Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Grandson Crying at Preschool


Dear Jane,

Please help me to help my grandson! He is only 26 months old and his parents decided to take him to a nursery although I personally think that he is not ready yet to deal with this experience, the way that is usually given to all children by the nurseries here in Cyprus.

The reason I am saying this is that he is a lovely content boy (not spoiled), who is raised on Positive Discipline, with lots of love and affection by all of us, including his nanny who adores him. He has no other young children around to share his time with, so he is used to have lots of fun in a safe environment, and sometimes he plays with other children at birthday parties or on the playground , having an adult who is known to him always around. He is a happy, encouraged 2 year old who does not need to misbehave.

Now the nursery rules are for parents to stay with the child for an hour the first day and then go home together. The 2nd or 3rd day the mother will pretend that she will go somewhere for five minutes and leave him there with a teacher (a stranger). The following day the mother must leave him for ten minutes and then leave him at the doorstep in the hands of the teacher and say good bye (whether he is crying/screaming or not).

So my grandson went to this nursery for three days now and he was really scared and crying a lot when his mother went back, after leaving him for five minutes following the rules!!! Next week he will have to suffer more and more until he gives up.

I believe that this is a very dramatic experience for any child, because all these feelings of being abandoned all of a sudden will be stored in his subconscious mind and will always be part of his program!!!

Please Jane share your wisdom with me and advise me how to deal with this situation before we turn an encouraged child into a discouraged child because of Nursery Rules!!!!!

Thank you very much in advance, Elenitsa


Dear Elenitsa,

Oh my goodness, you sound like a grandma. (You may know that I now have 20 grandchildren, including my 11 month old of my youngest daughter. I'm so devoted to him that I purchased a house in San Diego so I can spend lots of time here.) I tell you this so you'll know I understand. In fact, they recently tried to put Greyson in a 3 hour morning program (at 10 mos.) and he cried so much that they gave up. I definitely thought he was too young.

However, I think your grandson may be just fine. The big question is how does he act after his parents leave. I use to have a morning preschool (many years ago) and I could hardly wait for the parents to leave because the children would be just fine soon after they left.

Actually, the schools rules that you describe, sound good to me. Elenitsa, I don't know for sure if he is ready or not, but I have a hunch that he could be. I don't believe he will suffer feelings of abandonment (he is loved too much). It is very possible that he will learn to feel more confident and capable. A big part depends on the energy he feels from his parents (and on how he is once they leave.)

Following is an excerpt from Positive Discipline for Childcare Providers. At the end is my story of what happened when I felt so guilty about taking Mark to a Preschool when he was 26 months old. Keep in mind, that I knew this was a very good preschool and I had even trained the staff.

Crying (See Clinging and Separation Anxiety)

Child Development Concept

Crying is a language. In fact, it is the only language infants and very young children possess Adults would not be so nervous or annoyed when children cry if they accepted this fact. Children cry for too many reasons to elaborate here, but a few of them are frustration, fear, pain, or an effort to manipulate adults. No matter what the reason, the best way to deal with crying is with an attitude of dignity and respect.

It is never a good idea to tell a child to stop crying (never mind that it rarely works). It is even worse to tell a child, "Big girls/boys don't cry." We know adults mean well when they say, "Don't cry," but that is the same as saying, "Don't communicate. It makes me uncomfortable."

Use your intuition (and/or the mistaken goal chart on page X) to give you clues about why the child is crying. The child may be crying in an attempt to find belonging through undue attention. He may be using "water power" as a misguided way to seek belonging. The child may feel hurt (possibly because he has been dethroned by a new baby at home, or because he feels abandoned) and feels his only option is revenge (which he takes out on whomever is in his path), or perhaps he feels inadequate and just wants to give up. Each of these goals would be handled differently. Check the mistaken goal chart for specific ideas.

If you sense the crying is due to fear or frustration, do your best to offer comfort. If a child is experiencing separation anxiety, it may help to hold her for a while. Every childcare environment should have a rocking chair. Sometimes an older child can help comfort or rock a younger child.

If you think the child is frustrated, validate her feelings. "You are feeling angry right now." "You wish you could do what the older kids are doing."

Sometimes it is okay to simply allow the child to have his feelings. You might say, "It is okay to cry. I hope you feel better soon."

