Monday, July 28, 2014

Distract and Redirect


Children under the age of three do not understand “no” in the way most parents think they do. (And a full understanding of “no” doesn’t occur magically when the child turns three. It is a developmental process.) “No” is an abstract concept that is in direct opposition to the developmental need of young children to explore their world and to develop their sense of autonomy and initiative.

Oh, your child may “know” you don’t want her to do something. She may even know she will get an angry reaction from you if she does it. However, she cannot understand why in the way an adult thinks she can. Why else would a child look at you before doing what she “knows” she shouldn’t do, grin, and do it anyway? Knowing things as a toddler means something far different than knowing things as an adult. Her version of knowing lacks the internal controls necessary to halt her roving fingers. Researchers like Jean Piaget discovered long ago that toddlers lack the ability to understand cause and effect (an excellent reason not to try to lecture and argue a toddler into doing what you want—or to use punitive time-out). In fact, "higher order" thinking like understanding consequences and ethics may not develop until children are as old as ten.

The following Piaget demonstration illustrate intellectual development, and helps parents understand why children can’t understand some concepts (such as “no”) as soon as adults think they can.



Find two glasses that are the same size. Then find one glass that is taller and thinner, and one glass that is shorter and fatter. Fill the two glasses that are the same size with water until a three-year-old agrees they are the same. Then, right in front of her, pour the water from one of these glasses into the short, fat glass, and the other one into the tall, thin glass. Then ask her if they are still the same. She will say, “No,” and will tell you which glass she thinks contains the most water. A six-year-old will tell you they contain the same amount and can tell you why.

This demonstration illustrates the thinking abilities identified by Piaget. When we understand that perceiving, interpreting, and comprehending an event are so markedly different for young children, our expectations as adults alter. The meaning children attach to their experiences does not match the meaning adults attach to the same experiences.

Erik Erikson, child development psychiatrist, identified the ages and stages of emotional-social development. Around the age of one, children enter the "me do it" stage. This is when they develop a sense of autonomy vs. doubt and shame. The ages of two through six herald the development of a sense of initiative vs. guilt. It is a child's developmental job to explore and experiment. Can you imagine how confusing it is to a child to be punished for what he is developmentally programmed to do? He is faced with a real dilemma (at a subconscious level): “Do I obey my parents, or do I follow my biological drive to develop autonomy and initiative by exploring and experimenting in my world?”

These stages of development do not mean children should be allowed to do anything they want. It does explain why all methods to gain cooperation should be kind and firm at the same time instead of controlling and/or punitive. This is a time of life when your child’s personality is being formed, and you want your child to make decisions about him or herself that say, “I am capable. I can try, make mistakes, and learn. I am loved. I am a good person.” If you are tempted to help your child learn by guilt, shame, or punishment, you will be creating discouraging beliefs (a sense of guilt and shame) that are difficult to reverse in adulthood.

The three most important discipline tools to use with children under the age of four is supervision, distraction, and redirection. Showing them what to do instead of what not to do (showing them how to touch nicely instead of saying, “Don’t hit.” During the first years of life, your job is to keep your child safe without letting your fears discourage her. For this reason, supervision is an important parenting tool, along with kindness and firmness while redirecting or teaching your child.

Parents almost always cite the danger of a child running into the street as a justification for spanking a toddler. Reasons include the life and death nature of the situation, the need for immediate compliance, and the effectiveness of a spanking for getting a child’s attention. The thing they forget is that to a toddler, an angry, shouting, spanking parent is probably far more frightening than any street.

I always ask these parents, “After you have spanked your child to teach her to stay out of the street, will you now allow her to play in front of a busy street unsupervised?”

The answer is always, “No.”

They know, spanking or no spanking, that they can’t expect her to have the maturity and judgment to have that responsibility.

Distraction and redirection works well with toddlers. Fifteen-month-old Daniel was toddling toward his Dad’s computer. Dad called his name and Daniel looked at him, grinned, and toddled so fast in the direction of the computer that he almost fell. Dad picked him up, gave him a big hug, and took him over to his blocks.

