Monday, January 19, 2015

CURIOSITY QUESTIONS

Helping children explore the consequences of their choices is much different from imposing consequences on them. Exploring invites the participation of children to think for themselves and figure things out for themselves, and to decide what is important to them, and to decide what they want. The end result is focusing on solutions to the problem instead of focusing on consequences.

Imposing consequences often invites rebellion and defensive thinking instead of explorative thinking. The key to helping children explore is to stop telling and to start asking curiosity questions.

Too often adults tell children what happened, what caused it to happen, how the child should feel about it, what the child should learn from it, and what the child should do about it. It is much more respectful and encouraging when we ask what happened, what the child thinks caused it, how the child feels about it, what the child has learned, what ideas the child has to solve the problem, or how the child can use what she has learned in the future. This is the true meaning of education, which comes from the Latin word educare’, which means to draw forth. Too often adults try to stuff in instead of draw forth, and then wonder why children don’t learn.

 Watch this video for examples of Asking vs Telling.

Typical curiosity questions:

  • What were you trying to accomplish?
  • How do you feel about what happened?

  • What did you learn from this?
  • 
How can you use what you learned in the future?
  • What ideas do you have for solutions now?
I call these typical curiosity questions because it is important not to have a script. The point is to get into the child’s world. You’ll notice that "Why?" isn’t one of the suggested questions. The reason is that "Why?" usually sounds accusatory and invites defensiveness. This isn’t always the case. All of the questions can be asked in an accusatory tone of voice. "Why?" works when children feel that you are truly interested in their point of view.

The following guidelines will help when using curiosity questions:
  1. Don’t have an agenda. You aren’t getting into the child’s world if you have an agenda about how the child should answer these questions. That is why they are called curiosity questions.
  2. Don’t ask questions if either of you are upset. Wait until you are both feeling calm.
  3. Ask curiosity questions from your heart. Use your wisdom to show you how to get into the child’s world and show empathy and acceptance.
When the solutions come from the children, or are brainstormed together and the child chooses what will be most helpful, they learn that they can make a valuable contribution when using respectful decision-making skills. Children learn that mistakes aren’t horrible if you don’t beat yourself up about them and if you look at mistakes as opportunities to learn.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Limited Choices

Offering limited choices instead of making demands can be very effective. Children often respond to choices when they will not respond to demands, especially when you follow the choice with, "You decide." Choices should be respectful and should focus attention on the needs of the situation.

Choices are directly related to responsibility. Younger children are less capable of wide responsibility, so their choices are more limited. Older children are capable of broader choices, because they can assume responsibility for the consequences of their choice.

For instance, younger children might be given the choice of going to bed now or in five minutes. Older children might be given full responsibility for choosing their bedtime, because they also take full responsibility for getting themselves up in the morning and off to school without any hassles.

Choices are also directly related to the respect for, and convenience of, others. When getting ready for school, younger children might be given the choice of putting on their shoes before we leave in 5 minutes or putting them on in the car. Older children might be given the choice of being ready in 5 minutes or riding their bike. Either way, mom has to leave in 5 minutes.

Whenever a choice is given, either alternative should be acceptable to the adult. My first try at choices was to ask my three year old, "Do you want to get ready for bed?" She didn’t. Obviously, the choice I offered was beyond the need (mine and hers) for her to go to bed, and the choice I offered did not include an alternative I was willing to accept. I waited five minutes and started again by asking, "Would you like to wear your pink pajamas or your blue pajamas? You decide." She chose her blue pajamas and started putting them on.

Adding, "You decide," after a choice is very empowering. It adds emphasis to the fact that the child does have a choice.

What if they don’t want either choice and want to do something else? If the something else is acceptable to you, fine. If it is not, say, "That isn’t one of the choices." And, then repeat the choices and, "You decide."

Children may not have a choice about many things, such as whether or not to do their homework. Homework needs to be done, but children can be offered a choice as to when they would like to do it, such as right after school, just before dinner, or after dinner.

