This interview was led by Singleparentopia.com. I hope you enjoy reading it!
Tell me how and when did you come across Positive Discipline? Was it linked to a specific event?
It’s a recent story. I first came across Positive Discipline in 2013 with the book by Jane Nelsen, when my son was 11. To set the background, I am Japanese, naturalized Swiss, married twice to different nationalities. Within this multi-lingual, cultural and blended family environment, I have a son (a single child from my first marriage) who is living with us and spending half of his holidays with his father (and his new family abroad), and us. I was also a single mom when my son was a toddler. When my son reached his pre-teen – and grew 20 centimetres in one summer. I found myself looking up at a tall (and I’m short) grumpy/sulking boy with whom I lost my means of communication (and authority …) amongst other challenges. At one time, our relationship was getting very difficult and I didn’t know what to do anymore and really felt lost with this ‘stranger’ who is my son. I searched for various parenting books and came across Positive Discipline – which changed everything, much beyond my expectations.
When and why did you decide to become professionally engaged in it?
In 2016 I resigned from my previous job (of almost 20 years) in Human Resources (Recruitment and Training), to work as an independent trainer in Positive Discipline. That was 2 years after I completed my first certification as a Positive Discipline facilitator in the UK. I was so convinced and impressed with the method that I went to get certified and resigned from my work to dedicate myself 100 per cent as a trainer/facilitator. I saw there was such a great need around me – single parents, multi-cultural/lingual families, patchwork families, expat families, grandparents, step-parents, you name it – who have little support in parenting and who are suffering. I truly believe that this method can bring solutions for parents, teachers and educators as it is for me – first as a single parent of a toddler, then as a blended family, in a multicultural environment, and today with a teenager. It’s an ongoing process of course.
For someone who is not familiar with Positive Discipline, how could you explain it in a few sentences?
Positive Discipline is a training program developed by Dr Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott (family therapists) in the US in the 1980s. It is based on the work of two Austrian psychiatrists Alfred Adler (a contemporary of Freud) and Rudolf Dreikurs who was his student. It is designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities.
Positive discipline teaches important social and life skills in a meaningful way that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults (including parents, teachers, childcare providers, youth workers and leaders).
Recent research tells us that children are wired from birth to connect with others and that children who feel connected to their community, family and school are less likely to behave badly. Positive discipline is based on the understanding that this discipline (or life skill) must be taught and that discipline teaches.
Key Positive Discipline criteria are, for instance, to be Kind and Firm at the same time, with encouragement as a driver behind the change. The objective of Positive Discipline is to develop social skills in children which will help them become responsible adults.
What are some of the main strategies of Positive Discipline that you find most effective?
An important concept of positive discipline is the identification of the belief (of the child) behind the child’s “bad behaviour”. Positive Discipline focuses on why children do what they do and strive to change these beliefs, rather than simply trying to change their behaviour.
For instance, a child who constantly interrupts the adult when he/she is on the phone or constantly bangs the table with the spoon. And you’ve repeatedly said no, or to stop, and you end up punishing the child. However, the child starts again and this goes on and on. What is the belief behind the behaviour? What is the child’s message? (as it’s often unconscious). When we understand the child’s belief, we can solve the problem without punishment.
We, therefore, learn how to better communicate with children and practice problem-solving skills. We focus on solutions instead of using punishment. Which does not mean we are permissive. When it’s no, it’s no, and we learn how to say it in a kind and firm manner. This is not easy. That is why we learn how to do this and practice.
For many parents, there is a major shift of paradigm, therefore workshops are great to practice and try out the new concepts.
In your three years of working with parents, do you have any stories/examples to share of how Positive Discipline principles helped in addressing parents-children relationships?
Oh, fortunately plenty! And this is my fuel to keep doing this. I was recently invited to a marriage, as the bride participated in my workshop some years ago when she was a single mom with a boy and who was struggling between the needs of her very young son’s misbehaviour, her ex-husband and her new boyfriend. I believe it helped as she is married today with her boyfriend and from what I saw of the young boy, he is doing very well.
I also received a lovely video that a parent sent to me of their children (whom I never met), thanking me, saying their dad is shouting less, and there are fewer conflicts in the family. I was very touched.
How can Positive Discipline be useful for single parents? Are there any specifics you would like to highlight?
There is a book on Positive Discipline for single parents (also translated into French). It addresses the challenges of doing alone a job that was meant for two people. And the difficulty of the child being sandwiched between two parenting style if the child is living between two households. In my workshops, although I’ve had a mix of all types of families, I have the book available. it is very encouraging to share AND get support from other parents whatever the situation. Reading the book is one thing and attending the workshops gives you room and time to practice the theory. You’ll learn how to succeed as a single parent in the most important job of your life: raising a child who is responsible, respectful, and resourceful, and you will feel supported.
What are the main messages about Positive Discipline that you would like to convey?
As a parent, we often feel lonely and lost in front of our children’s misbehaviour. Especially in our environment with few or no family community around to share and get support from.
Positive Discipline workshops can create this supportive community which is very inspiring and powerful for our own development as a parent. When conflicts with children are solved or managed, it improves family life, with more energy at work and influences everything else positively in your life.
This methodology can be applied to all relationships including with your ex-spouse, with your colleagues, and can impact your leadership skills positively. However it is a process, so it takes time, practice and some effort. This is not a quick fix so workshops are essential to walk you through the process with other parents. I have personally tried it, still working on it on a daily basis, and it has changed my life so it can change yours as well, to the better! Positive Discipline is part of the journey of life.
Izumi lives in Geneva, with a 17-year old son, and facilitates Positive Discipline workshops in French and in English in the Suisse Romande region.
Thank you for reading and I’d love to hear from you and your comments!