Instead, here’s a bit about the final lesson of the evening – Connection:
The Conscious Discipline program does not rely on the traditional threat-reward system for getting kids to cooperate. Instead, that buy-in is earned through a strong relationship. Nicole explained that connecting with our kids every day is one way we build that relationship – and it’s important to understand that routine is not connection. Spending time together as we go through the normal routine of the day is not enough. A real connection requires special moments that include eye contact, touch and an expression of your feelings for the child. For example, our principal greets each student daily with eye contact, touch (high-five, fist bump, or bear hug) and warm words as they enter the building – not because it’s cute, but to start their day with a positive first connection. If you’ve ever tried the threat, “if you don’t stop that behavior, you might need a visit to the principal’s office,” I'm sure you realized it didn’t work - none of our kids are afraid of their principal! She has built connections with them and has earned their cooperation, rather than scaring them into obedience. And that’s what we’re really after at home too.
Nicole said that at home, rituals for connecting can be anything – family songs, sayings, inside jokes or secret handshakes. She gave us this adapted version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which some families practiced during the workshop:
What a wonderful child you are
With bright eyes and nice round cheeks (touch child’s eyes, touch child’s cheeks)
A talented child from head to feet (tickle head, tickle feet)
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
What a wonderful child you are! (big hug and kiss)
I asked my daughter if she’d like to say a special goodnight with me. She came over and as soon as I said the first “twinkle” she said “NOPE, not going to bed!” My heart sank when she rejected my attempt at connection. I called my son over for his special goodnight and he loved it, asking for another round and sinking into me at the end, ready to rest. As my husband finally got our kids upstairs and in their pajamas, I thought, “Maybe my daughter is just too big for this kind of thing.”
Suddenly she appeared back downstairs, and grumbled that she'd changed her mind. We looked into each other’s eyes, touched fingertips together and ended each rendition with a huge hug. My daughter went to sleep with a smile on her face.
Our family of four spends so much time together, it never occurred to me that there are days a real connection is missing. Even if our busy schedule doesn't allow for one-on-one bonding every day, I know that I can set aside a few minutes to do this ritual, or to create my own.
By Dawn Madura