If the child has been involved in creating a "Positive Time Out" area (see page X), you might ask, "Would it help you to go to our 'feel good place' (or whatever your children have decided to call it) for awhile?"

If you feel the child is crying in an effort to manipulate you, state what you are willing to do or what needs to be done. "I know you want me to put your shoes on for you, but I have faith in you to do it yourself. I'll come back in a few minutes so you can show me what you have done." Or "I know you don't want to help clean up, and now it is cleanup time."

Communicate with parents to stay informed about what might be going on at home that is affecting the child's behavior.

Tips for working with parents

Parents will feel differently about crying when they understand it is a language. They will be more effective when they learn to understand (not speak) the language. They can also take time to teach skills that many help the child learn other ways to behave and communicate, as in the example below.

After following all the guidelines to find a good child care situation for twi-year-old Mark (and knowing that the preschool she picked was excellent), Mrs. Nelsen was distressed when Mark cried every morning when she left him there. Parting was very difficult and Mrs. Nelsen would leave with a heavy heart. However, she noticed that when she came by to pick him up at the end of the day, Mark didn't want to leave. He was having a great time.

Mrs. Nelsen thought, "Hmmmm. What is wrong with this picture?" Then she remembered hearing that children know their parents' "buttons" and how to push them. She had a "working mother guilt button," and Mark was pushing it with great skill.

That evening Mrs. Nelsen said to Mark, "Let's play a pretend game. Let's pretend you are the mommy and I'll be Mark. When you take me to school, I'll cry and tell you I don't want you to go." Mark thought that was great fun. I cried and held on to his legs. He laughed and laughed. Then Mrs. Nelsen said, "Okay, now you pretend you are Mark and I'm the mommy and you can cry and hang on to me when I take you to school." Of course, Mark already knew how to do this very well, but he had a hard time crying when it was just pretend. He ended up laughing as he held on to Mrs. Nelsen's legs.

They were both laughing as Mrs. Nelsen said, "Well, I know you know how to do a crying goodbye, because you have been doing it every morning. Now let's practice giving a hugging goodbye. You be the mommy first and I'll be Mark. Pretend you have just taken me to school." Mark took her by the hand and walked her to the imaginary school. Mrs. Nelsen gave him a hug and said, "Bye Mommy, See you later." Then it was Mark's turn and he repeated the scene with a goodbye hug. Then Mrs. Nelsen said, "Now you know how to do both a crying goodbye and a hugging goodbye. Tomorrow you can decide which one you want to do."

The next morning Mrs. Nelsen reminded Mark that he could decide to give her a hugging goodbye or a crying goodbye and said, "I wonder which one you will choose?" Mrs. Nelsen wasn't surprised when Mark decided to give her a hugging goodbye, even though either choice would have been okay with her. Later she shared with a friend that she thought she knew why he chose the hugging goodbye. First, she had given up her guilt button. She felt very confident that Mark was spending his days in an excellent environment. She said, "I don't know how he knew that I no longer had a guilt button, but I know he knew." Second, she had taken time for training so Mark had the skills for a hugging goodbye as well as a crying goodbye – and he knew it was his choice.

Elenitsa, I hope this helps. Remember, I don't know the whole picture, but I do believe there is a lot of "extreme" parenting going on these days. Let me know how it goes.

Dear Jane,

"Thank You" is such a small phrase that cannot express my gratitude for your wise thoughts and suggestions!!! Yes, I sound like a grandma (perhaps a little bit overprotective, which I try to overcome!!!).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Positive Time-Out—You First

Create a positive time out plan for yourself. It could be a soak in the tub, getting in the shower (where kids can’t follow), going into the bathroom, locking the door, and turning on the stereo, taking a short walk (if your kids are old enough), sitting on the floor in the lotus position and chanting—whatever works for you. Let your kids know your plan and that you will use it when you need to calm down. Be sure they know this is “for” you, not “against” them.

Does this seem like a novel idea—for you to take some time-out instead of sending your children to time-out? We all know that example is the best teacher. Sachiko Jordan, a member of the Southern CA Positive Discipline Mentor group, shares how effective it was for her to use time-out for herself.

When I read “Positive Discipline,” I liked the idea decide what you will do instead of what you make your child do. So, I decided to take a break (time-out) when I am not able to talk to my 3 ½ year-old son, Kazuya, with respect. I talked to my son and told him what I would do next time I got upset instead of sending him to punitive “time out.” I told him that I would go to my office (extra bedroom) to calm myself down and that I would come out when I was ready to talk to him nicely. I also told him while he was waiting for me to calm down, he could play or he could knock on the door when he was ready to talk to me.

