Deeply Rooted in No-Drama Discipline Part 1

By: Jalynn Johnson, CSW

Working at The Green House I have been exposed to so many wonderful resources!  I have been introduced to books, trainings, techniques, you name it!  For this blog post, I want to share my personal notes and outline of Dan Siegel’s book, No Drama Discipline: The whole-brain way to calm the chaos and nurture your child’s developing mind.  I have shared countless tips from this book with the parents that I work with, and the information is backed up by research and the testimonials of the parents who have tried them.  These tips are for the parents who are struggling with disciplining their children, who feel like their methods aren’t effective, or that it’s harming your relationship with your child.  My hope is that some of these tips will be helpful to you as you work to parent your child from an intentional place of attachment and connection.  I have broken my thoughts up into three separate blog posts, organized by the chapters in the book.  Feel free to follow along!


                Parents often end up REACTING to situations rather than working from a clear set of strategies and principles.  This book is to help you become an INTENTIONAL parent, making conscious decisions on principles decided beforehand.  You need to decide what you want your child to be learning in those moments of correction, and by doing so your parenting will be more effective and driven by teaching rather than punishing. This book aims to help parents learn to first connect with their child before redirecting and teaching them.

What is your discipline philosophy?  Questions to consider:

  1. Do I have a discipline philosophy?
  2. Is what I’m doing working?
  3. Do I feel good about what I’m doing?
  4. Do my kids feel good about it?
  5. Do I feel good about the messages I’m communicating to my children?
  6. How much does my approach resemble that of my own parents?
  7. Does my approach ever lead to my kids apologizing in a sincere manner?
  8. Does it allow for me to take responsibility and apologize for my own actions?

When considering your child’s behaviors, there are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Why did my child behave like that?
    1. Is it developmentally appropriate?  Is it because they’re hungry or tired?  Is it due to circumstance?
    1. What lesson do I want to teach in this moment?
    1. How can I best teach this lesson?
      1. It needs to be a time when you are both in a good and receptive state of mind, which may mean the next day.

Ideas to consider: Time-outs may not always be the best option for your child.  Consider what the child experiences during a time out while they are “thinking about what they’ve done wrong.”  They may just be thinking about how rude you are that you aren’t letting them play their game.  There could be a better way.  Instead, consider asking the child to handle the situation differently, have them do a “re-do.”  As they repeat these positive actions and corrections it will become more habitual.  Consider a time-in, meaning having the child cool down while they are near you.  Maybe create a “calm zone” where the child has some favorite books, a stuffed animal, play-doh, etc. so they can go and regulate, and after you can teach them what you’d like to.


“Brain C” #1: The Brain is Changing

In the image below, you will see that we all have an upstairs and a downstairs brain.  Our child’s upstairs brain is still under construction, and will be until their mid 20s.  This shows us that sometimes children are incapable of being logical and in control of their emotions, because that part of the brain isn’t developed yet.  That doesn’t mean we let bad behavior slide, but it’s an even greater reason to set clear boundaries and help your child know what is expected.  We need to help facilitate the development of the upstairs brain by being empathic towards our child, maybe resetting expectations, and parenting accordingly.

“Brain C” #2: The Brain is Changeable

The brain can be molded intentionally by experience.  There is the old saying, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”  If kids have repeated experiences that will create a pathway in their brain.  We as parents must be intentional in the experiences we give them, so as to help them form pathways in the brain that are adaptive and function well.  A direct quote from the book states, “If repeated experiences actually change the physical architecture of the brain, then it becomes paramount that we be intentional about the experiences we give our children.”

 “Brain C” #3: The Brain is Complex

We need to learn to appeal to different parts of the child’s brain to help them and get the results we’d like.  We first need to appeal to the downstairs brain and them you can work towards the upstairs brain. When we continuously work to engage the upstairs brain it will become stronger.

Name it to tame it strategy: Sometimes kids don’t have the words to describe their emotional experience.  We as parents can help them learn the words and ways of expressing by example.  We can say, “You look really upset right now!”  As we identify their emotion, the kiddos will recognize that they are seen and understood, and their body can begin to relax.

Connect then redirect: Sometimes our instinct is to hurry and correct the child when they are engaging in a behavior we think is wrong.  That is an appeal to the upstairs brain, and rarely works.  When we first work to connect with our child, we engage the downstairs brain and the child can begin to relax.  Maybe that looks like a hug, holding their hand, reflecting their emotions, etc.  When we connect with them and let them be heard, then we can engage the upstairs brain and redirect them to a more positive learning experience.

Build the brain by setting limits:  When we have limits and boundaries it is actually helping our children build their upstairs brain, we help them build a conscious.

“Bad” behaviors: When kids do something “bad” they are actually communicating to us that they are lacking skills in some area, throwing a tantrum may be a cry for help.  Give them the skills needed, after you’ve connected with them.