What if Daniel keeps returning to the forbidden computer? How many times must a parent distract or redirect a child’s attention? Well, as many times as it takes. As we’ve mentioned before, it takes patience and perseverance to train a young child. If Daniel’s dad slapped his hand or spanked him, would he still want to play with the computer? Probably so. And even if spankings stop the behavior, what is the cost in self-esteem, doubt and shame? What are the lessons about violence? Kindly but firmly directing Daniel toward acceptable objects, and continuing to do so until he gets the message, guides his behavior without punishing or shaming, and without inviting a battle of wills.

Toddlers are experiencing individuation, learning to see themselves as separate, independent beings. It’s a natural and healthy process, but one that is frequently trying for parents. At one level it doesn’t take long for a young child to learn the power of the word “no,” or that by using it he can provoke all sorts of interesting reactions. Adults can’t always avoid these confrontations, but changing your own behavior and expectations can lessen their impact.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Control or Cooperation


Are you trying to gain control over children or with children? Trying to gain control over children is hard. It takes constant effort. You have to be very vigilant to police the action of children so you can implement your control tactics—usually punishment and rewards. You have to catch children being “good” so you can reward them and catch them being “bad” so you can mete out the punishment. It never ends—and what happens when you are not around? If you are very good at being in control over children what have they learned? Have they learned self-discipline, respect for self and others, responsibility, problem-solving skills, cooperation?

Trying to gain control over children is disrespectful and greatly decreases your chances of winning cooperation. Disrespectful methods invite distance and hostility, rebellion, revenge, sneakiness to avoid getting caught, or, worst of all, a child’s developing belief that, “I am a bad person.” On the other hand, respectful methods invite closeness, trust, and cooperation.

Winning Cooperation

Rudolf Dreikurs taught the importance of “winning children over”, instead of “winning over children.” One of my favorite terms is “connection before correction.” The best way to make a connection and win children over is to be respectful. One of the best ways to be respectful is to “get into the child’s world” and express understanding of the child’s feelings. Showing empathy is not the same as condoning. A really nice touch is sharing a time when you might have felt the same. These are the steps to create the connection to increase the chances that you can work for correction because children are likely to listen to you AFTER they feel listened to.

Correction Does Not Involve Punishment

In can be so difficult for parents and teachers to think they are not doing their job if they don’t engage in a lecture or some kind of consequence (usually a poorly disguised punishment). This will take you right back to the consequences (resistance and/or rebellion) you will experience by trying to gain control over instead of with your children. What do children learn when they are respectfully involved in finding a solution that works for everyone? Thinking skills, problem-solving skills, respect for self-and others, self-discipline, responsibility, listing skills, motivation for following the solution they have helped create. The list could go on and on. And, what better way to achieve control with, and to win cooperation. Once you have achieved a connection you have created an atmosphere where you can focus on a solution together. You have won cooperation.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Don’t Back Talk Back






Mrs. Henderson told her son, Jon, for the third time that evening, “You had better do your homework before it gets too late.

Jon shot back, “If it is so important to you, why don’t you do it!”

Mrs. Henderson was shocked. After all, she was only trying to help. She reacted by saying, “Don’t talk to me that way, young man. I’m your mother.”

Jon reacted right back, “Well, don’t talk to me that way. I’m your son.”

At this point Mrs. Henderson stepped in and shouted; “Go to your room right now. You are grounded until you can learn to be respectful.”

Jon shouted back, “Fine,” as he stomped off to his room and slammed the door.

What creates a scene like this? Was Mom modeling respect as she shouted at her son to be respectful? No. Was Jon being disrespectful to his mother? Yes. Was Mom being disrespectful to Jon? Yes. Let me count the ways.
  1. She nagged.
  2. She took control and gave orders (no matter how pleasantly).
  3. She robbed Jon of learning responsibility by taking over the responsibility of his homework.
  4. She didn’t invite Jon to figure out what he wanted and how to get it.
  5. She is not willing to allow him to experience the consequences of his choices—and to learn from them.
Why is it that parents think it is their job to see that homework gets done? Oh, I can hear your objections already: “We can’t just let him fail.” Of course parents don’t want their children to fail. All the more reason to teach children self-discipline, self-control, goal setting, and problem-solving skills instead of trying to control them. All the more reason to communicate WITH children instead of TO them, FOR them, or AT them. How to accomplish respectful communication and help children develop a sense of capability and self-discipline is the focus of Positive Discipline.

