Do you have an adolescent who is wired differently from you?  And, does your teen or pre-teen need strategies for self-regulation?

Conscious Discipline changed the way I parent my preteen daughter who is very different from me.  These are strong words and a big claim, but that is how passionate I am about Conscious Discipline!

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Who is Conscious Discipline for?

Although the author, Dr. Becky Bailey, wrote the book to provide strategies for the classroom,  I use it to improve my parenting.  If you are a primary or elementary teacher who is also a parent, you NEED this book in my opinion.

The principles transcend the ages.  However, vision is required to apply them to the adolescent years.

If you are not a teacher, Conscious Discipline can still change your parenting!  However, it may not be easy to apply the lessons at home.  The ability to think beyond the intended audience is needed.  It is worth it!

I have discovered another book written by Dr. Becky Bailey that is intended for parents:  *Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.  I have not read this book, but my guess is that it is aimed at the elementary set.  However, like Conscious Discipline, the principles may well transcend the ages if you are a thoughtful parent!

Parenting tweens and teens

How did Conscious Discipline change my parenting?

I thought I figured out this parenting gig with our oldest daughter.  She is much like me – logical and level-headed.  Even when she was upset, I could talk her through it, logically of course!

I could not understand why this strategy did not work with our second daughter until I read *Conscious Discipline.  Although I considered myself a reasonably good parent, Conscious Discipline changed my parenting in three main ways:

1.  I understood the parts of the brain better.

Dr. Bailey taught me that when our youngest was upset, she was stuck in the limbic, or emotional, center of her brain.  A parent cannot reason with an adolescent whose thinking is unorganized.

A parent cannot reason with an adolescent whose thinking is unorganized. Click To Tweet

I also learned to help our daughter calm down so that she could move into using her (developing) cortex.  This part of the brain controls logical thought.

Calming down can be more than just deep breathing.  It looks different for different people.

It works best when I ask, “What will help you feel better in this moment?”  Then, I give her some choices:

  • Use a breathing technique.  Dr. Bailey introduces belly breathing and other techniques to be truly effective.
  • Receive a hug.  Sometimes physical touch calms a person down with the release of physical chemicals.
  • Retreat to a quiet place.  This could involve snuggling a pet, reading a book, or listening to music.
  • Do something physical.  A run, walk, or bike ride can release pent-up emotions.
  • Focus on Scripture.  Our family added this choice as Scripture has the power to transform our minds!

Once our youngest daughter from the limbic system of her brain to the cortex, we could rationally discuss what happened and what could be done instead.

2.  I monitor my response to her actions.

Another eye-opener for me is that our reaction can determine our adolescent’s behavior.  Obviously, we don’t have complete control over our big, strong teens.  But, the way we react can lead to peace, connection, and reflection or anger, defensiveness, and rejection.

Our reaction can lead to peace, connection, and reflection or anger, defensiveness, and rejection Click To Tweet

One day after school, when our youngest daughter slammed the door, snapped at me, and spoke disrespectfully in the car, I could have assumed she was trying to be difficult and fussed at her.

Instead, I assumed she acted this way because she was hurting or needed some love.  I described her actions, “I noticed you slammed the car door, your arms are crossed, you have angry eyebrows, and your tone was impolite.  It seems that you might be upset about something.”

Our daughter responded by softening her heart and pouring out the details of her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. She even apologized without prompting.

If I had attacked her disrespectful voice, she would have left her rational brain behind and gone straight to emotions and defensiveness.  Our communication would have been lost.

Parent Reaction to Children

3.  I must teach pro-social behavior.

Our teens and tweens need direct modeling and instruction in self-regulation and conflict resolution in an atmosphere of love, respect, and relationship.

A couple years ago, our oldest daughter was angered when another student opened her lunch box, went through her lunch, and then proceeded to put the entire lunch box in the trash can.  Needless to say, she came home upset.

Using the concept of assertiveness from Conscious Discipline, I coached her to return to school armed with an “I-message.”  She told this student, “I feel angry when you go through my lunch and put it in the trash can.  Please ask me if you want to know what I have.”

She was prepared for different responses from this teen. After all, we can’t control other people’s reactions.   Instead, the teen said, “Sorry,” in a soft voice.  And, our oldest daughter was empowered with the ability to resolve her own conflicts!

What are the Skills Taught in Conscious Discipline?

Dr. Bailey centers each chapter around a skill set.  The chapters are broken down into principles and skill strategies.

  • Composure:  No one can make you angry.
  • Encouragement:  We are all in this together.
  • Assertiveness:  Setting limits respectively.
  • Choices: The only person you can make change is yourself.
  • Positive Intent:  Love sees the best in others.
  • Empathy:  Handling the upset.
  • Consequences: Mistakes are opportunities to learn.

Dr. Bailey teaches seven Essential Life Values within the chapters:

  • Integrity
  • Interdependence
  • Respect
  • Empowerment
  • Diversity
  • Compassion
  • Responsibility

She also teaches seven Basic Social Skills:

  • Anger management
  • Helpfulness (kindness, sharing)
  • Assertiveness
  • Impulse control
  • Cooperation
  • Empathy
  • Problem Solving

Final Thoughts

As a teacher and parent of a tween, *Conscious Discipline opened up my mind to improve my parenting.  This, in turn, improved my relationship with my daughters.  It does take flexible thinking to apply these classroom strategies to parenting an adolescent!

Although the book does not come from a Biblical perspective, many of its principles are Biblical!

Parents, how do you consciously teach your adolescent self-regulation and social skills? Please share a success story in the comments below!  We need each other’s help and encouragement in this area!

How to Create Boundaries for Your Teen or Preteen

“My prefrontal cortex is famously huge!” joked The Man at dinner.  Why were we talking about the prefrontal cortex at dinner?  Because I read Boundaries with Teens:  When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. John Townsend.  (And we may have just watched Guardians of the...

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Navigating the Years


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