There is no shortage of advice available about the most effective way to discipline children because there are different philosophies and attitudes about what is right or wrong when it comes to managing behavior. As a child counselor, I am asked frequently for advice or endorsements or opinions of a specific model or book. When I evaluate models for parenting I consider three things:
- Is this model congruent with what I believe about motivation for human behavior?
- Is there research to support the effectiveness of this program?
- Is there an equal balance of structure and nurture?
Let’s break these questions down as we look at Daniel Siegel’s book No Drama Discipline.
Motivation for Behavior
My theoretical approach to counseling is Adlerian and Attachment informed. I believe our environments and relationships impact our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. When children misbehave, they are trying to communicate an unmet need they are unable to recognize, understand, and/or articulate. To be honest, I’ve found this to be true in my adult relationships as well. Even as adults it can be difficult for our fully developed brains and matured emotions to recognize we are truly upset about something because of an unmet need, tease out what the need is, and meet the need before behaving badly. Imagine how much more difficult it is for children who are not developed and matured and who often haven’t learned all the words necessary to articulate their needs. Daniel Siegel’s book utilizes discipline as a tool to teach skills so children can handle themselves better now and make better decisions in the future. Discipline is an opportunity to help kids learn to listen to themselves, give words to the things they are dealing with, and chose strategies for solving the problem. Siegel breaks discipline into two steps: Connect and Redirect. Connection serves to meet the person’s need for secure attachment and to be seen and understood.
Daniel Siegel holds a Harvard medical degree and a PhD from UCLA in the area of pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. He has been at the forefront of brain research and a pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology. The field of interpersonal neurobiology is new and developed with contributions from a wide variety of science fields. It is a comprehensive look at human behavior. This research informs all of Siegel’s work and he is skilled at making these scientific concepts simple enough for kids to understand and exciting and engaging to learn about.
High Structure High Nurture
It may go against mainstream views about discipline to offer connection first when misbehavior happens. Rest assured though, this is not an indication that there is a lack of structure and boundaries in Siegel’s approach. Siegel reinforces the idea that structure is an element of creating a feeling of security for children. Siegel’s Connect and Redirect method emphasizes consistency, nurturing, and helping kids develop insight.