For now let's discuss “backtalk” and how to stop “back talking back.” The following suggestions are from the book Positive Discipline A-Z by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn.

Suggestions
  1. In a calm, respectful voice, tell your child, “If I have ever spoken to you that way, I apologize. I don’t want to hurt you or be hurt by you. Can we start over?”
  2. Count to ten or take some other form of positive time-out so you don’t “backtalk” in reaction. Avoid comebacks such as, “You can’t talk to me that way young lady.”
  3. Use the “back talk” as information (it could tell you that something is amiss) and deal with it after you have both calmed down. Look for places you have been turning issues into power struggles with your child.  
  4. Instead of focusing on the disrespect, focus on the feelings. Say something like, “You are obviously very upset right now. I know it upsets me when you talk that way. Let’s both take some time out to calm down. We can talk later when we feel better. I’d like to hear what you are upset about.
  5. Do not use punishment to “get control.” When you have both calmed down you can work on a respectful solution that works for both of you..
  6. Share your feelings, “I feel very hurt when you talk to me that way. Later I want to talk to you about another way you could tell me what you want or how you feel.”  Or you could say, “Whoa, I wonder if I did something to hurt your feelings, because that certainly hurt mine.”
  7. If you are not too upset, try hugging your child. Sometimes children are not ready to accept a hug at this time. Other times a hug changes the atmosphere for both of you to one of love and respect.
Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems
  1. Be willing to take a look at how you might be teaching the very thing you abhor in your child by being disrespectful to her. Have you created an atmosphere of power struggles by being too controlling or too permissive? 
  2. Make sure you do not “set your child up” by making disrespectful demands. Instead of giving orders, create routines together during family meetings.
  3. Instead of saying, “Pick up your shoes,” ask, “What about your shoes?” You will be surprised how much more inviting it is to ask than to tell.
  4. Once you have both calmed down, let her know you love her and would like to work on a respectful solution to what happened. Take responsibility for your part and work on a solution together.
  5. Apologize if you have been disrespectful. “I can see that I was disrespectful when I demanded that you pick up your shoes. How can I ask you to be respectful when I’m not?” Let her know that you can’t “make” her be respectful, but that you will work on being respectful yourself.
  6. Have regular family meetings so family members learn respectful ways of communicating and focusing on solutions.

Life Skills Children can Learn

Children can learn that their parents are willing to take responsibility for their part in an interaction. They can learn that back talk isn’t effective, but that they will have another chance to work on respectful communication.

 


Monday, June 30, 2014

Act Without Words - A Positive Discipline Tool Card

Diane promised she would never be like her friend, Sara, who was always yelling (often screaming) at her kids, “Don’t do that! Do this! I’m sick and tired or telling you!” On and on! It was difficult for Diane to be around Sara, and she felt so sorry for the kids.

One day Diane found herself telling three-year-old Seth, “Don’t do that! Come here right now! Pick up your toys! Get dressed!” And on and on! Fortunately she heard herself and said to her husband, “Oh my; I sound like just like Sara. Gently he said, “I didn’t want to say anything, but yes you do.”

Diane remembered what she had read in Positive Discipline Birth to Three about acting without words and decided to try it for one whole day. When Diane wanted Seth to stop doing something, she walked over to him, took him by the hand, and removed him. When she wanted him to come to her, she got off the couch and went to him to show him what needed to be done. When he started hitting his little brother, Diane gently separated them without saying a word.

During a calm time, Diane sat down with Seth and said, “Let’s play a game. When I want you to do something, I’ll keep my lips closed tight and will point to what needs to be done and you can see if you know what I want without me saying a word. Okay?” Seth smiled and agreed.

When it was time to pick up his toys, Diane went to him, grinned and pointed to the toys while making a sign with her hands for him to pick them up—and then helped him, knowing that it is encouraging and effective to help children with tasks until they are at least six-years-old and can “graduate” to doing tasks by themselves. When it was time for him to get dressed, she took him by the hand, made a zipping her lips sign, and pointed to his clothes. Seth grinned and let Diane help him get dressed without a struggle—doing most of it by himself.

