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Posts Tagged ‘Discipline’

5 Ways to Head Off a Discipline Problem So It Won’t Derail Your Day

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Why making space for kids’ feelings can be a game-changer.

It’s that familiar scene. Child care pickup. Your child is thrilled to see you and then 20 minutes later, he melts down because you cooked chicken for dinner instead of pasta. As a working mother, tantrums can feel all the more painful because they’re ruining those precious few moments you get with your little ones.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In the past five years, I discovered dozens of new discipline ideas, while reporting my book The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever—And What to Do About It. Here are just a few of the winning strategies I found for stopping a discipline problem in its tracks. The next time you’re at a loss, try one of these.

1. Pause

First of all, shed any guilt you may feel about not spending enough time with your kids, as compared to your mother or your mother-in-law. The truth is, modern parents spend more time with kids than at any time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping time use data. Even as women flooded into the workforce between 1965 and 2015, mothers’ time spent caring for children rose from 10 hours to 15 hours a week. Dad’s time on child care leaped from 2.5 to 7 hours in that same time period.

Take a breath. Or two. When we pause before responding, we’re giving our nervous systems a chance to regulate. Then, we can better access the part of our brains that is creative and solves problems. We can find better strategies than yelling or ordering a time out. We might even lead our children into a more regulated state themselves.

Use that pause to shift your perspective. Yes, the family’s priority is getting dinner on the table and moving into the bedtime routine. But your child’s interests and preferences also matter. It doesn’t cost you that much time to take a minute to empathize and say, “I know, you really love pasta!” before moving smoothly on with your evening. That moment of acknowledgement is more likely to ease your child out of a tantrum than saying, in an annoyed voice, “We had pasta three times this week already!”

2. Deploy Humor

Children are sometimes so … childish! They giggle at farts and still half-believe that possibly, monsters may inhabit the patch of woods down the street. Harness their love of humor! If you tickle their funny bone, you can distract them out of a power struggle before they dig in too deep.

For example, when our children were just learning table manners, my husband Brian made up an alternate family—the Bewis family—that was filled with badly behaved boys. We could invoke the Bewis boys when we saw a child eating with their hands, or leaving the table without picking up a plate. “I hear the Bewis boys never clear their plates,” we would say. They’d giggle and retrieve their plates while making up their own stories of terrible goings on in the Bewis household.

You can also use make believe to empathize with a child’s impractical yet deeply-held desire, rather than trying to force him or her to comply with yours. For example: “Oh, if I had a magic wand, I would wave it so we all could go to Disneyland tomorrow! That would be so much more fun than school.” Being understood defuses your child’s growing upset. You don’t need to be the one to rain on your child’s parade—life will do that soon enough.

3. Give Choices

This is such common parenting advice, it’s almost a cliché. Bear with me. Often, when we give a child a choice, we’re only offering two things that we want the child to do—neither of which they want. As they grow, they see right through that farce.

Instead, open your mind to what your child wants. Sure, it may be impractical. Consider whether it’s truly impossible. Be creative about whether you can accommodate their wishes. If there’s no harm done … say yes.

Who cares if they wear the same favorite pants three days in a row, as long as they’re not obviously dirty? And if French toast is a healthy meal for breakfast, why not have it occasionally for dinner? Does it really matter whether your child gets dressed before coming down for breakfast? Maybe it’s okay for him to pop back upstairs to change out of pajamas—or even sleep in the clean sweats he’s going to wear to school. A child who’s doing what he wants moves a whole lot faster than one who’s being forced by mom.

I’m not talking about becoming a short-order cook or a servant to your child’s whims. But as your children get older, they increasingly want to contribute ideas and influence what the family does. If your children always hate what’s for dinner, invite them to suggest some meals, or even go shopping with you. Create a rotating schedule of dinners that everyone has agreed to in advance. The more they’re involved in the process, the less they’ll object. Yes, this takes more time at first, but your hard work will pay off when you have an 11-year old who can plan and cook the family dinner.

