Saturday, February 20, 2016

Time Out!

Okay, let's stop right here and calm down, so we can move on in a more positive direction. That is the purpose of Time Out, isn't it? Sometimes parents have trouble implementing this discipline method and I think it is because it is too often used as a punishment, which in turn incites rebellious behavior.

Parental discipline means helping our children learn to control themselves. Time Out is a very useful tool for creating space and time to calm down and change a behavior. Changing a behavior takes a little thought process, even for a child. In order to think clearly and be open to change, the child has to calm down and reflect.

"Oh, you must be kidding", you're thinking. "My child becomes more angry and cries louder when I put him in Time Out." Yes, that can happen, until the child learns to accept and use Time Out for their own benefit. I know you think I'm crazy now.

Actually, even though Time Out is a very popular method of controlling behavior problems, you don't have to use it at all. To me, it's a little unnatural and I didn't use it until it fit naturally into the process. When was that? When my daughter was about 6 I remember saying very sternly, "Go to your room now!" because she had done something really mean to her brother. After that, whenever she saw me with that face & tone of voice she ran to her room before I even told her to. Later I would go and have a calm talk with her.

With my youngest, I used to put myself in Time Out so I could calm down enough to deal with him. He was 3 at the time and the type that would have screamed and cried and kept fighting me if I had tried to put him in Time Out. So, I put myself there instead and that used to make him really mad. He would kick and pound at the door to my bedroom while crying, and I would say I'm not coming out until you stop and tell me you're sorry. He had to calm down if he wanted me to come out, and he had to think about what he had done, because he knew I would ask him to tell me what he had done that upset me.

He learned from modeled behavior that when we feel angry or upset the best thing to do is separate ourselves from others so we can calm down. He also learned to think about how his behavior was affecting someone else. That's what I wanted him to learn anyway, and when I came out of time out he always said "sorry Mommy". Children sometimes understand a lot more than we think they do.

Personally I would not use Time Out as my only method of discipline. It is best used to deal with an incident when a child is starting to get upset or angry, or to interrupt a fight. As a parent it's best to keep your cool and just say, "Stop right now, Johnny you sit there, Bobby you sit there (maybe in different rooms) for 5 minutes until you calm down."

The rule is 1 minute per year of the child's age, however I really wouldn't use this before 3 years old. After the Time Out just restate the behavior you expect like, "The rule is no hitting, if you get angry you can leave the room, or come tell Mommy what's wrong." With kids over 6 you can have a little more discussion when necessary. Issues and feelings can get a little more complicated as kids get older, and you want your older children to feel that they can share their problems with you. If you've used Time Out well from 3 to 6 or 7 years old the child should start to use it themselves, naturally seeking a place to calm down and think about things instead of acting out.

Of course that's not the end of the story, there will be other issues and circumstances and you will need other methods to help your children learn how to behave. I hope this has been helpful, please feel free to leave your comments. Next week's topic is Implementing Logical Consequences.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Why Does This Always Happen At The Wrong Time?

Discipline Barriers
Sometimes it's really hard to get the kids moving in the morning, but you have to drop them off at daycare and get to work on time. What can you do to make them move faster? It can seem that the more you push, the more they slow down. Don't cave, and please don't bribe.

Sometimes we have to slow down as parents and look at things from a different perspective. Of course you have a schedule to keep, but getting upset in the moment can cause discipline to degrade into desperation. So plan ahead for these moments, because they will happen. Having a discipline plan can help avoid the many barriers to effective discipline.

What are the barriers?
They are our emotions. For example, what happens when the kid's aren't cooperating? We usually get frustrated, then angry. If you lose your cool and blow up at the kids, then you're likely to feel guilty later. If it happens often, you may even become afraid of the situations that cause squabbles with your kids, and this hinders you even more from using effective discipline. All these emotions make it difficult to implement discipline that works well. But we can't help having emotions can we?

That's Why We Need A Plan
The first step of a good plan is to stay positive, believing your kid's are capable of cooperating. Next is to tell them your expectations ahead of time, and allow them one reminder. For example, the night before a work week explain to your child, " Mommy needs to be at work on time tomorrow, so you need to be ready when Mommy needs to leave. If I don't get to work on time I may lose my job, then we can't pay for toys & clothes & food. Do you understand?" (nod) "Will you get ready when mommy tells you to and no dawdling?" (Another nod) "I will remind you in the morning. If you dawdle and make mommy late there will be no TV time tonight", (or whatever consequence works for this child).

In the morning just remind them of your little talk, and follow your usual routine. By anticipating situations and helping your child understand your expectations, and the consequences, in a calm way you give them a chance to please you. Be sure to say thank you when they're ready on time, this will reinforce the good behavior. And if they are still dawdling make sure you implement the consequence.

