By Astrid Lindgren
Above all, I believe that there should never be any violence. In 1978 I received a peace prize in West
Germany for my books [Pippi Longstocking], and I gave an accepting speech that I called just that: "Never Violence." And in
that speech I told a story from my own experience.
When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had
her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard
punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking - the
first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was
gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, "Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock
that you can throw at me."
All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if
my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the
mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever:
never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery - one can
raise children into violence.
Twenty Alternatives to Punishment
by Aletha Solter, Ph.D.
(French version: Vingt Alternatives à la Punition)
- 1. LOOK FOR UNDERLYING NEEDS.
- Example: Give your child something to play with while waiting in line.
- 2. GIVE INFORMATION AND REASONS.
- Example: If your child colors on the wall, explain why we color on paper only.
- 3. LOOK FOR UNDERLYING FEELINGS.
- Acknowledge, accept & listen to feelings. Example: If your child hits his baby sister,
encourage him to express his anger and jealousy in harmless ways. He may need to cry or rage.
- 4. CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENT.
- This is sometimes easier than trying to change the child. Example: If your child repeatedly
takes things out of the kitchen cupboards, put a childproof lock on them.
- 5. FIND ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVES.
- Redirect your child's behavior. Example: If you do not want your child to build a fort
in the dining room, don't just say no. Tell her where she can build one.
- 6. DEMONSTRATE HOW YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO BEHAVE.
- Example: If your child pulls a cat's tail, show her how to pet a cat. Do not rely
on words alone.
- 7. GIVE CHOICES RATHER THAN COMMANDS.
- Decision-making empowers children; commands invite a power struggle. Example: "Would
you like to brush your teeth before or after putting your pajamas on?"
- 8. MAKE SMALL CONCESSIONS.
- Example: "I'll let you skip brushing your teeth tonight because you are so tired."
- 9. PROVIDE FOR A PERIOD OF PREPARATION.
- Example: If you are counting on company for dinner, tell your child how you expect him
to behave. Be specific. Role-playing can help prepare children for potentially difficult situations.
- 10. LET NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OCCUR (when appropriate).
- Don't rescue too much. Example: A child who does not hang up her bathing suit and towel
may find them still wet the next day. (But don't create artificial consequences.)
- 11. COMMUNICATE YOUR OWN FEELINGS.
- Let children know how their behavior affects you. Example: "I get so tired of cleaning
up crumbs in the living room."
- 12. USE ACTIONS WHEN NECESSARY.
- Example: If your child insists on running across streets on your walks together, hold
his hand tightly (while explaining the dangers).
- 13. HOLD YOUR CHILD.
- Children who are acting aggressively or obnoxiously can benefit from holding, in a loving
and supportive way, that allows them to channel their pent-up feelings into healing tears.
- 14. REMOVE YOUR CHILD FROM THE SITUATION AND STAY WITH HER.
- Use the time for listening, sharing feelings, holding, and conflict-resolution.
- 15. DO IT TOGETHER, BE PLAYFUL.
- Many conflict situations can be turned into games. Examples: "Let's pretend we're the
seven dwarfs while we clean up," "Let's take turns brushing each other's teeth."
- 16. DEFUSE THE SITUATION WITH LAUGHTER.
- Example: If your child is mad at you, invite him to express his anger in a playful pillow
fight with you. Play your part by surrendering dramatically. Laughter helps resolve anger and feelings of powerlessness.
- 17. MAKE A DEAL, NEGOTIATE.
- Example: If you're ready to leave the playground and your child is having fun, reach
an agreement on the number of times she may go down the slide before leaving.
- 18. DO MUTUAL CONFLICT-RESOLUTION.
- Discuss ongoing conflicts with your children, state your own needs, and ask for their
help in finding solutions. Determine rules together. Hold family meetings.
- 19. REVISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
- Young children have intense feelings and needs and are naturally loud, curious, messy,
willful, impatient, demanding, creative, forgetful, fearful, self-centered, and full of energy. Try to accept them as they
- 20. TAKE A PARENTAL TIME-OUT.
- Leave the room and do whatever is needed to regain your sense of composure and good judgment.
Examples: call a friend, cry, meditate, or take a shower.
Aletha Solter, PhD, is a developmental psychologist, international speaker, consultant,
and founder of the Aware Parenting Institute (www.awareparenting.com). Her four books, The Aware Baby, Helping Young Children Flourish, Tears and Tantrums, and Raising Drug-Free Kids, have been translated into many languages, and she is recognized internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma,
and non-punitive discipline. She lives in California, and has two grown children and one grandchild.
Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child-rearing that has the potential to change the world. Based on cutting-edge research and insights
in child development, Aware Parenting questions most traditional assumptions about raising children, and proposes a new approach
that can profoundly shift a parent's relationship with his or her child. Parents who follow this approach raise children who
are bright, compassionate, competent, non-violent, and drug-free.
Child Behavior Vs. Personality:
It's not about us
We've all done it. We see a child acting horrible at the playground and think the mother is too lenient. We
see a child who's "too" obedient and we think she must be beaten into submission.
We judge other parents by the behavior
of their kids. When our own kids are good we give ourselves smug pats on the back, and when they're like rabid lemurs on speed,
we wonder how we've failed so badly.
The more I grow as a mother, the more I realize how utterly clueless most of
us (myself included) are about how much we really matter. :)
I have a secret. It's not about us.
that climb the refrigerator and worse, try to climb Great Grandma? They'd be doing it whether they were raised by the most
empathetic, loving parents or spent half their lives in time out in their bedrooms. And yes, they'd be doing it if they were
spanked and their parents "set limits." Some kids are just wilder than others.
And those little angels who obediently
trot after parents in grocery stores and happily carry on precocious conversations with the check-out lady? They'd be doing
it in just about any family they happened upon, within reason.
Yes, how we parent has a huge influence on our children's
behavior. For instance, if we take our kids to the grocery store right before nap time, most kids are going to be cranky and
out of hand. If we get into power struggles with our two year olds and use "no" more frequently than we use oxygen, of course
we're going to have rebellious toddlers prone to bucking the simplest request.
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