No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, written by: Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D., is an engaging, practical, and informative parenting book aimed to guide parents on effective discipline practices for all children and youth. It is a must-have book for any parent, caregiver, teacher, and other professionals who work with families. This book ties nicely with Daniel J. Siegel’s and Tina Payne Bryson’s other edition, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind and Daniel J. Siegel’s Brainstorm . I highly recommend this book as an addition to your library or one of your main go-to resources for effective parenting. This edition looks at customary discipline practices such as spanking and time-outs, and encourages parents to use a more positive behavior management approach by incorporating the youth’s brain development, by teaching the youth social behavior and emotional management skills, and by building connection and relationship with their youth. The authors emphasize that by focusing on the goals of discipline, you are able to create more learning opportunities for children and youth which will benefit them in the short and longer term. Effective discipline takes into account the child’s mindsight and helps reframe the child’s motivational factors which influence their behavior. No-drama Discipline encourages parents to understand the child’s own experiences, validate and reflect their feelings, use redirection in a strategic way to help their children develop insight, empathy, and their own solutions to solve difficulties. This book is not preachy or punitive to parents, and encourages parents to remember that they are human. In No-Drama Discipline parents are reinforced to know that relationship building and connecting with your child are critical elements in teaching positive behavior and determining future positive outcomes, a changed perspective on parenting, discipline and child brain development, and several concrete and practical strategies to incorporate within your home. The book is full of practical and realistic examples with cartoon pictures, stories of real situations, and concrete suggestions on how to successfully redirect behavior. As well the authors provide pros and cons with traditional discipline methods to help explain the short and long term benefit of using effective discipline practices with young people. This book is an easy-read and engaging book for anyone. Overall, No-Drama Discipline is definitely a bestseller in the Siegel and Payne collection (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
As parents, caregivers, teachers, and many others who interact with children, we know that we impose discipline as a way to teach our youth new and positive behaviors. Discipline seeks to achieve TWO GOALS:
1. to encourage youth to make the right choices and to cooperate with others and
2. to teach our youth to develop long term skills on managing their emotions, handling difficult situations, and self-control.
Effective discipline is teaching our youth positive skills to help them in other situations which may arise in their lives. Siegel and Payne Bryson’s approach is not focused on instituting heavy consequences and punitive reactions to young people’s behavior, rather it is focused on encouraging parents to use discipline to connect and redirect their youth’s behavior. According to the authors, research shows that young people who have nurturing and connected environments as they are developing, characterized by open communication, clear limits and boundary settings and high expectations in a consistent way lead to better outcomes for their future (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
This is not a usual “parenting” book which focuses on the “problem child” with behavior issues and focuses upon developing rigid rules and boundaries to keep the youth’s behavior in “check” at all times. This is also not your “pie in the sky”, perfect family serum that creates strategies which busy parents in our modern world would never be able to replicate successfully, daily. The authors are very clear in understanding that in our world, parents ARE busy maintaining work/career and in often demanding stressful environments. They recognize that families are usually on the go with schedules and programs which may make it difficult to take the time to address their child’s behavior with a teaching element. The authors recognize that one behavior intervention may not work for each situation all the time as well for many children. They acknowledge that a child’s temper tantrums and behaviors may also elicit a specific emotional response in even the most patient parent may struggle with, but they recognize that parents are human beings, striving to do the best for their children and optimizing their outcomes (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
When parents initially respond to misbehavior by their child, they are encouraged to think, “WHY did my child react this way?”…. “WHAT lesson do I want to teach in this moment”… and “How can I best teach this lesson?” . It is a realistic approach where the parent is not reactive to their child’s behavior but rather proactive and reflective. It is important parents take some time to think about and become attuned to their child and understand where the behavior is coming from and how they can best help their child manage their behavior more effectively. The authors suggest alternatives such as time in’s and a calm zone can be effectively in helping parents manage their child’s behavior without feeling rejected or unworthy. In a “time-in” situation, parents are encouraged to spend one on one time with their child as a way to help them regain self-control and regulate their emotions. The calm zone can be helpful for children to develop their internal self-regulation when they are overstimulated, tired, and has difficulty managing their behavior well. The authors encourage parents, caregivers, and like to take time to reflect on what their discipline philosophy is and what they hope to accomplish in helping their child grow to be healthy adult as well as enjoy their relationship with their children (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
