Sometimes I observe my son who at times laughs too loudly, speaks too harshly and moves erratically.

I seek ways to calm him and alter negative behaviors before they take root and become dysfunctional patterns. And so I ask myself, How can I guide him without changing who he is? How can I help him ignite latent beneficial qualities that seem fleeting but twinkle at a distance?

In my wondering, I come across Miley Cyrus singing:

“Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma

Well, it’s the only thing I could do half right
It’s turning out all wrong Ma
Look what they’ve done to my song.”

I also note what Kahil Gibran wrote about children: “...their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”

In my search for a parenting philosophy that guides without interfering I come across Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson’s bestselling  book, No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. They remind us of the brain’s plasticity. When neurons fire, ignited by emotions such as fear or joy, they fire at the same moment as the emotion and also wire with that emotion. Additionally, the authors believe wise discipline provides opportunities to help our children grow.

Young children often react from their right brain, the part that contains the BIG emotions that they do not yet have the capacity to regulate. Using the authors’ “Connect and Redirect” discipline approach, we can help our children build pathways from the emotional right brain to the self-regulatory left brain. But first, we have to meet them where they are:

  1. Connect to your child. First, let your child talk/emote. Take as long as you both need for your child to feel heard. You will know that this has occurred when your child starts nodding and saying “Yes.”
  2. Validate his or her feelings. This helps your child to feel heard and understood.
  3. Now that you have connected, your child is more prepared to be redirected toward the desired behavior. For example, you might say, “You are angry, but hitting hurts. I see your brother crying. Is there something you can do differently so that he doesn’t get hurt?”

Whew! I remind myself that childhood is the perfect time to be clumsy, laugh too loudly, fall, pick oneself up and fall again. My son pushes and kicks, gets pushed and kicked. He has learned to read, gets 100 on Dictée and on another day, 56 on Dictée.

And it’s all good. It’s childhood.