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Discipline Without Damage - A Review

There aren't a ton of books on my "must-read" parenting book library, but Dr. Vanessa LaPointe's book Discipline Without Damage is one of those seminal books. I had already submitted my review of this on everyone's favourite online bookstore site, but I thought I'd share it here as well. The book was so valuable to me that I even recommended it to my in-laws, who promptly purchased a copy. :)

While I am also a mommy to a fairly spirited and anxious child, I tend to review parenting books with my teacher lenses on (BA - Psychology, BEd). This makes me quite critical of what I read, particularly when recommendations don't have a lot of clinical support. As a fan of the writings of Daniel Siegal, Gordon Neufeld, John Medina and Jenn Berman, my bias is in favour of parenting approaches that take into account the neurological development of children, and factor in the limitations of brain maturation when it comes to dealing with difficult behaviours.

Dr. Lapointe's book balances the science with the heart. While she keeps in mind (and references) the ways in which brain development affects behaviour, her approaches are decidedly compassionate; she provides her readers with relatable anecdotes that are at times humourous and at times heavy. She is prescriptive about disciplinary strategies without coming across as condescending, and her approach is both gentle and firm. I really love that Dr. Lapointe challenges her readers to redefine "discipline," which is so often associated with practices like time-outs, the removal of privileges, and other punitive strategies; she gives parents permission to respond respectfully and intuitively to their children and buck the social mores that seem to demand penance for every misdeed. The goal of Dr. Lapointe's kind of discipline is to correct undesirable behaviour while preserving the connection and relationships between children and parents, and this is a kind of parenting philosophy that I am very much in favour of.

Using language that is easy to understand, Dr. Lapointe encourages parents to deal with their own emotional baggage and "hulk up" so that they can be strong, in-control grown-ups for their children. The onus is on the adult to maintain perspective (keeping in mind the child's limitations because of immature neurological function) and be intentional in their words and actions when correcting (or preventing) misbehaviour; the responsibility is not up to the child to behave well, lest their grown-ups be forced to respond punitively to their acting out. She challenges her readers to look at their current disciplinary practices from the perspective of a child, and offers a compelling argument for all of us to reconsider how we will approach discipline going forward.

Dr. Lapointe's chapter on dealing with exceptional children stands out most to me, and moved me to tears; her attitude and the way that she regards "difficult" children is so soaked with compassion and gentleness that it mirrors my own heart as a mother to a spirited child. The book doesn't condemn parents for having reacted poorly to "bad" behaviour in the past, but invites us all to start anew and rebuild any broken bridges between our children and ourselves.

Without a doubt, this book is one of the top 5 parenting books I would recommend to anyone who is a teacher, a parent, a grandparent, or anyone who plays an important role in the life of a child. My litmus for considering parenting advice is often, "Would I trust my child to someone who advocates this kind of approach to dealing with kids?" In the case of Dr. Lapointe, the answer is a resounding yes.

The disclaimer is that I did in fact receive a copy of this gratis in exchange for writing an honest review of the book. I don't normally partner with causes or companies wanting to solicit my endorsement, but because I had already attended Dr. LaPointe's speaking engagements in the past and was planning to buy the book anyway, this was one of those "can't pass up" win-wins for everyone. I take my integrity seriously, so I would never recommend something that I don't personally love.

And I really, truly love this book. Like, stand behind it 100% and will-tell-strangers-on-the-street-about-it love. It has revolutionized how Hubbs and I approach the discipline of our little one, and while it isn't always our first instinct to be compassionate and self-controlled when faced with tense, escalating tantrum situations, it has given us new eyes to see Little L for who she is: a child who needs a safe grown-up to help her regulate her emotions when her as-yet-underdeveloped brain finds itself so overwhelmed that she becomes dysregulated and unable to cope or operate rationally. In light of where she is developmentally, we are then able to set appropriate expectations for her behaviour (instead of applying adult standards to a 4 year-old), and parent her with love and grace.

Truth is, I can't imagine anyone *not* liking the book, although I suspect that those who bristle at the ideas presented may be doing so because they don't feel comfortable or confident that their choices to employ the traditional methods of discipline (e.g. spanking, time-outs, reward/punishment paradigms, etc) are actually effective, yet they're simultaneously fearful because we have somehow become a society where the expectation is that children ought to behave like small adults, and be independent and self-regulated from a young age. The rejection of these values in favour of a child-centered, developmental, attachment-based approach might seem scandalous and raise the ire or scrutiny of our peers and social circles. It definitely takes more courage to raise your child intuitively and compassionately than to do so with brute force and power-dominance paradigms.

Anyway, the book is solid. Five stars solid. Please consider checking it out.


mazoola said…
can i borrow the book please? :oP

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