 

The Good News About Bad Behavior

 

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is a Washington, D.C.–area journalist, mother of three and author of The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever—And What to Do About It, *available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Courtesy of PublicAffairs

4. Connect

There are so many opportunities to connect with our children. The drive to school or walk to the bus stop. The time after dinner when we’re all full and happy. An early morning snuggle before the rest of the family wakes.

But often we fail to take advantage of these fleeting moments. The to-do list or the window to check email seems more pressing. Resist this temptation. Work when you need to work; be with your family when you can. Don’t let the two contaminate each other unintentionally.

Every time you focus just on your child—playing Candyland or listening to a long story about a favorite YouTuber—you are depositing into the bank of your relationship. That undistracted time will serve as a reserve for you to draw on the next time there’s conflict in your relationship, or a power struggle starts to loom.

It doesn’t have to be a half hour or hour of your time. You’ll see the pay-off from even five minutes throwing the ball, or a sincere thank you for something they did to help you. Start keeping track of the times when you truly connect with each child, and see if you can boost that number over time—like a plank challenge or other goal you set for yourself.

5. Plan Ahead

Sometimes, all of our best efforts fail. A hungry or tired child simply cannot do what’s needed in a situation. Or something unexpected happens and your little one spirals out of control. Maybe everyone screams—or cries. That’s not a disaster. It’s an opportunity for you to learn.

Take stock of the experience at a later time when everyone is calm. If your kids are old enough, ask them what it was like for them. Brainstorm what might help in the future to prevent such problems. Routines are a huge boon to smooth family life, and keep discipline problems from erupting even before they begin.

An earlier bedtime can help with the morning routine. Reminder signs on the wall can spark a child’s memory without Mom nagging about backpack or teeth brushing. Small children can help make signs for the daily routines, either taking photos of each step or crayoning their own interpretation.

Don’t worry about having a consequence or a reaction for every instance of childish misbehavior. You can usually count on the same problem cropping up again, by which time you’ll be ready with your brainstormed solution.

 

This article was written by Katherine Reynolds Lewis from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

This Shockingly Simple Move Stopped My Kid From Constantly Interrupting Me

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If you’ve had enough of “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mooooom!” this little trick is for you.

We’ve all been there: You’re at the playground trying to chat with a fellow parent, when your kid unceremoniously interrupts the conversation because he wants to tell you something urgent about squirrels. Or superheroes. Or whatever else he’s thinking about. You discuss the rules of conversation, and he agrees to wait patiently for his turn to speak next time, but the excitement of his thoughts is overwhelming and he’s soon interrupting again.

I’ve been in this boat for years. No matter how much we discussed it, my seven-year-old son just couldn’t help himself. It was like Pavlov’s dogs—the moment I got on a phone call, he needed to talk to me. So I asked my friend Cheryl Butler, a mother of 8 (eight!!) well-behaved, polite children and host of the Mighty Mommy podcast, for her advice.

Cheryl suggested this simple trick: “Teach your child to place his hand on your wrist if he wants something while you’re busy talking to another adult. Then you put your hand over his to acknowledge him and continue your conversation without stopping to ask what he wants. After you finish, turn to your child and give him your full attention. This way you reinforce two critical life skills: good manners and patience.”

It’s a technique that avoids lengthy lectures and is based on cognitive behavioral therapy: After training your child to wait for you to finish what you’re doing, you’re rewarding him with your undivided attention.

It seemed almost too simple to work, but I decided to try: The first few times, my son chafed against having to wait, bouncing up and down excitedly saying “Mom, Mom, Mom, but Mom, I need to tell you something.” I did my best to ignore him, even taking a few steps away to put some distance between us. Then after I was done, I turned toward him, crouched down to his level, and gave him my undivided attention, making sure to commend his patience.

It took a few tries—Cheryl warned me that I’d have to stick with it—but within a few weeks there was almost no interruption. For the first time, I can actually finish an entire conversation with a friend before learning that fascinating fact about squirrels.