Later Diane shared with her husband how much more peaceful her day had been, and how much more she enjoyed her interactions with Seth. Diane added, “I know actions without words won’t work all the time, but this day sure helped me realize how important it is to at least get close enough to see the white in his eyes before I talk—and then to use more action and fewer words.”


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Wheel of Choice


A primary theme of Positive Discipline is to focus on solutions. The wheel of choice provides an excellent way to focus on solutions, especially when kids are involved in creating the Wheel of Choice.  Some parents and teachers have their kids make the wheel of choice from scratch. This Wheel of Choice was created by 3-year-old Jake with the help of his mom, Laura Beth. Jake chose the clip art he wanted to represent some choices. His Mom, shared the following success story.



Jake used his Wheel of Choice today. Jake and his sister (17 months old) were sitting on the sofa sharing a book. His sister, took the book and Jake immediately flipped his lid. He yelled at her, grabbed the book, made her cry. She grabbed it back and I slowly walked in. I asked Jake if he’d like to use his Wheel Of Choice to help—and he actually said YES!  He chose to “share his toys.” He got his sister her own book that was more appropriate for her and she gladly gave him his book back. They sat there for a while and then traded!

The Wheel of Choice below is from a program created by Lynn Lott and Jane Nelsen (illustrations by Paula Gray). It includes 14 lessons to teach the skills for using the Wheel of Choice. Click Here to get a more complete description and to order your own Wheel of Choice: A Problem Solving Program.



After teaching all the lessons to her students, and having them color their individual slices of the wheel after each lesson, one teacher asked her students to choose their four favorite solutions from the their wheel of choice. They then cut them out and made mobiles to hang above their desks so they could look up and remember their favorite solutions to conflict. Kids are great at focusing on solutions when we teach them problem-solving skills.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hugs: A Positive Discipline Tool Card

By Jane Nelsen, author and co-author of the Positive Discipline series

A Positive Discipline Tool Card  (available at www.positivediscipline.com)


This tool card provides an example of asking for a hug when a child is having a temper tantrum, but that is certainly not the only time a hug can be an appropriate intervention when you understand the principle of hugs. Later, I’ll share where the example on the card came from; but first I want to share another example illustrated in a story shared by Mary Wardlow:

The Power of a Hug


My daughter Madisyn, who is a wonderfully strong-willed six-year-old child, didn't want to get up and get ready for school one morning. Being a strong-willed individual myself, I could sense a battle of wills brewing—though I was determined to avoid it.  I repeatedly asked her nicely to get up and get herself ready. I even picked out her clothes so she could move a little faster [a mistake that will be explained later]. Still, she refused to move.  I reminded her, still nicely, that the bus would be at our house soon, and if she didn't get dressed she was going to miss it.

She sat up, looked at her clothes, and screamed, "I don't want to wear that!"  Her tone was so nasty that I found it hard to keep myself composed, but I went to her room and picked out two other outfits so she could choose which one she wanted to wear.  I announced to her, "I laid out three sets of clothes. You need to pick one and get dressed."  I had almost made it to the bedroom exit when she fired back "I WANT FOUR!"

I was so angry at that point; and what came next surprised both of us. I walked over to her and said, "Madisyn, I am going to pick you up, hold you, hug you and love you...and when I am done you are going to get up, choose an outfit and get dressed."

When I picked her up and put my arms around her I felt her just melt in my arms.  Her attitude softened immediately and so did mine. That moment was amazing to me. A volatile situation turned warm in a few seconds—just because I chose to hug a child who was at that moment so un-huggable.

In your lecture you talked about the power of a hug to calm down an out-of-control child.  I've learned first-hand that you were absolutely right. Thank you for teaching others about the power of a hug!

Later Mary learned that the morning hassles could be reduced if her daughter picked out her own clothes the night before as part of her bedtime routine. This would help her feel capable instead of being told what to do, which invited rebellion. This example illustrates that even though hugs work to create a connection and change behavior, some misbehavior can be avoided by getting children involved in ways that helps them use their power in useful ways—for example picking out their own clothes.

