Gentle Discipline Using The Four Main Learning Styles
Every child has a preferred learning style and there are 4 main ones
As a mom of three boys, I’ve spent much of the last eight years of my life trying to get to know and understand my kids, for the benefit of our relationship. Yet it wasn’t until I began my journey into being a gentler, more mindful parent, that I realized that I clearly had so much more to learn. I thought I knew my kids, but it turns out that I only really knew their personalities. However when it came to parenting them, I went about it the same way across the board. I would often wonder why some things worked so well for one of my kids, and didn’t work at all for the other. My mind brushed it off as that specific child just being difficult, when in reality, I needed to better tailor my parenting to each of my children, based on their specific individual needs. This was also true when it came to discipline, yet discipline was one of the hardest things to change, and honestly is still one of the hardest to maintain. Despite gentle discipline still being hard, (because let's be honest, parenting in general is really freaking hard), what changed the game for us and made it a more positive experience, was when I started disciplining my kids based on their learning styles.
Every child has a preferred learning style and there are 4 main ones: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic. I was able to determine children's learning styles, by analyzing their behavior and comparing it to the characteristics shown with each learning style. Doing the same may be helpful in identifying your child's learning style, so let’s look at the characteristics:
Your Child May be a Visual learner if they:
Enjoy looking at books to admire the illustrations
Complete tasks best when given a visual example
Have a photographic memory and can recall peoples faces, places or landmarks easily
Are passionate about visual activities like painting, drawing, or photography
Are very observant
Your Child May be an Auditory Learner if they:
Enjoy talking and having conversations with others
Are passionate about music
Are tuned in and respond well when receiving verbal instructions
often sing or hum while playing or completing tasks
ask a lot of questions when working on tasks or activities
Your Child May be a Read/Write Learner if they:
Follow instructions best when the they are written down
Take notes often
Write notes or letters using scribbles that look like words (younger children)
Have a big interest in reading books or writing stories (older children)
Pretend to read the words in books (non readers)
Your Child May be an Kinesthetic Learner if they:
Fidget when they have to sit still
Find a way to incorporate movement into non physical activities (I.E Standing up while coloring, dancing while watching a movie)
Thrive at physical activities (I.E sports, jumprope, swimming)
Enjoy hands-on activities
Just being able to identify and have your child's learning style at the front of your mind is a very powerful tool in itself
While there are other learning styles, these are the four main and most useful ones when it comes to applying them to discipline. Yes I know, now you’re asking, “But HOW do we apply these as a discipline technique?” Let’s talk about it! When it comes to application, you’ve already started! Just being able to identify and have your child's learning style at the front of your mind is a very powerful tool in itself. It gives you a better understanding of how your child thinks and how to best communicate with them, now you just have to get creative. While I can’t tell you exactly how to apply these for every situation that may occur between you and your child, I can give you some examples to help you get your mind working.
If your child is struggling with hitting, instead of offering them a speech about why hitting is wrong, you can help them make a positive into a negative by saying; “I won’t let you hit (insert person’s name) because that hurts, but I will let you hit a balloon! Pick your favorite color and I’ll blow it up for you”
If your child is having a hard time listening and you feel like a discussion needs to take place, try adding a physical element to the discussion to help them focus and create a light hearted atmosphere for the conversation. I.E “It seems like you’re having a hard time remembering the house rules today, let’s go bounce the ball outside together while we talk about the house rules again”
“You’re having some trouble sitting still during storytime and it’s interrupting your brothers from listening to the story, there’s a couple ways I can help you. Would you like to excuse yourself to burn some energy and come back and join us when you’re done? Or I can give you a fidget toy for you to play with while you sit and listen to the story. Which would you like?”
“I won’t let you play with the stove because it’s dangerous, let’s see if we can find a video about fire safety to help us learn more about it”
“Your behaviour is a little off today, you seem really frustrated. I’ll get out some paper and crayons and we can draw pictures about how we’re feeling and talk about it together”
If you’re child is too rough with something or breaks something they may benefit from you saying something like, “Uh oh, That’s not how we treat things that are fragile, I’ll show you how we’re supposed to handle fragile things, watch mommy”
If your child still isn’t listening after being told something several times, they may better cooperate if you turn that rule or request into a song and sing it with them. I.E “I see you still haven’t cleaned up yet, I know cleaning is frustrating sometimes but if we’re going to play, we have to clean up after ourselves. I'll sing you my special clean up song while we get this mess clean, will you sing with me?”
If your child is being aggressive, they may benefit from you saying something like, “It looks like you’re upset, let’s go find a quiet place to calm down and talk about how you’re feeling so I can figure out how to help you feel better”
“I see you don’t want to go to sleep, but it’s bed time now. I think listening to something may help you sleep, would you like to hear an audiobook or some music?”
“I noticed you haven’t been wanting to eat your veggies lately, but veggies are so important to our body. I found a really fun book about how veggies power our bodies. Would you like to read it together or by yourself?
“I’m not okay with you speaking to me like that, but I do want to understand how you’re feeling so I can help you. If you aren’t able to talk about it, that's okay, you can write me a letter and leave it under my pillow and I’ll write back.
“I noticed that you’ve been having a hard time remembering the house rules. I bought a poster board so we can decorate it and write them out together. We can hang it up in your room to help make it easier for you to remember”
Last but not least, you got this!
These are just a few examples and of course they will differ depending on the child and their age, but hopefully this helped you get your brain moving to come up with some ideas of your own. Before we wrap up I want to remind you of two important things that will play hand in hand with everything I’ve gone over in this blog. 1. The word Discipline comes from the latin word discipulus which means student or learner. So despite the traditional understanding of discipline, discipline doesn’t have to be a negative experience, it just needs to be a learning experience. 2. Repetition and consistency is key! If you want this style of discipline to work for you and your child, you have to stick with it and implement it every single time. This will create an understanding and an expectation within your child and as time goes on, you will start to see them make a shift in the undesired behaviors they’re experiencing. Last but not least, you got this! Never doubt your ability to be the best parent for your children. It’s hard, but it’s so worth it.