Asa Padilla’s 4-year-old son, Azias, used to push down bookshelves in his classroom and scream in the car rides to the grocery store. He didn’t know how to manage his emotions. The more Padilla yelled at him to behave, the more Azias felt scared and his behaviors got worse.
“I am a single mom, so finding the right way to discipline him was really hard,” said Padilla. “I watched him grow in disruptive behaviors, so I wanted to learn how to parent him in a positive way that worked, instead of yelling at him.”
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Padilla and her mom, Morningstar Miles, joined the WISH Parent Education Program funded by the First Things First Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Regional Partnership Council.
The program supports two 10-week classes to teach parents and grandparents about brain development, milestones, communication, discipline and caring for children from birth to age 5.
Pamela Prasher, a family advocate at the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) in Scottsdale, taught the class to Padilla, Miles and 20 other parents using curriculum from Conscious Discipline,® which is an evidence-based classroom management method that focuses on social-emotional learning and self-regulation.
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“When Asa initially took the class, she shared that her parenting style was different,” Prasher said. “She’s a single mom and lives in a multigenerational home with her mom, Morningstar Miles, who helps her to raise her son. Morningstar shared that they were hesitant to take the class, because they didn’t know if the parenting style was the Native way. After the class, Morningstar felt very comfortable.”
The grandmother described the class as inspiring, informative and supportive.
“We were able to laugh together, cry together and encourage each other,” Miles said. “It would be nice to see council members, grandparents and parents take the class and see how beneficial this program is to our community.”
While taking the class, Padilla and Miles realized that they were breaking a cycle of generational abuse.
“I grew up with my mom shouting at us,” said Padilla. “My parents were verbally abusive and used corporal punishment. It’s really been a good experience as mother and daughter to take this class together. We are changing the cycle of abuse. She can help me raise my son in a new way. I don’t want him to grow up with the resentment and anger from verbal abuse that I had, because I didn’t talk to my mom for several years. Now, we have a relationship and it’s a blessing to have her in our life.”
After taking two parenting classes, Padilla taught Azias to regulate his emotions by using a technique of breathing and exhaling that helps him to imagine, “Smelling the flower. Blowing the windmill.” Now he can calm himself down in five minutes, where before it would take hours. He now uses his words to express his emotions instead of physically acting out.
Padilla also stopped yelling and uses a calm voice when talking to Azias, telling him what he can do, instead of what not to do.
“I have learned to tone myself down so I can communicate with him, because he gets scared when I yell,” said Padilla. “I work hard to communicate with him using these new methods, and it works.”