As with every Positive Discipline tool, it is important to remember that there isn't one tool that works for every child in every situation. That is why we offer so many Positive Discipline tools. It is also important to remember that the feeling behind what you do is as important as what you do. The key is to be kind and firm at the same time.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Encouragement vs Praise



Rudolf Dreikurs taught, “A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.” In other words, encouragement is essential. Children may not die without encouragement, but they certainly wither.

Since encouragement is so essential, it would be good for parents to know what encouragement means and how to do it. Let’s start with the difference between praise and encouragement. It would be helpful to download the file "Differences Between Praise and Encouragement".

Is it Praise or Encouragement?

Research by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. a professor at Columbia University, has now proven what Adler taught years ago. Praise is not good for children. Dweck found that praise can hamper risk taking. Children who were praised for being smart when they accomplished a task chose easier tasks in the future. They didn’t want to risk making mistakes. On the other hand, children who were “encouraged” for their efforts were willing to choose more challenging tasks when given a choice.

As Dreikurs said, “Encourage the deed [or effort], not the doer.” In other words, instead of, “You got an A, I’m so proud of you,” try, “Congratulations! You worked hard. You deserve it.” A subtle difference, but it will change the perception of your child.

The differences between encouragement and praise can be difficult to grasp for those who believe in praise and have seen immediate results. They have seen children respond to praise with beaming faces. However, they don’t think about the long-term effects. Praise is not encouraging because it teaches children to become “approval junkies.” They learn to depend on others to evaluate their worth. Encouragement leads to self reflection and self evaluation.

Now let's get back to the fact that children like praise. (So do I.) Praise is a like candy. A little can be very satisfying. Too much can cause problems. Awareness is the key. Notice if your kids are becoming addicted to praise—need it all the time.

Those who want to change from praise to encouragement may find it awkward to stop and think before making statements that have become habitual. It will help to keep the following questions in mind when wondering whether the statements you make to children are praise or encouragement:
  • Am I inspiring self-evaluation or dependence on the evaluation of others?
  • Am I being respectful or patronizing?

  • Am I seeing the child’s point of view or only my own?

  • Would I make this comment to a friend?
I have found the last question especially helpful. The comments we make to friends usually fit the criteria for encouragement.

How to Encourage

Encouragement is helping your children develop courage—courage to grow and develop into the people they want to be, to feel capable, to be resilient, to enjoy life, to be happy, contributing members of society, and, as Dreikurs said, “To have the courage to be imperfect;” to feel free to make mistakes and to learn from them.

Positive Discipline tools such as the following are designed to be encouraging to children:
  1. Family Meetings where children learn to give and receive compliments and learn to brainstorm for solutions to problems.
  2. Curiosity Questions to invite children how to think instead of what to think—and to give them a sense of choice to use their personal power for social responsibility.
  3. Letting Go so children have opportunities to learn and grow—mistakes and all.
  4. Show Faith in children so they can develop faith in themselves.
  5. Spending Special Time to make sure the message of love gets through.
The successful use of encouragement requires adult attitudes of respect, interest in the child’s point of view, and a desire to provide opportunities for children to develop life skills that will lead to self-confident independence from the negative opinions of others.





Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Anger Wheel of Choice: Anger is Just a Feeling

When I was growing up, I didn’t know that anger is just a feeling. To me anger meant withdrawal of love. My mother didn’t tell me she was angry. She just wouldn’t speak to me for days.  However, she did “speak” loud and clear with the look of disgust and disapproval on her face whenever she looked at me during those days of silence . My childlike mind twisted that to mean that people would stop loving me if I got angry.

Lynn Lott, co-author of several of the Positive Discipline books, and my dear friend and mentor, taught me that feelings are always okay. What we do about those feelings may not be okay. In other words, feeling angry is okay. Withdrawing love, or the many ways I expressed my anger, is not okay, (more about that later).

Knowing that anger is just a feeling, is always okay and may help change some old childhood beliefs. Recently I was feeling angry with a friend. Instead of following my previous pattern of trying to talk myself out of my anger, or making snide remarks, I said to my friend, "I want to tell you how angry I am, and I want you to still love me." I did and she did. When I took responsibility for my anger, instead of dancing around it, my friend was able to share her point of view. Then we apologized for our misperceptions and felt great again.

