Last week John and I took part in a webinar by Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. When I heard the title “How to get your kids to listen without yelling or reminding” I immediately emailed the details to John and said “I think we should do this.”
We’ve got a 3-1/2-year-old and 16-month-old, and its not always easy to get them to listen without some cajoling. On top of that, my son’s behavior when not listening can often be a trigger for my anxiety and depression. It’s a vicious cycle:
He acts out, I get anxious and mad.
I get mad and I yell.
I yell and get even more anxious.
I feel guilty for yelling and get depressed that he’s not listening.
And yes, I know, I’m the parent. I’m in charge. But he’s 3 and in his little growing and exploring mind, he’s looking for some form of power and control over his own life. It’s a natural instinct. But that instinct can lead to lots of power struggles in my house. I bet in many of your homes too, eh?
To give you some background, I’m in the positive discipline camp (in theory). I’d like to teach my kids respect by being respectful of them as little people with feelings and emotions just like mine. We don’t spank. It doesn’t make sense to me to hit my son to teach him not to hit his sister, for example. I’d really rather not use scare tactics or threats, but sometimes it feels like threats of Time Out are the only way to get us anywhere. And I REALLY hate that.
So the webinar. It was really interesting. I think the theories are very sound and if I could just get better at putting them into practice I think it could help. It wasn’t a quick fix kind of thing though.
Sorry mamas, I was hoping too.
First off, Amy McCready talked about why kids actually misbehave. According to her, a child’s primary emotional goal is to achieve “belonging” and “significance.” And to me, this makes a lot of sense.
Belonging: Kids want to feel emotionally connected and have sufficient POSITIVE attention. Without positive attention, they whine, cling, act helpless, etc. to get what they want (the positive attention) and it works for them. They WILL get your attention, right?
Significance: Kids also naturally want to feel secure in their place in the family. They want to feel as though they are capable, that they contribute, that they make a difference in meaningful age-appropriate ways. This gives them a sense of positive personal power. If they feel powerless, the power struggles begin at bedtime, mealtime, bath & potty time, and just extend from there.
Which leads me to Discipline. According to Amy, discipline with “consequences” and NOT “punishment” is the way to go. Let go of the “blame, shame & pain” as she put it when disciplining kids, because punishment is not effective in the long run. It just turns the anger on the parent and encourages lying. With me so far?
So … Here my friends are Positive Parenting Solutions 5 R’s of Fair & Effective Consequences:
1. Respectful: Always respond with a calm respectful voice. Its OK to wait until you calm down.
2. Related: Consequences should be directly related to the misbehavior.
3. Reasonable in Duration: For example, 1 day for a 4-year-old, 1 week for a 14-year-old
4. Revealed in Advance: The rule/consequence must be laid out in advance so the child has the power to make a “choice.”
5. Repeat it Back to You: Your child should repeat the rule back to you, so you’re making a “verbal agreement.”
With the 5 R’s there are no second chances. You’ve calmly given them the rule and what the reasonable consequence will be. It is directly related to the misbehavior. Your kids are aware of it in advance. And they have repeated it back to you so they KNOW what you expect of them. They have the POWER to choose for themselves. If THEY make a poor choice, its important to follow through with dignity and not say “I told you so.” Just calmly move forward with the predetermined consequence.
Ok, so it all sounds good in theory and make intellectual sense, right? But can a 3 or 4-year-old or even 14-year-old really GET IT?
Here’s an example from my house. Ronin starts flinging his toys around like mad, making a giant mess. What’s my instinct? To instantly yell and tell him to stop making a mess! But what should my first instinct really be? To think about WHY he’s doing it.
Mostly likely I’ve just gotten a phone call or am nursing Ellie or checking my email, and he’s feeling left out or not getting the positive attention he craves. I guarantee you, if I stopped what I was doing (if I can) and ask him if he wants to do a puzzle, he’d immediately stop making a mess and play with me and Ellie.
But that’s not always possible. Sometimes I need to make that phone call. So, I say: “Ronin, I need to you stop throwing your toys and clean them up.” This of course would be followed by a series of whys, and nos, etc. So I calmly say: “If you don’t pick them up by the time I get off the phone, I’m putting them in a box and they are going in Toy Time Out for 1 day.” (In other words, he loses those toys for a day.) Then I ask him to repeat what I just told him, and once he does, we’ve made the agreement. If he understands enough to repeat it, I’m pretty certain he “gets it.” When I get off the phone, if the toys aren’t picked up. I put them in a box and off to Toy Time Out they go. No questions. No I told you so’s. I just remind him that he chose not to pick up his toys so they’re going in Time Out as agreed.
I’ve been *trying* to discipline in this manner all week, and let me tell you its not easy to remember or have the patience to do it. Its especially difficult to come up with a consequence that is directly related to the misbehavior. And very difficult to have a calm respectful voice when he pushes Ellie down for example. The tips are definitely not a quick fix as I said, but I think they’ve gotten both John and me thinking of how to better get Ronin’s cooperation for the long term. We’ll see how it goes.
OK, so what do YOU think? Did you learn anything? Think these tips might be helpful to your family?