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The ‘discipline’ approach that *prevents* kid problems

It is called soliciting good intentions, and the aim is to work ahead of challenging problems instead of when emotions are really stirred up.

The ‘discipline’ approach that *prevents* kid problems

“How do I get my child to behave?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from parents and adults who care for kids.


When it comes to discipline so much of the focus goes on ‘what to do when a child does ….?’ Discipline strategies are usually aimed at what to do in the moment and usually after a child has erupted and things have gone awry.

Fortunately, there is one particular discipline strategy that doesn’t require waiting for an incident to happen. It takes a more proactive approach to dealing with troublesome behavior and takes into consideration both the developmental and relational needs of a child.

It is called soliciting good intentions, and the aim is to work ahead of challenging problems instead of when emotions and instincts are really stirred up.*

Soliciting good intentions means a parent uses their relationship with a child to help them aim their behavior in a civilized direction. It’s done in anticipation of challenges and means an adult will need to take a proactive stance to work ahead of incidents.

While it is impossible to predict every problem that can unfold with kids, adults are usually aware of what their child will find difficult. When a parent solicits a child’s intentions they are trying to get their child onside in advance of incidents. The child is given the opportunity to agree ahead of situations that they will behave in a certain way.

For example, whenever my kids and I went on an outing I would ask them ahead of time, “The Aquarium is a big place and I need to know where you are at all times. Can I count on you to hold my hand today when we are there?”

If we went to the park I would usually ask them, “Can I count on you to come with me when it is time to leave the park and not run away and say that you don’t want to go? I will give you as much time at the park as I can, and when we need to go, I need you to come okay?” They were usually quite agreeable and willing to point in my direction.

My children’s good intentions would sometimes get lost in the midst of gazing at fish on Aquarium outings and while tumbling down slides. When their little hand would squirm to let go of mine, I would remind them of the intentions they had made earlier to me to hold on. This usually helped to quell their frustration and resistance.

If it didn’t, I usually knew that other things were stirring them up that needed attention—like hunger or nap time, or escaping from an excess of stimulation. Sometimes at the park, I would have to remind my kids of the intentions they had made to me earlier, while also acknowledging that sometimes it is hard to leave when we’re having fun.

Soliciting good intentions ahead of time can make transitioning between events easier and involve less friction.

Soliciting good intentions is a discipline strategy I still rely heavily upon as a parent, even as my children approach teenage years. I use it most often when I need to get ahead of issues that could be contentious, such as shopping for a friend’s birthday present at the toy store.

I still ask my kids if I can count on them not to ask me to buy them a toy while we are shopping for someone else before entering the store. I also ask them if I can count on them to clean up their room without having to ask them continuously to do so on the weekend when this chore is done. It has saved us all much resistance and frustration when agendas can’t be realized or are difficult.

The developmental benefits of soliciting good intentions

There are a number of developmental benefits to a child when adults solicit their good intentions. This action naturally imparts the parent’s values as well as orients the child to what is considered civilized behavior. It also places the child’s hands on the steering wheel when it comes to their own actions. It helps point them toward become their own separate person and being independent.

By soliciting the child’s intentions ahead of time, the focus is shifted away from violations, punishment and making demands of them in the heat of the moment.

Soliciting intentions helps to preserve the parent and child relationship and avoid power struggles and emotionally charged moments where patience on both sides can quickly run out. We also don’t have to wait for a child to get something wrong before we point them towards the ‘right direction.’

The other benefit is that even if a child misses the mark, this is about intentions and not perfection. It leaves a lot of room for a child to keep aiming in a parent’s direction despite the challenges they may have in getting there.

Soliciting a child’s intentions is also an effective discipline strategy that can be used in place of consequences, which requires a child to think twice and comes after there has been a problem. We know young children do not typically think twice before acting until brain integration has occurred between the ages of five to seven, on average. Until this time, they are instinctively moved, with emotional outbursts being commonplace.

When we solicit a child’s good intentions we lean on our relationship with them in order to get them on our side. This will help us avoid using contrived or overpowering discipline techniques for the purpose of achieving compliance. If a child is not attached to an adult, the capacity to point a child in a particular direction is weak, if not nonexistent.

Soliciting a child’s good intentions

Practically speaking, when we solicit a child’s good intentions we will need to collect them first by nicely getting in their face in a friendly way with a smile and a kind voice, then focusing on what they are attending to, or helping them with something. When we feel we have their attention, we can then point them towards realistic goals and work in anticipation of problems.

We can draw the child onside with their good intentions and identify how we would like them to act, instead of focusing on their failures and wrongdoings.

We can also support and encourage a child when they are faced with challenges in living up to their intentions. It is one thing to form an intention and another thing to be able to achieve it.

Even as adults we make intentions that we struggle to realize—this is just part of being human. What matters is how we deal with the internal conflict that arises between our goals and the impediments we face in realizing them.

When we come to a child’s side and enlist their agreement to point in a particular direction, we help them realize it is natural to wrestle with conflicting thoughts and feelings. It may seem small and insignificant to solicit a child’s intentions today, but this is how a child starts to realize they can steer their own behavior and realize their human potential.

*For more information please see Gordon Neufeld’s Discipline that Doesn’t Divide DVD available through the Neufeld Institute. You can also hear Gordon Neufeld give two keynote addresses on discipline at the Neufeld Conference April 30th in Richmond, BC, Canada. See www.neufeldinstitute.org for more information.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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