Many adults have not learned the valuable language of feelings. We are afraid that if we feel something we have to do something hurtful to others or ourselves. This is usually based on past experiences.

The Anger Wheel of Choice can help our children learn another way. During a calm time you can teach them that what they feel is always okay, and that what they do is not okay if the “doing” hurts others or themselves. You can show them the wheel of choice and teach them these alternative ways of expressing their anger that does not hurt others.

You might want to combine the Anger Wheel of Choice with the Positive Time-Out tool card, the Understanding the Brain tool card and the Focus on Solutions tool card. Let your children know that once they have expressed their feelings and calmed down, they might be able to think of more respectful ways to express their anger to another person, such as simply saying, “I’m angry at you right now. When we both feel better I hope we can find a solution that is respectful to both of us.”

It is just possible, that if children learn these life skills, they would feel more capable and confident, would experience more loving relationships with others, and would be instruments of peace in the world.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Avoid Pampering


The Avoid Pampering tool card is a perfect follow-up to the tool card of Show Faith. When we avoid pampering, we are in essence showing faith in our children.

But first let's define what we mean by "Avoid Pampering." We are NOT talking about love, affection and connection. Giving hugs is not pampering.  Giving compliments is not pampering. Validating feelings is not pampering.

Pampering is doing things for our children that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves. The fact is, our children are born with an innate desire to do things for themselves and begin to express that desire around the age of two. We are all familiar with the toddler who says "Me do it!" Too many parents say, "No, you are too little. Go play." Then when they are older and we ask them to help, we are surprised when they say, "No. I'm playing."

Parents often do things for their children for expediency. They may be in a hurry or they are afraid their children will not do it "right" or perfectly. That is why it is important to "take time for training." This means showing them how and then letting them practice. Do things "with" young children until they are old enough and practiced enough to graduate to doing things by themselves. It will still often take longer and not be perfect, but remember we are striving for long-term results. We need to give our children opportunities to become responsible, capable young people.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Break the Code of Misbehavior


When children are misbehaving, they are speaking to adults in code? A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.  The primary goal of all children is to feel a sense of belonging and significance. Too often they form a mistaken belief about how to seek belonging and significance—as explained in the Mistaken Goal Chart. Unless adults know how to break the code—children usually experience the opposite of belonging and significance. Click on this link: Mistaken Goal Chart so you can follow along as I explain the code.

How you “feel” in response to the misbehavior provides the first clue to your child’s discouragement. You heard right. Your feelings help you break the code to your child’s mistaken belief about how to achieve belonging and significance—the true goal of all people. For example, when you feel irritated, annoyed, worried, or guilty, it is likely that your child’s mistaken goal is Undue Attention, based on the mistaken belief that, “I count (belong) only when I’m being noticed or getting special service. I’m important only when I’m keeping you busy with me.”

The second clue is your reaction to the misbehavior. Again, you heard right. The third column of the Mistaken Goal Chart summarizes adult behaviors that actually feed a child’s discouragement. Let’s take an example. Suppose your child is interrupting. You feel annoyed. You scold your child for interrupting. She stops for a few minutes (your third clue that the mistaken goal is Undue Attention per the fourth column of the Mistaken Goal Chart). By scolding, you have reinforced the discouragement. In a few minutes your child will try harder to get undue attention.

Once you have the three clues, you can break the code and understand what your child really needs to feel encouraged, “Notice Me. Involve Me Usefully.” Suggestions for what this kind of encouragement would look like are in the last column of the Mistaken Goal Chart. For example, one mother shared that her four-year-old constantly interrupted her the minute she got on the phone. This mom decided to encourage her daughter by choosing to “redirect by involving her child in a useful task to gain useful attention.”

The next time the phone rang, Mom told the caller to excuse her for a minute. She knelt down eye level to her daughter and took off her watch. Mom told her daughter to watch the second hand and let her know when it went around and past the 12 three times so she could end the phone call. Her daughter followed the second hand intently. Her mom hung up before the second hand went around three times and she said, “Mommy, mommy. You had more time.”