The time came! We had a conflict and I was very upset. I told him that I would go upstairs as I promised. He looked at me and said, “NO!” I ignored his comment and briefly said, “See you in few minuets,” and went to my office. I heard him sobbing and I did not feel comfortable. I was anxious about whether or not this would work. Well, 5 minutes later he knocked on my door and said, “Mommy, I am ready to talk to you.” He was not crying anymore. I opened the door and gave him a big hug and said, “I am ready to talk to you too. Thank you for coming to let me know you are ready.” Then, we took turns talking about how we felt at the time of the conflict. We went through this process several times.

One day, Kazuya was not in a good mood and started whining when he was told to get ready to go grocery shopping. We were not in a hurry and I did not want to say anything to him. I gave him a hug and said, “I will take time out.” He did not say anything and did not seem upset. When I got upstairs, I noticed he was just behind me. I thought he would try to get me. I was wrong! He was walking towards to his room. “Mommy, I take time out, too. I play with my race cars.”

When I heard that comment, my time-out was technically over. I had big smile on my face. I wanted to say, “Forget about time-out! Let’s play.” However, I didn’t do it because I knew he was not ready and needed some time to calm down. I knocked on his door after five minutes to see if he was ready to play with me for 10 minutes before we would be ready to go. He was very happy to play with me for 10 minutes and had fun with grocery shopping.

I knew time-out was not really recommended for children under the age of 4-years-old. However, when I read Positive Discipline, I instantly felt that positive time-out would work for my son. I learned the value of modeling positive time-out by going to my time-out instead of sending him to time-out. I spent a lot of time explaining PTO to him and allowed him to knock on my door when he was ready to talk to me. I also decided not to lock myself in the bathroom. I chose a PTO place next to his room where my son knew it would be unlocked all the time. I am very happy that PTO is one of most effective Positive Discipline techniques for my son—to teach him self-control until he is ready to interact lovingly and joyfully!!!

Sachiko’s story so beautifully illustrates several positive discipline concepts.

1) Modeling. Sachiko was able to communicate that positive time out is not a bad thing since she is so willing to do it herself. Children love to follow our lead—much more than being pushed to do what we want.

2) Combining positive discipline tools. Sachiko combined modeling positive time-out with “deciding what you will do.” Sachiko couldn’t make her son give up his temper tantrum, but she could decide to take care of herself until he was ready to interact cooperatively.

3) Being kind and firm at the same time. Sachiko provides an excellent of kind and firm when she hugs her child while remaining firm.

4) Planning in advance, including children when possible, and/or informing children in advance what you plan to do. Sachiko applied these tools when modeling positive time-out, and in her next story.

Sachiko wanted to involve her child in finding solutions to challenges. One challenge they faced was her son’s resistance to leaving the park when it was time. She involved him in a plan to use her cell phone as a timer. He could choose the ring tone that would indicate when it was time to leave. She would give him a 15 minute warning before the ring tone would sound the alarm that it was time to leave. When the alarm rang, he son told his friend it was time to leave.

This illustrates how powerful very simple tools can be. They are powerful because they are respectful and help children use their power to cooperate instead of feeling the need to engage in power struggles.

To hear a discussion of these concepts, and to hear Sachiko share her success stories, go to http://positivediscipline.com/podcast to listen to the podcast.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Taming Temper Tantrums

My guest for the latest Positive Discipline Radio podcast, “Focusing on Solutions,” was Aisha Pope, and LCSW from San Diego with Families Forward-East where she teaches Positive Discipline Parenting classes. She shared two wonderful success stories, followed by some comments from me.

Taming Temper Tantrums

by Aisha Pope

I was in a mall store with my son who was about 16-17 months old and was a pretty talented tantrum thrower. He didn't have a problem walking around the mall; he just hated going into the actual stores; so I could count on him to get upset when we walked in. We went into one particular store, and he started the tantrum and fell out on the floor kicking and screaming. I had been doing some reading “The Happiest Toddler on the Block” by Harvey Karp, MD, about coping with tantrums and learned that I needed to validate his feelings, and since he would not be likely to understand my verbal validation, I needed to show him with my own tone and affect that I was hearing him. So, I sat on the floor (in front of God and everyone) and said, "Jayden, you're mad. You're mad, mad mad! You're so mad." I used a tone that mirrored, but didn’t mock, his tantrum tone. He stopped, looked at me as if to say, “She gets it,” and then crawled into my lap and gave me a big hug! We sat there for a few minutes, and to my surprise, he was patient for the rest of the short time we were in that store! After that, I guess to show him that I respected his feelings; we cut the shopping trip short.