The other teaching moment within this book is helping parents, caregivers and others understand the child’s developing brain in clear and concise manner. When parents begin to change their perspective on their child’s behavior by understanding their child’s perspective and where they are coming from, then parents can begin to use this angle to help them shift their thinking. This is termed as, “mindsight” and a central concept discussed in Seigel’s, Brainstorm edition. The authors write, “when we use our own mindsight circuits to sense the mind behind our children’s behavior we model for them how to sense the mind within themselves and others” . Mindsight is a skill which helps children to develop other skills such as empathy, compassion, insight and morality. According to Payne and Siegel, “mindsight is the basis of social and emotional intelligence ”. The authors also highlight that experiences changes the child’s developing brain, which then means positive and negative experiences will have a profound impact on how your child understands the world, develops their self-esteem, manages problems and conflicts in life and relationships, and how they develop resiliency. In addition to the impact of experiences on the developing brain, it is important to note that the brain is always changeable, complex in whole, and functions in many different ways. In the end, by integrating this understanding into parenting practices, we don’t necessarily create perfect robotic children who respond the same way all the time, but by using predictable, sensitive, loving and relational discipline you are in essence creating emotionally and socially healthy young people who then create adult lives in the same way (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
By utilizing the No-Drama approach you are also changing how you respond to difficulties in your child’s behavior. The authors term this as proactive parenting where you begin to recognize difficulties ahead of time and institute effective interventions to deal with the difficulty. If the behavior has escalated beyond the proactive stage, the parent is encouraged to connect with their child to help calm them down so they can receive redirection from you, connection builds the brain and helps your child to learn ways to effectively calm themselves before reacting to difficulties, and finally, connection strengthens the relationship and bond between yourself and your child (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
Connection does not entail that parents do not set limits or redirect behavior, but rather sets the tone for teaching the child how to calm their behavior and then rationally respond to the difficulty the child is experiencing. This is reinforced by teaching parents strategies on how to set appropriate limits and redirect behavior in a positive way (Siegel and Bryson, 2014) .
Included in the No-Drama Discipline is a No-Drama Connection Cycle which consists of communication comfort (aimed at encouraging your child to become calm once upset), validate ( helping your child to understand that you understand their feelings and what they are going through), stop talking and listen (allowing yourself to really listen to what your child is experiencing and saying without talking for them or talking at them), and finally reflect what you hear (reflecting to the child what you heard what they said to help them to feel heard and understood) . Within this cycle are specific strategies parents can attempt to ensure their child feels they have the support they require to manage their experiences at that time. There are also guiding steps to redirecting your child’s behavior which is important for parents to understand. The authors believed there are two principles: wait until your child is ready and be consistent, but not rigid . These principles are really about helping your child learn from their behavior, as opposed to the parent reacting to the behavior with rigidity and fear. The outcomes for implementing these strategies go further than just addressing the behavior in the moment, and is more about helping your child develop insight into themselves, instilling empathy as they learn understand how other’s may feel because of their behavior, and teaching your child to integrate insight and empathy and repair further challenges which may require in the future (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
Using redirection as a discipline strategy is an effective way of incorporating the principles described above. The authors provide 8 simple strategies to teach parents how to redirect their child’s behavior effectively and teach them new skills. They are described as:
1. Reduce words- very simple, long lectures are not effective.
2. Embrace emotions- validate their feelings, but teach them how to manage them
3. Describe, don’t preach- feel free to point out the obvious to activate your child’s thinking
4. Involve your child in the discipline- work collectively on developing a solution
5. Reframe a no into a conditional yes-using alternative messages to respond to child’s immediate concerns without turning them down completing
6. Emphasize the positive- emphasizing your child’s strengths and past accomplishments to redirect behavior.
7. Creatively approach the situation- using creativity and playfulness in helping redirect behavior, being flexible at times when needed, and use humor if appropriate
8. Teach mindsight tools- reinforce mindsight tools as discussed above to help them understand their behavior and how they react (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
In conclusion, the authors share messages of hope to parents, caregivers and others to help humanize their experience as parents and feel validated in their hard work in creating healthy, and successful adults.
• There is no magic wand
• Your kids benefit even when you mess up
• You can always reconnect
• It’s never too late to make a positive change
(Siegel and Bryson, 2014).
You can find your own copy of No-Drama Discipline at your nearest book seller, Chapters/Indigo, Amazon or at: http://www.drdansiegel.com/books/no_drama_discipline/
Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. P. (2014). No-Drama Discipline. New York City: Bantam Books.