 

This article was written by Beata Santora from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Positive Solutions for Discipline

Guest Post
by Patricia Zauflik, M.Ed

Knowing your child’s abilities and limitations is extremely important. Expecting too much or too little can be frustrating for you and your child, so try to keep your expectations realistic! Use logical consequences when disciplining your children. Logical consequences are an alternative to punishment, and they need to be practical and consistently enforced. These consequences help children learn how they are expected to behave. For example, you might remove an item a child throws at a sibling, or if two siblings are fighting, you could send them to separate rooms to play. The children lose the privilege of playing with an item or with each other!

Try to plan ahead and anticipate what your children may do or need in various situations. Plan to set your children up for a successful experience. Hope for the best, but always have a backup plan. Boy

Most children are not born with a built-in ability to make decisions and accept the consequences. Learning to take responsibility for their actions requires lots of support and practice. A good way to help your children develop these skills is to offer limited, reasonable choices throughout the day, such as when your children are dressing, having a bath, eating snacks, watching TV, cleaning up and getting ready for bedtime. For example, you could ask, “Do you want to wear the red shirt or blue shirt to school tomorrow?” or “Do you want one minute or two minutes to finish playing before getting ready for your bath?”

Another strategy is to use first-then statements. A first-then statement tells your children what they need to do before doing something that they want to do. For example, you might say, “First put on your shoes, and then you can go outside,” or “First clean up your toys, and then you can have a snack.”

Redirection can also provide guidance to children and prevent them from misbehaving. By interrupting a challenging behavior and physically or verbally redirecting your child to another activity, you can engage your child in a more appropriate practice. For example, if your child is playing in the sink and splashing water all over the bathroom, you may choose to gently move the child away from the sink and toward the toys in your child’s room, or you could verbally distract the child and provide an alternate activity. For example, you might say, “Let’s go upstairs and read one of your new library books.”

Remember to give your child specific, positive attention for the behaviors you want to see and teach your child what to do!

Sometimes Limits Are Hard to Maintain

Dr. Kyle Pruett ADespite that importance of limits, parents sometimes have trouble setting and maintaining them.  Part of the problem stems, no doubt, from the changes in today’s family structures and lifestyles.  Some common issues:

  • I don’t want to be the ogre:  Parents who are unable to spend much time with their children (because of work, separation, or divorce, for example) may be concerned about how they are view by their children in the limited time they have together.  Anxious not to be the “Wicked Witch of the West,” they cave more easily and often.  But children are relentless in their search for limits since, at this age, they can’t set their own.  The result of the caving is more testing, rather than less.  Better an occasional stand-your-ground action than a non-stop war of attrition.  With limits, children – and the limited time parents have with them – will be much happier.  The bonds between parent and child also will be stronger.
  • I’m too tired:  This is a common problem of working parents.  They come home after a long day, looking forward to some pleasant time with the family, and, boom, they get hit with whines and cries.  Caving again may seem the quickest route to peace.  And, in the short term, it might be.  But it only increases the frequency of testing.  Once again, standing firm for important limits will make those pleasant evenings the norm, not the exception.
  • Giving in is a treat for the child:  It isn’t.  Freedom in life is a treat for us grownups because we have, in general, mastered the self-control needed to use it properly.  A toddler hasn’t.  Limits are the controls that make his life safe, secure, and happy.  Don’t deny him these essentials.

Ask the Expert: When Should Parents Start ‘Teaching’ Discipline?

A recent ‘Ask the Expert’ question to The Goddard School Blog reads, ‘Everyone at our house knows that ‘discipline by distraction’ works well for very young children. At what point should we start  actively teaching boundaries and appropriate behavior? Is 20 months too late to start the process? At what age can that kind of gentle discipline start to become effective?’

All children–and parents–are unique, so I have no clue what age would be best for any particular child-parent pair to start a system of discipline. All I can discuss are ranges when developmental agendas are unfolding and try to give you some heads-ups.

Between 18-36 months, so much happens developmentally that it’s easy to lose sight of the objective. The long-term goal here is cultivating self-control in the child, not parental control of the child. Through your words and your own behavior during this period, you are teaching the basics of judgment and control that will work not only when you are present, but hopefully when you are not, as in those teen years.