Tantrums and Hugs


Now for the story that led to the example of asking for a hug when a child is having a temper tantrum.  I watched a video of Dr. Bob Bradbury, who facilitated the “Sanity Circus” in Seattle, WA for many years. During Sanity Circus, Dr. Bradbury would interview a parent or teacher in front of a large audience. During the interview he would determine the mistaken goal of the child and would then suggest an intervention that might help the discouraged child feel encouraged and empowered. Bob shared the following example (which I am now telling in my words from my memory of what I saw on the video).

A father wondered what to do about his four-year-old, Steven, who often engaged in tempter tantrums. After talking with the father for a while, and determining that the mistaken goal was misguided power, Dr. Bradbury suggested, “Why don’t you ask your son for a hug.”
         
The father was bewildered by this suggestion. He replied, “Wouldn’t that be reinforcing the misbehavior?”
         
Dr. Bradbury said, “I don’t think so. Are you willing to try it and next week let us know what happens?”
         
The father agreed with misgivings. However, the next week he reported that, sure enough, Steven had a temper tantrum. Dad got down to his son’s eye level and said, “I need a hug.”
         
Between loud sobs, Steven asked, “What?”
         
Dad repeated, “I need a hug.”
         
Steven was still sobbing but managed to ask incredulously, “Now????”
         
Dad said, “Yes, now”
         
Steven stopped sobbing and said, reluctantly, “Oh all right,” as he stiffly gave his father a hug. In a few seconds he just melted into his fathers arms.
         
After they hugged for a few more seconds, Dad said, “Thanks. I really needed that.”
         
Steven sniffled a bit and said, “So did I.”

There are a few points I want to make about this story. You may wonder why the father said, “I need a hug,” instead of, “You need a hug.”

1) Since the mistaken goal in this case was “misguided power.” To suggest that his son needed a hug would like invite him to say, “No I don’t,” and only intensify the power struggle. How could Steven argue with the fact that his father needed a hug?

2) Children have an innate desire to contribute. Contribution provides feelings of belonging, significance, and capability. Steven really wanted to “give” to his father, even though begrudgingly at first.

3) Children do better when they feel better. Once Steven felt better by giving his father a hug, he let go of his tantrum and the power struggle and enjoyed the hug with his father.

4) A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. It can be difficult to remember this when faced with annoying, challenging, or hurtful behavior. For this reason it helps to have a plan for behavior that is a pattern.

5) A primary philosophy of Positive Discipline is Connection before Correction. A hug is a great way to make a connection, but not the only way.  I will mention a few more of the many possibilities:

6) Simply validate your child’s feelings. “You are feeling really upset right now.” Then step back and give energetic support while your child works through it.

7) Name what is happening and then offer an alternative. For example:
 “It seems to me that we are in a power struggle right now. I love you and know we can work on a win/win solution if we wait until we calm down.” Or,
 “I can see you really want my attention right now. I love you and I don’t have time right now but I’m looking forward to our special time at 7:30.” (Of course, this requires advance planning to make sure you have set up scheduled, special time with your children.

8) Do the unexpected. Instead of reacting to the challenging behavior, ask your child. “Do you know I really love you?” This sometimes stops the misbehavior because your child is so surprised by your question/statement, and may feel enough belonging and significance from that simple statement to “feel better and do better.”

There are many other possibilities to make a connection and to help children feel better so they’ll do better. However, the main point is to see all of the Positive Discipline Tool cards NOT as techniques, but as principles. Techniques are very narrow and often don’t work. A principle is wider and deeper—and there are many ways to apply a principle. Go into your heart and your wisdom and you’ll know how to apply the principles of connection before correction, focusing on solutions, empowering children—and hugs—that are even better than the examples.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Positive Discipline in Egypt

Lynn Lott and I have been overwhelmed (in a good way), and excited about the spread of our Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way DVD Training. It has now been purchased in 50 countries.

We were delighted to receive these photos from a group of women in Egypt practicing the experiential activities to receive their certificate as Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educators.




















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