For those looking for a new way to discipline children, the St. Mary’s public school system is hosting free workshops.
Conscious Discipline is an “evidence-based program that supports social emotional learning and teaches adults to regulate their own emotions as they help children do the same,” Kelly Hall, the school system’s executive director of supplemental programs, said in an email.
St. Mary’s public schools invited Amy Speidel to speak at two of the workshops. She is a master Conscious Discipline instructor who hosted her first workshop Monday night at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center in Leonardtown.
Her presentation was titled “Raising Caring Children in a Complex World.” She asked the audience if they remembered the phrase “Do as I say, not what I do,” and told them the saying should change to “Do as I say, and as I do.”
She said children’s behaviors reflect that of their parents. For example, telling a kid to calm down might not work if the parent is not calm. And parents cannot look excited when getting their kid ready for bed because the child could think he or she is missing out on the fun.
“You got to look like you’re barely making it out alive,” she said about bedtime. Other bedtime tips included checking back in on them before they check on you, and to give them something that smells like you.
Speidel said to treat conflicts as an opportunity to teach. She told the group to say together, “Yay, another opportunity to problem solve.” And to later say, “My state dictates your state.”
The Conscious Discipline instructor said self-control is the main skill needed in order to discipline a child, but it has to be maintained to teach by example. There are three states in the brain that lead to self-control, Speidel said: survival, emotional and executive. A volunteer representing the survival state was holding a sword, shield and surrender flag. At survival state, a parent might give a child what they want to avoid a tantrum. But Speidel said the tantrum is a reaction to disappointment, a feeling a 1-year-old might not be used to, since he or she didn’t hear the word “no” at that age.
“Help them get through the disappointment,” Speidel said.
The volunteer representing the emotional state was wearing headphones and holding a CD player. Speidel said the disc represents the upsetting messages adults held on to when they were disciplined as a child. It could be played back when it’s their turn to be the parent.
“You don’t know what your tape is until you have a child,” she said.
All children know how to do during the emotional stage is emote, because “they don’t have any internal speech, so everything comes out their mouths,” Speidel said.
The parent representing the executive state was wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat and holding a magnifying glass, because that’s how problems can be solved. She recommended what she called the “STAR” technique: Smile, take a deep breath and relax.
Once the child is calm, Speidel said to use language of assertiveness. Instead of saying: “I need you to put your pajamas on,” use the phrase: “It’s time to put your pajamas on,” she said.
Speidel acknowledged the discipline techniques do not stick right away, and can take practice to hone.
“It’s like learning a new language even for teachers,” she said. “How many of you can walk out that door and just speak Portuguese?”
Speidel will hold a second workshop, “Leaving the House Without Losing Your Mind,” at the Lexington Park library on Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Speidel’s fellow master Conscious Discipline instructor, Lety Valero, will present at the same location the day before, but in Spanish. His presentation, “From Chaos to Calm,” will be from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. before moving to George Washington Carver Elementary School from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Child care is provided.