(Originally posted at Rational Jenn)
I sent the following Letter of Intent to the Positive Discipline Organization yesterday. This letter is one of the requirements to being accepted formally into the certification program. I hope to hear back from them soon. :o) Anyway, thought you might be interested!
I am writing this letter to state my intent to pursue certification as a Positive Discipline Trainer (CPDT).
A little bit about myself--I am a homeschooling stay-at-home mom to three wonderfully interesting (and often wonderfully frustrating!) children--son Ryan--age 8, daughter Morgan--age 5, and son Sean--almost 2. We live in metro Atlanta, where my husband Brendan is a computer programmer. I have an undergraduate degree in English from Purdue University, and an MBA in Operations and Economics from Kennesaw State University.
Before I had children, I managed large teams of people and facilitated improvement teams at the large pediatric hospital system here in Atlanta. Facilitating performance/process improvement was a fun, challenging part of my job and I enjoyed bringing different people together and helping them work together to solve a common problem, and then monitor the implemented changes to determine if the changes resulted in improvements (such as better clinical outcomes or quicker waiting times). I had no idea at the time how similar my job as a parent would be to my previous career!
When our first child was born, I realized that I wanted to stay home and care for him as long as possible. Then we made the decision to homeschool him (and our other children, too). Sometimes I miss my other careers, but I wouldn't trade my current one for anything.
I first learned about Positive Discipline when Ryan was a baby, when I was searching for parenting books at the bookstore. I was very interested in this parenting strategy as it seemed gentle (my husband and I agreed before having children that we would never spank), and yet provided many creative ways to set limits in a firm and fair way. A friend of mine (Kelly Elmore) was interested in this idea, too, and we spent many hours on a Yahoo email group learning about this way of parenting. Having both my husband and Kelly to talk over successes and struggles with has been invaluable as my children have grown in number and age and our parenting challenges have changed, too.
One of the most important things about Positive Discipline ideas is how well they complement the ideas I have tried to live my life by for the last 21 years. I am an Objectivist, meaning that I try to follow and advocate the philosophical ideas of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I want to be (and am!) a happy person, and I strongly believe that pursuing my values virtuously (with independence, honesty, integrity, productivity, pride, justice, and rationality) will help me attain happiness over the long-term.
And what I want for myself, I also want for my children! I want them to use their minds well and independently, to be honest with others and themselves (integrity), to work productively in areas of their choosing. I have found that the process of using non-punitive discipline with my children fosters all of those virtues (and more). I cannot expect them to become independent adults if they have been trained to obey me, to rely on me for rewards for good behavior and punishments for mistakes. I cannot expect them to learn the value and joy of pursuing productive work if they have become dependent on external motivators every time they are faced with a challenge. If I focused my parenting on rewards and punishments of MY choosing, I cannot expect them to develop a healthy self-esteem or pride in accomplishing their own achievements, for they would learn to ever look to me, to look away from themselves, for validation or a prize.
In each of the three Positive Discipline Workshops I have attended here in Atlanta (one by Jane Nelsen and two by Tracy McConaghie), the first thing that we did was form a list of character traits we'd like our children to have as adults. The lists character traits that we parents generated are almost identical to the virtues I listed above. In each workshop, the leader was careful to demonstrate how the activity that we all just learned supported many (if not all) of the character traits on our lists. It's a very powerful exercise.
I make mistakes as a parent all the time, and each time I do, I learn something about myself, the children, and we all focus on finding a better way to handle that particular problem in the future. This is the same way I handle mistakes I made in the work environment, and with my husband or friends. We express our emotions about what happened, reconnect, acknowledge the wrong and try to make amends (that's justice), and work on a new plan for next time. So even though a mistake has occurred, we are all a little better off at the end of the problem-solving process for having acknowledged what happened and come up with something new to try together. I think many of the exercises used in Positive Discipline apply to all kinds of human relationships, not just those of parent-child or teacher-student.
I have been writing about Positive Discipline as we use it here in my house for a few years now on my blog, Rational Jenn. Writing about our challenges and the underlying ideas behind the techniques, making connections between PD ideas and Objectivist philosophy, has helped me clarify my thinking about parenting, Positive Discipline, and Objectivism. I have been able to make the principles by which I parent more explicit and that explicitness in turn helps keep me on track as a parent. I've also been involved in many, many online discussions about PD and Objectivism that have helped my thinking in this area, too, and I have even managed to get a few other Objectivists interested in Positive Discipline!
I have recently turned to podcasting about Positive Discipline, Objectivism and parenting, a joint project with my friend Kelly, called Cultivating the Virtues. Our third podcast should be coming out next week. I also moderate an email discussion list for those interested in applying Objectivism to parenting and education. Not everyone on that list follows Positive Discipline, but we do talk about the ideas, and even when an idea is challenged, it gets me thinking.
I am ready to pursue my certification because I am passionate about the strategies and techniques of Positive Discipline, and I am eager to share what I know with others. Kelly and I have two "mini" workshops planned for July, and I plan to conduct classes on my own and in partnership with Kelly as time and interest permit. But most of all, I want to pursue this certification so that I can improve as a parent to my own beautiful children. I am always thinking about parenting issues (since my children never leave my side!), and am always looking for new ways to apply the principles of Positive Discipline in my own situation. What better way to acquire new ideas than to facilitate classes and discussions where such ideas are generated!
Thanks for your consideration! I am so excited to be on the path to certification!