Other Discipline Obstacles
Sometimes as parents with all our responsibilities and concerns we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, worried or possibly even depressed. These thoughts and feelings will consume your mental and emotional space making it difficult to have more positive thoughts and feelings, or to think clearly when little problems with the kid's come up. Your troubles may prevent you from investing more positive time and energy into your relationships, and may cause your kids to feel "unloved".

Children are sensitive to the emotions in their environment, but they don't have the ability to analyze and comprehend these feelings without clear information. If you are in this negative space over a long period of time your children may end up feeling confused, guilty, angry, fearful and hopeless themselves, without really knowing why. This can certainly cause them to misbehave more, and cause you to feel more frustrated and hopeless.

It's a good idea to let them know when you're feeling troubled about something and apologize for not being your usual self. At the same time reassure them that it's not their fault and that you will find a solution. This helps them understand that parents have concerns & worries that children aren't aware of, and that sometimes people need a little time to work things out. Having told them this, it would be good to put your troubles aside for a moment and do a little fun or comforting activity together. This reinforces the feeling that everything will be okay.

One practice that's very helpful for parents who work is to take 5 or 10 minutes before coming home to decompress from the days issues. Breathe deeply, meditate or pray, or use visual imagery to put your troubles away. You are not being paid to worry at home about work. Imagine yourself putting your work concerns into a box, closing the lid, and putting it on a shelf labeled "Tomorrow". You and your family need to be able to relax and enjoy your time at home together.

One More Problem
You've had a busy day running here and there trying to get things done and take care of everyone. Maybe you've had a busier week than usual, or this month you've run yourself ragged. It happens, we get tired. Being over-tired tends to make us cranky and snappy. Being overly tired tends to make us not want to deal with "one more problem" situation or activity. This is another circumstance that will happen, so we need to be prepared and teach our kids well.

The first step is to recognize your tiredness before it gets the best of you. Then decide on a recovery plan like taking a nap, having a cup of tea, or relaxing in the recliner for 20 minutes. Explain to your children that you're tired and need a break. "Let me have a cup of coffee and then I'll help you with your homework", "Let mommy relax a few minutes and then we'll make dinner together".

By doing this you are modeling "good behavior" for your children. Children get overtired too, and the usual result is that they get cranky and uncooperative because they don't know how to deal with being overtired. So you are showing them that when we get tired the only real solution is to rest, and it's important to let people know so they will give you time to rest.

When dealing with any of these barriers to discipline, if your children are under 3 explaining won't do much good. You can label feelings and model good behavior, but don't expect them to completely understand or give you the space you need. You may want to get some help. Having a friend, sister, mother or babysitter take care of the kids for a little while while you sort things out or get some rest will pay off in the long run. The way we behave, communicate, and handle our emotions is the first education our children receive, so let's teach them well.   

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Say What You Mean - Mean What You Say!

The Grocery Store



I know grocery shopping with little ones can be a challenge, but here's a quick tip: start with clear rules and enforce them. Ooohhh....mean mommy? No, it will help both you and your children.

A couple days ago I was in the grocery store and couldn't help but overhear a mom scolding her kids. Within minutes it became yelling at her screaming & crying kids. By this time they were at the end of my aisle and I glanced over at the scene.

I was so surprised to see two kids about 6 and 9 years old behaving
in this way in the grocery store. Temper tantrums & toddlers I can understand, but fighting and screaming in public at 6 and 9 is unnecessary. By this age it's quite reasonable to expect kids to know how to behave in public, to be able to accompany you on errands without a scene, and to have some self control. What happened next gave a clear indication of why this mom was having so much trouble in the grocery store.

She told them to sit down on the floor right there and take a 5 second time out. What? Did she really expect them to do this? Did she expect 5 seconds to make a difference? A desperate attempt but not a useful method for the situation. They didn't obey and kept screaming & crying about some fight they had had over some object the little boy was waving in his hand. Mom was really getting frustrated now.

Next came the threat, "If you don't stop fighting & fussing we're going to leave the store...". Well that's progress, I thought, but I doubted she would follow through. Kid's don't become this way by accident. It's lack of clear expectations form the beginning, and failure to follow through with consequences that produces this kind of result. Just as I expected, the crying, fighting, fussing, yelling & threats continued for the next 20 minutes all the way to the check out line and out of the store. I don't want to know what happened in the car or at home.

Prevention

For 3 to 6 year old's we can make our expectations clear ahead of time like this: "Mommy has to buy food at the store so we can make dinner. You can come with me and help with the shopping as long as there's no fighting or fussing." It's good to involve the kids at a young age and make it a learning experience by giving them small tasks like holding a box of crackers or helping to choose the cereal. 
It might feel like this takes too much time, but it will save you a lot of time & frustration in the long run. As they get older teach them all your shopping tips.

