Parenting Techniques That Work
You don’t have the power to make your child do something or stop doing something. You DO have the power to set up limits, choices and incentives to make it easier for them to make choices that are respectful and cooperative.
Stay Calm: You might have a screaming baby, a tantruming two year old, an anxious ten-year-old or a risk-taking teen…but if you can keep yourself calm, you will feel powerful. Let your children own their own emotions and, later on, their own problems and choices. Accept the powerlessness inherent in your job (see the first sentence of this entry), and embrace the power you have over yourself…to do everything on this page and much more in order to influence your child. See the three entries on self-talk…the key to calm.
Discipline without Emotion: All discipline is far more effective if it is delivered without any emotion… matter-of-fact. You made this choice, so this will happen. Children accept limits easier if their shame is not triggered with your tears or anger. Their behaviours are not designed to hurt you and they need to know that you are strong enough to not be hurt by them. It will NOT help if you let them know you are angry at, disappointed in or hurt by their behaviours. It DOES make sense to say “that’s not okay in this family”, or “If you do that, this will happen.”
Model Healthy Behaviour: Children pay far more attention to what they see you do and say than what you tell them they should do. If you model respect, self control and honesty your job will be simple. Let them hear your self-calming thoughts out loud; this will help them to regulate their own emotions. If you have bad habits, address them first. Walk around the house talking outloud about your emotions and how you are managing them. You might feel silly, but you are teaching an important skill …”I am so disappointed that my book didn’t come in the mail today. But that’s okay…I know it will come soon.”
Developing Emotional Intelligence: Teaching your children emotional Intelligence goes a long way towards growing a healthy adult. Gottman has a good book on this issue. We often forget that when a child is having an intense emotion, we can listen to and validate the emotion and the desire, and this will go a long way to softening their reaction. We often want to distract them from or hurry them past it their frustration. Give in to it a bit. It sounds like this: “You really want to go swimming, don’t you?” (crying five year old says “yes!”)… You love swimming, and you’re so good at it. It doesn’t feel fair that I said we could go swimming and now we have to go to the store first, right? You’re disappointed, aren’t you?” (crying child says “yes!”)…”tell me it’s not fair”. (crying child says “It’s not fair! I don’t want to wait!”) “It’s okay to cry when we’re in the car. You can cry and be disappointed. When we get to the store, if you can stay calm, then we can swim for a longer time today. Can you do that?” You don’t give in to the crying demands; you let the child express the emotion and you accept and validate it, still enforcing limits related to behaviour. They will eventually learn to accept and not feel overwhelmed by their emotions.
Choices: A simple way to help your child make a good decision is to give them a choice between two options which are both okay with you. Instead of saying “you can’t do that”, it’s “either come inside now and have ice cream, or stay out later and it will be too late for ice cream” Then let them make their choice and stick to what you said! Instead of saying “what do you want to wear?” to a young child…say “You can wear this or this.” Remind them of their choices…”so if you choose to have the cookie now, then you’re choosing to not have dessert later.”
Building Self-Esteem: This is you main job as a parent…to help get your child to the age of 18 feeling good about who they are. See ratio blog. Take opportunities to fill your child with positives…if they can get attention for smiling at you and singing, they will seek it less through negative behaviours. If you find your child’s behaviour annoying, it is probably about getting attention. Where you put your attention…that will grow. Focus your attention on what you want more of and ignore more of the annoying stuff. Give them the words to be able to ask for attention. “I need some “Mommy Time”” is far more effective than a temper tantrum. Reward them for asking for attention in positive ways. Or better yet, give them a code word that means “I need love”. Like a game…tell them that every time they say the word “purple people eater” you’re going to hug them because that means they need a hug. Play around with this idea. This is one of many websites about this.
Alternatives to NO: Many children are triggered by that word…”no”. Use it sparingly! I don’t mean set limits sparingly…kids need firm and clear limits. But get creative with other ways to set limits because that word has a bad rep. With a young child, simply redirect with “we stay over here”…” stay with Mommy”…”this is what we’re doing” “we don’t eat cookies before dinner”… Use choices to avoid the no word. The “when…then” statement is your best friend as a parent. If your child wants something, that’s a blessing. “When your room is clean we can consider that party.” “When those toys are picked up, you can watch television” Notice there is no sign of a “no” anywhere…just a pleasant parent telling them they CAN have something. “Yes, tomorrow…after one sleep, you can watch that movie!” In my next blog I will deal specifically with how to manage a child’s impulsivity when you go out in the world and they want things (a situation where NO is often used). With older kids, try “Convince me…let me think about it/talk to your dad…you come up with a plan about how you can earn that…that’s a great goal…come up with a proposal.” So often we expend tons of energy convincing teens why they can’t have something, instead of letting them work to convince us that they should have it. Make them earn it. If they don’t convince you, then it’s a no. If you use “no” sparingly, it will mean more when you must use it.
Beware Time Outs: Many parents overuse sending a child to their room. It sends a rejecting message that we should be aware of. Remember that the goal is to teach your child acceptable behaviour, not to punish. If used, they should be very short (a good rule is one minute for each year of age), or give the child control over how long it is. Example: Your seven-year-old is squirting food out of his mouth at the table. Start with something like “food stays in your mouth”. If it continues…”Can you stop?” If it continues…”You may leave the room and return when you feel you can keep your food in your mouth.” Notice there is no time attached…they can run out and back in and as long as the behaviour is changed, that’s enough. This gives them power over their consequence and works magically for many kids. A more serious example…your ten year old hits his little brother. Instead of “go to your room!”, try “If you hurt, you must make it better. You need to go to your room until you have a plan to make it better” (I will address this concept of ‘making it better’ in another entry). This guy has a book about Time-Ins.
Rewards and Consequences : Children need accurate, consistent and reliable information about what will happen if they make certain choices. Your praise (or small infrequent token rewards) for good choices and simple brief natural and logical consequences for making negative choices will teach them what they need to know. This is your power and your job. I restate this part as it is so important: Keep the emotions out of your discipline. Intense anger or sadness just confuses kids and teaches them nothing. Using fear or shame to motivate kids is not the only way and doesn’t work well.
Supervision: Kids get into trouble when there’s no adult watching. Their internet use should be limited and in a “family” area of the house in which there are other people. Know their friends. Know if parents will be home when they go to a friend’s home. Have other kids to your home, where they will be supervised. Help your growing child avoid situations where bad decisions are more likely to happen.
THE THREE BEST, LEAST-KNOWN WORDS TO USE WITH KIDS…
OF COURSE YOU CAN HAVE THAT…AS SOON AS __________IS DONE.
CONVINCE ME/ HOW DO YOU PLAN TO EARN THAT?/LET’S FIND A WAY FOR YOU TO EARN THAT
WHAT DO YOU NEED RIGHT NOW?
Have a specific question…ask me! Parenting is HARD!