Before shame and guilt show up, discipline by distraction is your best hope.  Shame and guilt are critical partners in disciplining children and they develop late in the second year for most kids.  Shame arises when a toddler gets an unexpected, negative reaction to something he/she has done from someone he/she loves. He/she feels instantly deflated and may or may not blush, but he/she clearly registers a negative physical reaction to this interaction. This reaction doesn’t exist earlier because the brain has only just now developed the complex connections between words, behavior and emotions.

What you do next will help the child learn over time that his negative behavior violates your important standards for his well-being, and that there are ways to avoid guilt, which is the primary consequence of shame and hurts just as much. Therefore, once that shame reaction starts, it’s worth adding a firm but simple “No, we don’t jump on the coffee table.” The toddler’s increasing memory skills are sometimes  helping him to remember that even when the coffee table leap looks like fun, the grown-ups don’t like that behavior.

Your consistent, firm,  low-key and brief repetition of the same words and actions in response to his dangerous or uncooperative behavior enable your child to begin to feel emotional distress (shame and guilt) when he breaks those rules. His desire to please you is something to rely on, but not to manipulate. After about18 months of this kind of interaction, your child will show the beginning of a sense of right and wrong. Voila! A conscience starts to emerge just in the nick of time (about pre-K).

Our kids aren’t the only ones feeling shame and guilt. How we manage those emotions in ourselves is related to our own personal character and temperament. Periodically reassess the fit between you and your child’s temperamental styles enough to stay in sync so that you don’t feel you are ‘constantly battling.’ Laid-back kids are often confused by feisty caretakers, just as shy parents are flustered by feisty kids. One solution is to do more tag-teaming with the parent or grandparent that seems to be less ‘undone’ by the challenging behavior during this stage. Now you know why there are quotes around ‘teaching’ in the title.  Remember, it DOES get better.

Additional guidance is from Chapter 8 of Dr. Pruett’s Me, Myself and I: How Children Build Their Sense of Self: 18-36 Months, Goddard Press.

Setting Limits: Rules & Punishment

Excerpt from Me, Myself and I

Be a role model.  Young children are highly imitative and like to please.  The more good behavior you demonstrate, the more they will copy.  The more approval they get for their good behavior, the more good behavior you will get from them.

Keep rules to a minimum. Focus on the big-ticket items that govern safety and the important aspects of social behavior.  To set more rules than your child can manage at any given age is just confusing.

Be consistent. Enforce rules consistently.  Only set rules you will maintain.

Don’t overreact. Children explore behavior in stages.  When a new behavior emerges that is unacceptable, such as biting or using bad language, overreaction on your part can actually reinforce it.  Children like oversized reactions.

Match punishment to the child’s understanding. Don’t use punishment until a child is cognitively capable of understanding what action is being punished and why.  Children do not reach this level of mental maturity until somewhere near the second birthday.   Punishment before this achievement is just confusing to a child.  If tendered on a regular basis, a child can withdraw from the entire category of activities that include the offense.  As a result, he may curtail exploration that is essential to learning.  Until a child can understand the offense, parents should use distraction and physical removal to stop unwanted or unsafe behavior.

Punishment should be effective. When your tactics aren’t working, reassess.  As your child’s language skills improve, you can involve her in the process.  Ask what would help her improve her control next time, and what you should do if she doesn’t exercise that control.

Punishment should be appropriate. Punishment should fit the child’s stage of development, temperament, and “crime.”  Don’t overdo.  Especially in the early years, keep punishment for the major infractions, especially those involving safety.  Don’t waste big ammunition on small stuff.  It cheapens the currency and weakens its effectiveness.

Match your behavior to the outcome you want. The way that you act when you set a limit matters as much as your technical prowess in carrying through.  Sometimes, your child is so relieved at your calm, you don’t even have to carry through.

Provide clear expectations followed by anything that encourages self-control. Use words: “Biting means you have to be away from us for awhile.”  Anything that helps a child feel in charge of his impulses, even briefly, is money in the self-control (and self-esteem) bank.  Being the boss of one’s own body or temper is the eventual goal, and language can help your child understand what you and he are trying to work out together.