Other Prevention Methods

  • Don't take your kid's to the store when they are tired, cranky or hungry. 
  • Plan a weekly menu to decrease shopping decisions and time.
  • Bring toys, drinks & snacks to avoid bribing your kids with treats.
  • Have a joyful conversation with your kids while shopping, make it fun & entertaining. 

Intervention

When you're at the store and trouble starts restate your expectation and give a consequence. "Remember, Mommy said there's no fussing or fighting, you need to stop arguing and whining or we will leave the store. If we have to leave there will be no food for dinner. Do you want mommy to cook dinner tonight?" Say this in a matter of fact way without any emotional overload. Then continue to involve them in the shopping process.

If the situation persists you must drop everything and leave the store. Believe me, the store manager & shoppers will understand, and you will only have to do this once. Take your children by the hand or in arms and exit quickly, strap them in their car seats and then calmly but firmly tell them, "Mommy is not happy with your behavior. We are going home without any food for dinner. You will have to eat crackers for dinner." Then drive home and let them experience the consequence.

I have done it, once. Many other parents have done it and no one was harmed. Children don't grow up thinking their parents are mean for doing this. On the contrary, children who experience repeated shopping disasters and frustrated parents who may resort to overly punishing them when they get home, will be more likely to experience their parents as mean. Children need to learn what is expected of them in a calm and controlled way. If they never experience the consequences of misbehavior they will not learn to control themselves. So, say what you mean & mean what you say!





Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sometimes We Forget

Some Reasons Kid's Misbehave


I was sitting in a McDonald's on an outing with my kid's one day and I overheard a mom talking to her 3 year old daughter as she wiped her little girl's nose. She was saying, "You've been giving me such a hard time all day, I don't know why you're being such a brat today." I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from saying anything.

Meanwhile I thought, "I wonder what this mom would act like if she had a bad cold and someone was dragging her all over town all day." I see it all the time, parents dragging their kid's everywhere while being oblivious to the fact that the child is tired, hungry or sick, or maybe just needs some down time.  We always have so much to do and so little time.

A Little Bit of Empathy Goes a Long Way


There are times when kid's will just be naughty because they are immature, but many times we also have to be aware of the other circumstances influencing their behavior. For example, if there have been a lot of changes or difficulties at home or at school this can result in bad behavior. Your child can not tell you that they are stressed out, even adults sometimes have trouble identifying sources of underlying stress. 

In the normal course of growing up children will have emotional reactions that they don't quite understand so they can't really explain. For example, at times they may feel discouraged, rejected, unloved, inadequate or incapable (no matter how much you love them). This may result in being grouchy, moody, irritable and complaining. Going through struggles and feeling these types of emotions is a normal part of life, so they will need to learn how to deal with these feelings. We can help them by having empathy, but also helping them learn to express how they feel with words, and to make positive choices that will help them feel better.

My oldest son was so stressed out after his first few days at kindergarten that he started hitting his little sister the minute he got in the car. I said, "Well if this is what school does to you I think it's not worth it, we'll just stop going." He was surprised and looked at me and said, "I'm thirsty and hungry". I said, "Okay, that's all you had to say, now tell your sister you're sorry." I also told him it was normal to feel tired and cranky after such a busy day at school, but that it's not fair to take our feelings out on other people. After that I always brought food & drinks when I picked him up from school, and I asked his sister not to hug him or play with him until we got home.

Unusual Circumstances


How do you feel when you are in an unfamiliar situation, around people you don't know and you are not sure of what's going on? As an adult you may watch people, ask questions, or try to figure out what you should do in this situation. Children haven't learned to do that yet. They may ask lots of questions that annoy you or they may misbehave. They don't know what the guidelines are unless you've warned them ahead of time. They don't know the environment may not be child friendly. They don't know how to deal with boredom and they want to play.

Not knowing what is appropriate at a particular time & place (like going out to dinner), feeling a little insecure and wanting your attention (at the doctor's office), or getting different messages from too many different people (mom, dad, caregiver, grandparent, friends) can all create confusion and be a set up for poor behavior. So what's a parent to do? Can you remember how to behave toward your child in all these situations? It's not easy for parents either.

There Is A Time & Place For Everything

That's what kids need to learn. I think the best way to deal with most of these situations is to reassure your child that you understand how they are feeling, use words to label their feelings and look for affirmation. Then briefly explain the behavior you expect in that situation, and the consequence if they don't behave well. Also reassure them that the circumstances will be over soon and they will be able to go home.

Another good idea is to avoid behavior problems by avoiding the situations that cause them whenever possible while they are very young. Of course you don't want to over protect them because they need to learn how to behave in public (as well as at home), but sometimes it's just not the best day to go shopping, or to McDonald's.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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