The daughter stopped interrupting and gained attention by contributing instead of annoying. This could be the beginning of changing her belief of something such as, “I belong when I am helping others,” instead of, “I belong only when others make me the center of the Universe.”

Change the Belief, Not Just The Behavior

Most parents don’t understand that there is a belief behind every behavior. Thus they make the mistake of trying to change just the behavior. The behavior will stop only when the belief behind the behavior is changed. Breaking the code helps you understand the discouraging belief behind the behavior and what the child really needs to feel encouraged enough to change his or her belief.

You have read an example of breaking the code for the mistaken goal of Undue Attention. The following activity will help you break the code for specific behaviors that are challenging to you so that you can be encouraging to your child and to yourself.

Break the Code Worksheet


1.  Describe a challenging behavior you are experiencing with your child.




2.  Identify your feelings. Remember that a feeling can be described with just one word. (Frustrated doesn’t count because it is a generic feeling that can be narrowed down to a more specific feeling. In the beginning you may need to look at the second column of the Mistaken Goal Chart to find the feelings that fit for you.) Write your feeling or feelings below.




3.  Describe what you usually do in response to the challenging behavior?





4.  Now get into your child’s world. How would you feel if you were a child and your parent did or said what you did or said?


What would you be thinking?


What would you be feeling?


What would you decide to do? (This is a clue to the belief behind the action.)


5.  Look at the sixth column of the Mistaken Goal Chart to “break the code” and identify what the child needs.



6.  Choose a suggestion from the last column of the Mistaken Goal Chart that you would like to try the next time you encounter the challenging behavior. Describe how you think this might be encouraging to your child and how it might help your child revise his or her belief about how to find belonging and significance.




7.  Journal about the results of what you did. If it didn’t seem to work to change the behavior, is it possible that your child is at least making a new decision.

Use this worksheet until it becomes second nature and you will earn an honorary degree as a behavior detective and encouragement expert.



Monday, November 3, 2014

Show Faith



One of the biggest mistakes some parents and teachers make, when they decide to do Positive Discipline, is becoming too permissive because they don’t want to be punitive. Some mistakenly believe they are being kind when they rescue their children, and protect them from all disappointment. This is not being kind; it is being permissive. Being kind means to be respectful of the child and of yourself. It is not respectful to pamper children. It is not respectful to rescue them from every disappointment so they don’t have the opportunity to develop their disappointment muscles. It is respectful to validate their feelings, "I can see that you are disappointed (or angry, or upset, etc.)." Then it is respectful to have faith in children that they can survive disappointment and develop a sense of capability in the process.

Have faith in children to handle their own problems. (Offer support through validating feelings or giving a hug, but not by rescuing or fixing.)

TAKE TIME FOR TRAINING

It is also important to take time for training. Adults often expect children to accomplish tasks for which there has not been adequate training. This is more typical in homes than in schools. Parents may expect children to clean their rooms, but never teach them how. Children go into their messy rooms and feel overwhelmed. It may be helpful to clean the room with your children until they have more training. This is also a great way to create connection.

CURIOSITY QUESTIONS

Be sure and use "Curiosity Questions." (We will be covering curiosity questions in a later blog post.) Instead of telling children what to do, ask curiosity questions. "Where do your dirty clothes go?" "What do we need to do before we can vacuum the floor?" Children are great problem solvers when we give them a chance.

PATIENCE

Patience is probably the most difficult part of showing faith in our children. It is almost always more expedient to solve problems for our children. This is particularly true when we are under time pressures.   In these cases we can take time later to explore solutions for the future. Ask your children exploratory questions. "What happened?" "What caused it to happen?" "What did you learn?" "What can you do in the future?"

When time pressures are not an issue, practice having patience with your children. Allow them to problem solve on their own. Allow them to feel a little disappointment. Allow them to work through their feelings. They will need these skills in the future.

It may help to remember that who your children are today, is not who they will be forever. Someday they will be nagging their own children to put their dishes in the sink and to clean their rooms.  Remember that example is the best teacher. Model what you want for your children, take time for training so they learn skills, have regular family meetings, and then have lots of faith in them to become the best they can be.




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