Comments from Jane:

I love this story for so many reasons. First, Jayden’s behavior is so developmentally appropriate. What child doesn’t have a temper tantrum to show his displeasure when he or she doesn’t have any other skills for self-expression. Too many parents don’t understand how helpful it can be to simply allow children to have their feelings and have faith in them to handle their upset and calm down. In a very subtle way, dealing with their feelings in, a supportive atmosphere, helps children develop the sense that they are capable. Instead of trying to talk children out of their feelings, or calling it “misbehavior,” do what Aisha did. Just validate them.

Most adults haven’t learned to understand their feelings language. As children, many of us were told we should feel what we felt. Even worse, we might have been punished. In Positive Discipline the First Three Years, and Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, we discuss the importance of helping children develop their “feelings” language by understanding that what they feel is always okay—even though what they do is not always okay. Once you help children calm down by simply validating their feelings, you can then help them figure out what to do that is respectful for everyone concerned if follow-up is necessary. In Jayden’s case it wasn’t.

I so admire Aisha’s courage that she cared more about helping Jayden deal with his feelings than what others might think. In the process, she provided an excellent example for any parent who was watching. I wish we all could have watched the second success story shared by Aisha.

To Bed using his Own Power
by Aisha Pope

When Jayden was around 15-16 months old, we had never done any formal sleep training, and he still needed to be rocked or nursed to sleep. I decided to work on breaking him of this, and started by setting up a good bedtime routine. That routine would end with a story, nursing in the rocking chair. So he wouldn't fall asleep nursing, I would stand up and walk around the room carrying him while we said our prayers. We would end at the crib where I'd lay him down. As soon as I laid him down, however, this peaceful scene would change. He'd stand right up and start screaming. The next hour to hour and half would be spent with him standing up, me laying him back down, him crying, me wanting to cry, and so on.

One night I decided to change the routine just a little. When we were pacing and saying our prayers, I put him down and let him walk. I said, "Time for bed," and he walked himself over to the crib, holding my hand. He reached to be picked up, and I picked him up, gave a kiss, and set him down on his feet instead of laying him down. He immediately laid down. Ever since then, when it's time for him to go to bed, I have him walk to his crib instead of carrying him. I set him on his feet and he always just lays down on his own. Now that's not to say that every night he drifts peacefully off to sleep with no protesting, because the going to sleep part is still a challenge some nights; but we no longer spend half the night just fighting with him to stay in the crib at bedtime.

Comments from Jane:

I would love to hear if this works for other parents. Your child may not respond exactly as Jayden did, but your chances will increase if you understand some key concepts—which can be used to solve many behavior challenges is many creative ways.

1) Sleeping is a natural bodily function that babies are born knowing how to do. Too often loving parents don’t understand that babies know how to sleep and “train” their babies to believe they can’t sleep without being rocked, nursed, given a bottle, walked around in a baby carrier, or taken for a drive in the car. (I know. I’ve been there.)
2) Weaning is never easy for the Weanor or the Weanee, but it helps to have faith in both of you that you can handle this weaning process and both feel more capable once it is done.
3) Everyone has personal power and we feel capable when we use it constructively, and rebellious or defeated when someone takes it away from us. Toddlers aren’t consciously aware of their personal power, yet they often rebel when parents are overly controlling. In Positive Discipline the First Three Years, we call this the “Me Do It” stage of life—that starts with toddlers and never ends. Aisha figured out a way to incorporate Jayden using his personal power to “fit the needs of the situation.” In other words, he used his personal power for cooperation and to feel capable instead of the rebel and/or demand undue service.
4) Too often, parents train their children to use their personal power to manipulate others into giving them undue service. They may start to develop the believe, “Love means getting others to take care of me and give me whatever I want.” This does not instill a sense of capability.

