No Drama Discipline Workshop

A few months ago, I attended a workshop based on the book No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tine Payne Bryson.  It taught me how to calmly and positively communicate with my boys during difficult behaviors. It doesn’t happen all the time; sometimes I lose my patience just like the next person but I wanted to share the information in hopes of helping others too! It’s a lengthy post but it’s broken down to better understand the philosophy. These notes are taken directly from the workshop.

When I think of the word discipline, a negative connotation comes to mind. However, discipline means to teach, not to punish. It states, “kids who achieve the best outcomes in life — emotionally, relationally, educationally — have parents who raise them with a high degree of connection and nurturing, while also communicating and maintaining clear limits and high expectations.  Their parents remain consistent while still interacting with them in a way that communicates love, respect and compassion.” It makes sense right? So how does one do this?

With misbehavior, you need to ask yourself:

  1. Why did my child act this way? All behavior sends a message.
  2. What lesson do I want to teach in this moment?
  3. How best can I teach this lesson? Non-verbals and body language are so important. Listen with almost silent attention. “Wow!” “Really?” “Ohhh I see…” You can find out a lot that way.

The first thing you need to do with your child when they’re misbehaving is connect. “By connecting first, the upstairs brain is receptive to learning. When a child is overly upset and in a tantrum, that window for teaching has passed and you will need to teach the lesson at a different time when everyone is calm.”

Why discipline with connection first? Because in doing so we are building the brain to be independent, resilient, creative and resourceful. “Remember that a child’s repeated experience of having her caregiver be emotionally responsive and attuned to her – connect with her – build’s the brains ability to self-regulate and self-soothe over time, leading to more independence and resilience.” (Siegel p.86)


  1. Connect and name the feelings behind the behavior. Example: “It’s hard to wait when you’re hungry.”
  2. Address the behavior in a few short and sweet words, avoid using ‘you…’ Example: “Pulling hair hurts.”
  3. Give alternatives. This is the teaching part. Example: “We need to be gentle with hair.”
  4. Move on and Redirect. As your child gets older, you can give two choices/ engage them in problem solving) Example: “Do you remember that song about the elephant’s tail? Let’s sing it together!”


The very young child: If the child is in a tantrum, you might not be able to reason with them. Tantrums send a message, they tell us a child’s brain cannot manage this situation and need you to take over and be in charge. Try to empathize with them. You will not be able to reason with them so don’t try! If the child is hurting others or themselves you will need to exit. Help them to calm down by sitting with them or holding them if they allow it.

If you need to take a parent time-out then do so. Do not take it personally. Practice STOP = Stop, Breathe, Observe, Proceed. Offer a hug when it’s done. This is really important so that they know that you are there for them in food times and in bad times. “Love me when I least deserve it because that is when I need it the most.”

I can see that you’re upset and having a hard time stopping your body. I will help you (Here you can pick them up to keep everyone safe)

We need to head home. I know you want to stay! I’m too worried about children being hurt.

I’m putting the markers away for now. It’s too tempting to use them on the furniture.

I’m buckling in so that you’ll be safe in the car. I know you don’t like it.

I’m putting the blocks away for now. I don’t want anyone to get hurt.

The slightly older child: If they are in receptive state, after connection and addressing behavior you can offer them a choice, one that you both can live with or invite them to come up with a solution. What can we do to fix this?

Would you like to draw on cardboard or paper?

We’re going to play away from the slide, would you like the swings or sandbox?

You can walk or sit in the cart.

Later, take a moment to reflect on why. Were they hungry, angry, lonely, tired? (HALT) Did you expect too much of them? Do you need to manage the schedule – think routines – or the environment instead of the child?


Reduce words (when redirecting)

Embrace emotions (all feelings are okay, some actions must be limited)

Describe, don’t preach (“I see tissues on the floor.”)

Involve your child in the discipline (How can we fix this? Applies more as they get older)

Reframe a no into a conditional yes (Instead of “No, we don’t have time to read a story” to “Yes, we can read a story.. tomorrow.” Or “Yes, we can go to your friend’s house as soon as your room is clean.”

Emphasize the positive, this gives the child a new picture of themselves (Hints : Describe what you see. Describe the effect on others. Describe effort. Describe progress, efforts, actions)

Creatively approach the situation – use alternatives to the spoken words such as : write a note, use a gesture, draw a picture, sing, be playful, play the fool.

Teach mindsight tools.

We ended the workshop with a meditation on self-forgiveness. “There is no perfect parent. I am a good parent. I forgive myself for what I did poorly in the past. I did the best I could with the tools I had. I am working on knowing better so that I can do better. I am a good parent.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.