A guest post by Carmen Bernard —
Fourteen years ago, I was a young teacher working in a pre-kindergarten classroom when I attended my first Conscious Discipline workshop. Little did I know then how much Conscious Discipline would impact my life for years to come. I fell in love with the program and implemented it into my class right away. I witnessed firsthand the difference it made in my students’ behavior. There was a calmness to the class that hadn’t existed before. This calm, this peace, came from the relationships we had developed with each other. It wasn’t forced and manipulated by the promises of rewards, prizes or sticker charts. It was real.
Fast forward eight years. I left the only home I had ever known, moved to a new state and was teaching a new grade level. Instantly, my life was turned upside down and I was thrown into a state of survival. I stopped using Conscious Discipline. My classroom management was a disaster. I was unhappy and so were my students. Three years went by and I now had two kids of my own. I was so burnt out at work that I begged and pleaded to stay home with my kids ages 24 months and 6 months. I thought that was just the break I needed (Clearly, I had lost my mind at this point) and never thought twice about it even being challenging. After all, I was a teacher. I prided myself in managing a room filled with 20 kids. I only had two to care for by staying home. Easy, right?!
As far back as I can remember, I had always wanted a big family. I had visions of lots of kids running through the house laughing and playing while I danced around the kitchen peacefully preparing a delicious home-cooked meal for my family. Then we would all gather around the dinner table to share stories about our day and enjoy a nice meal together. That was it. I was going to be the epitome of a stay-at-home mom. You know, like Carol Brady. Scratch that! Carol Brady had a live in maid. (Ha! Maybe that’s where I went wrong.) Okay, June Cleaver. Home maker extraordinaire, loving wife and patient mother. I mean, she had her stuff together. That was going to be me!
It was all fun and games at first. Until, it wasn’t. The daily stresses of life kept piling up. I dared not share how I was ‘failing’ at motherhood with anyone. I suffered in silence for a long time. Bottling it all in. Too ashamed to ask for help. The days were long and lonely. My husband worked long hours and traveled a lot for work. The reality of life with small children was very different from the fantasy I had created in my head. Preparing dinner was more like an episode of Chopped where I would throw together a bunch of random ingredients and hope for the best (Who was brave enough to go to the grocery store with two kids under two?! Not me.). More often than not, our food was delivered to the door or came ready-made in a box. Meal times were just as chaotic. There was food everywhere and lots of crying and whining over the wrong color cup. Did I mention how much I hate whining? The struggle was real.
This was not the break I had in mind. I suffered through years of anxiety and depression, but I didn’t know how to break out of the cycle. You see, it is a cycle. I was recreating the experiences of my own childhood. Even though, I swore I would do better, I never learned how. I was dealing with life’s challenges the only way I knew. By throwing fits and disconnecting from my own children; shutting down when I needed a break because I didn’t know how else to manage the emotions that were bubbling up inside of me. It wasn’t something I consciously thought of doing. It just happened. These unconscious tools had been handed down to me from my own upbringing. That’s how my mother handled stress and those were the skills handed down to her by her parents. It’s a cycle and I was part of it.
The tool set in my discipline box included: yelling, instilling fear of failure, shame and manipulation. I thought that if I yelled enough, or made them feel bad enough, that they would learn to make better choices. (When did anyone make better choices because they felt bad about themselves?!) Ugh, I get a pit in my stomach every time I think about those long days. I went to bed nearly every night filled with guilt and feeling terrible about myself. Something had to change and I was finally ready.
The path back to Conscious Discipline
I truly believe that there are no accidents in life. The universe always sets a path for us and by some seemingly random events, I found my way back to Conscious Discipline when I enrolled my 3-year-old into Lab School for Parent Education at Eastern Florida State College. It’s a Preschool Co-op that incorporates parenting education through adult evening classes. Imagine my surprise when I attended the first night meeting and they talked about Conscious Discipline. I was reminded that there was a better way and I found my path back. Dr. Bailey (creator of Conscious Discipline) always says that this is not a path you will always stay on. You will fall off; you may even walk away from it. But it is always something you can come back to. That night, I chose to come back.
I developed a deeper understanding of the skills that I simply didn’t have before. I finally understood what it meant that no one could make me angry without my permission. I was finally able to change my perspective and see that my children weren’t giving me a hard time. They were having a hard time. Conscious Discipline taught me to live a more mindful life. To insert a pause button and develop my own self-regulation so that I may pass this healthy set of tools on to my children. After all, you can’t teach a skill you don’t have.
So, what exactly is Conscious Discipline? Simply stated, it’s an evidence-based social emotional intelligence program based on the latest in brain research. This understanding of the brain, and the Conscious Discipline Brain States Model, is crucial for learning self-regulation. There are three basic needs for optimal brain development: safety, connection and problem solving.
• Safety – the brain functions best when it feels safe. When an adult loses his or her temper, it throws children into a survival state where they don’t feel safe. There is no learning that can happen there.
• Connection – the more connections we develop on the outside with other people, the more neural connections we create inside the brain. These neural connections literally wire our brain for impulse control and emotional regulation. Our behavior is governed by relationships. Defiance isn’t a behavioral problem. It’s a relationship problem. Connection always increases cooperation. Connect more with your kids.
• Problem solving – we need to change our perspective about conflict. It is time to embrace conflict instead of avoiding it. Conflict is simply an opportunity to teach a missing skill.
The more I continue to learn about the brain and managing emotions, the better I am able to actively calm myself. Active calming involves being a S.T.A.R. That means, whenever I feel triggered, I Stop, Take a deep breath And Relax. This simple first step is what changed my life. One deep breath at a time.
To learn more about Conscious Discipline, visit www.consciousdiscipline.com or my business page at www.peacefulheartsproject.com. To connect with me for daily inspiration, you can also find me on Facebook.
Carmen Bernard is a mom to three daughters. She is the owner-operator at Peaceful Hearts Project in partnership with Conscious Discipline and an Adjunct Professor at Eastern Florida State College. Contact Carmen through the Peaceful Hearts Project Facebook page.
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