Putting all this together means understanding that the best way to help children develop a healthy sense that, “I am capable,” is to find ways to let them use their personal power in ways that help them experience being capable. This could be something as seemingly small as letting Jayden walk to his crib, and then letting him lay down himself instead of laying him down. As Aisha pointed out, it may not always work perfectly, yet it is working perfectly when you have faith in your child (and yourself) to handle the ups and downs of life.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Toddler Demands Constant Attention

Question:Hello Jane,

I have just ordered Positive Discipline for Preschoolers and Positive Discipline the First Three Years but while I wait for the books to arrive I could really use some advice. I am a single mother of a 16 month old girl. Her father has her occasionally but I am with her more or less 24/7 and sometimes I get really stressed out. My main problem is that she wants my attention all the time and if I don't give it to her she starts to cry and cry until I do something about it. I don't seem to have 1 second to myself and sometimes I get really frustrated.

For example when she is in her high chair she throws her food on the floor and screams to get my attention: I have tried to reason with her, I have shouted, smacked her hand, ignored her, fooled around but nothing seems to work. When I am trying to cook or get ready to go out she follows me around crying and pleading that I pick her up. How do I get through to her? How can I communicate with her effectively so that she realizes that I still love her even if I am not giving her my undivided attention.

She is still breastfeeding although I have just stared to wean her slowly. I wear inaccessible tops so that at least when we go out she cannot just grab titty when she wants and I offer her alternatives. She still needs to breastfeed to go to sleep and to soothe her when she wakes up during the night and I feel I am still months away from weaning her off completely.

Maybe its the fact that we are on our own that has made her so demanding. She is a very sweet, loving and happy child but when she is so clinging and demanding I find it very hard not to feel angry towards her and frustrated at myself for not being able to get through to her. What should I do? I don't want to be an angry, sad mummy I hope you can help me.

Kind regards, Isabel

Answer:Isabel, Your question is so typical of so many I'm receiving lately. Children needing "undue attention" seems to be epidemic. I say "undue" because everyone needs attention. Undue attention crosses the line into needing attention all the time. I'm thinking of writing a book about this called Extreme Parenting, because I believe parents train their children to demand undue attention by giving it to them "in the name of love."

I want to make some very important points that relate to your question.

1. You can't reason with children under the age of 3 1/2 to 4. Their brains have not developed enough to understand reasoning. Fully developed reasoning doesn't suddenly kick in at 3 1/2 to 4 years of age, but gradually begins. You'll read much more about this is the books you have ordered.

2. This is one reason it is NEVER a good idea to use any kind of punishment--no shouting or smacking. This instills a "sense of" doubt and shame that only leads to a sense of discouragement and thus the need for more attention.

3. The one thing you mention doing that could be effective is ignoring. However, you have to ignore consistently. Ignoring isn't the only parenting tool you can use, but let I'll give you some important components of this method.
a) It is not okay to ignore ALL the time. I know you don't do that, but it is important to point out that children need attention and a sense that they are loved.
b) Allow your child to have her feelings. Crying is the biggest part of her language right now. If she has trained you to be her "royal carriage" (carrying her around a lot), she isn't going to like it when you stop. Again, let her have her feelings. She'll learn that she can survive and at a subconscious level will start feeling more capable.
c) Choose the things you are going to ignore, or the times of day, and then be consistent. If you ignore for awhile and then give in, you have trained her that crying works to get you do do what she wants. For example, if you decide to put her in her high chair for 15 minutes while you cook dinner, let her cry if that is what she chooses to do.
d) Have faith in yourself and in your child. Show confidence that you are doing the right thing to help her learn self-reliance and a sense of capability, and confidence that she can do it. She will pick up you energy. Children sense when you mean it and when you don't. I know how hard this is, so you might want to talk to her (knowing that she can't understand your reasoning, and that your talking is really for yourself), saying things like, "I love you, and I know you can handle this. I need some time for myself right now, and I'm looking forward to our time together later."

4. Create a routine and stick with it. Plan plenty of special time when your give your daughter your full attention, and as much time as you need for yourself, and then follow the above suggestions.

5. Allow time for training. Some habits have been created that aren't easy to break. Weaning is never easy for the weanor or weanee. Know that it will not be easy and do it anyway because ultimately it will be good for both of you so your daughter will feel capable and you’ll be a happy mummy.

I wish you the best Isabel. You might also enjoy the 2 CD set, "Positive Discipline Birth to Five."