected by her.

I also appreciate it when my friends clearly incorporate their style into their registry choices, like with adorable baby outfits or nursery decor—and there's no sweeter "thank you" than a picture from a friend showing your gift in use.

Ask for things to grow with your child

Even though it's called a baby registry, there's no need to limit yourself to gifts to use before their first birthday. (To this day, I still have people who attended my baby shower to thank for the convertible bed that my oldest child sleeps in!) Knowing that, I would have included more options with long lifespans into my registry—namely, a baby carrier that can be used during the newborn months, baby months and well into the toddler years. A well-designed baby carrier would have saved my back from serious pain because it would have allowed me to comfortably and ergonomically carry my toddler as she made her way into the 25lb+ club. One brand that's designed to grow with your baby and accommodates 7-45 pounds (up to about four years old) and offers both inward and forward-facing positions is Ergobaby. With several different design and style options, you can easily find one that caters to your parenting needs. From an all-in-one carrier, like the Omni 360, that grows with baby from the newborn stages into the toddler years or a newborn-specific carrier, like the Embrace (and don't worry you can later upgrade to a carrier for an older baby, I recommend the 360 Carrier). The best part? All ergonomic designs are supportive and comfortable for both baby and parent, offering extra lumbar support with breathable, lightweight mesh styles. Everyone (even grandparents!) can get a kick out of babywearing, which is a nice and welcomed break for parents. Having one of these on my registry would have certainly made those first few years so much easier.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This article was sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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