Monday, November 24, 2008

2 ½ year-old Fears

Question:

I recently read your book, Positive Discipline: The First Three Years and I cannot tell you how much better I understand my 2 1/2 year old son! I was hoping you could direct me toward some reading material, or even offer a suggestion though. He is a very bright boy, happy at home. However, he is constantly telling us he is "scared" of other kids, and sometimes adults too. It seems to really hold him back socially. We had a psychologist meet with him, but she stated he is just high strung. I somehow think there is more to it... If you could point me in a new direction?

Thank you,

Erin

Answer:

Hi Erin, I can’t tell for sure since I don’t have more information, but I’m going to make some guesses. First let me tell you that this will pass. The less energy you give it, the quicker it will pass.

1. It could be that he really has “decided” to be scared for whatever reason he has made up. Still, to him, the fear is real. The best you can do is comfort him briefly; validate his feelings, “I can see that you are very scared of this;” and then have faith in him to deal with his fear. He will learn that his fear will pass. It is very empowering for children to learn that they can deal with the ups and downs of life. When parents rescue and pamper, children don’t have the opportunity to develop resilience and a sense of their own capability. If you pay too much attention to his fears (give them too much energy) that could lead to the next guess.

2. It could be that he has learned that being scared is a good way to get lots of “undue attention” from you. If this is the case, I would still give the same recommendations as above. You might add problem-solving by asking him for his ideas on how to deal with his fears.

For even more ideas I have included an excerpt from Positive Discipline A-Z by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn, which also provides an example of how this books provides many possible solutions for just about any behavior challenge you can think of.
Fears (Children)

“My child has nightmares and complains about monsters in his room. He seems so fragile compared to other children his age. He’s afraid to leave my side. This doesn’t seem normal to me.”

Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation

“A bruised knee can mend, but bruised courage lasts a lifetime.”1 Sometimes children have fears because we don’t help them deal with the unknown by showing them how to do things in small steps. Most children have some fears, but they become bigger when others make fun of them, call them babies, or tell them that it’s not okay to be scared or to cry, or label them as “overly-sensitive.” Fears also get bigger when parents feel sorry for children and try to over-protect them. Then children don’t develop the confidence that they can handle some discomfort.

Fear is usually about the unknown (which is why a fear of the dark is common and usually passes). However, at other times children have good reason (such as bullies or sexual abuse) to be afraid. It’s your job to know when to protect your children and when to help them without over- protecting them.

Suggestions

Don’t laugh at, minimize, judge, or discount your children’s fears. Contrarily, don’t over-indulge or over-protect or try to explain away your child’s fears.

Listen when your children tell you what they are afraid of. Verify their feelings, such as saying, “You’re afraid of dogs because they might bite you, and you wish the dog would go away and leave you alone.” Sometimes, just having their feelings validated is enough to lessen the fear.
Help your children find ways to handle situations when they are afraid. Help them explore several possibilities so they feel they have some choices. You might ask, “What would help you the most right now--a flashlight, a teddy bear, or a nightlight?” Telling them not to be afraid isn’t helpful; looking for solutions is.

Don’t be manipulated by your children’s fears. Offer comfort, but don’t give them special service or try to fix their feelings for them. It is important for children to learn that they can handle their fears, even though it is uncomfortable. Help them problem solve (as above) so they learn they can handle their fears themselves. Letting children sleep with you when they are afraid is a subtle way of saying, “You can’t handle this. Let me fix it for you.”
Encourage your children to deal with difficult situations in small steps. If they are afraid of the dark, put a night light in their room. If they don’t think they can sleep in their own rooms, fill their hands with your kisses and tell them every time they miss you to open their hands and take out a kiss. If they think there are monsters in the closet or under the bed, do a search with them before bedtime and let them sleep with a flashlight.
Listen carefully. Are your children trying to tell you that someone is hurting them or that you are doing something that is frightening them? Take what they say seriously.
Sometimes children’s fears are irrational and they can’t explain them. They may need your support and reassurance until the fear goes away.
Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems

There are many wonderful children’s books dealing with fears that you can read with your children so they can see they aren’t alone.

If there is a scary show on television or a scary movie, discuss ahead of time with your child whether it is a good idea for him to see it. If you both agree he is ready to watch, discuss how you can be supportive. (See Booster Thought 1.)

Don’t lay your fears on your children. If your children decide they are ready to try something, work with them in small steps to make it safe and then let go instead of stopping them from doing things you are afraid of yourself. If you’re too afraid, arrange for a friend or relative to do the activity with your child.

It’s okay to share your fears, but don’t expect your children to have the same ones you do. Telling your children about a fear that you conquered may be comforting to them. It will assure them that fears are normal.

Ask your children if they would be willing to try out scary things two to three times before deciding against them.

Don’t push your children into doing things they are afraid of such as swimming or riding a horse. Some parents insist that their children do these things in spite of their fears and create lifetime fears in their children, as well as a strong feeling of inadequacy.

Turn off the TV and stop immersing your kids in the news which is filled with violence and natural disasters. Too much TV has been the trigger for many children’s fears, and rightly so.

Life Skills Children Can Learn

Children can learn that it’s okay to feel fear, but they don’t have to be immobilized by it. There is someone who will take them seriously and help them deal with their fears so they aren’t so overwhelming. They learn they can trust their parents to protect them from dangers they can’t handle by themselves.

Parenting Pointers

If your children are afraid to leave your side, spend time with them, but also create situations where they can be away from you for short times. Many a preschool teacher has had to pull clinging, screaming children off their parents’ legs. Minutes later, with the parents gone, the children have settled in and are happily playing with the other children.

Don’t force your children into situations that are overwhelming to them just so they will be brave. Some children learn by jumping into the pool, and others watch from the sidelines for a summer before they put their faces in the water. Respect their differences and have faith.

Booster Thoughts

Ten-year-old Lisa decided she wanted to watch Halloween III, an extremely scary movie. Her parents said they thought the movie was too scary, but she insisted on watching it. No one in her family wanted to watch the movie with her, so Lisa decided she would watch it by herself. Her parents said they would be in the next room, and if she got scared, she could come in for reassurance.

Lisa’s mother made her a bowl of popcorn, and her father helped her carry in her stuffed animals and special quilt. He turned on all the lights at Lisa’s request and left the room as the movie began.

About ten minutes later, Lisa came into the living room and said, “I don’t think I’m really in the mood to watch that movie tonight. Maybe I’ll watch it another time.”

Some children do what they really don’t want to do so they can win the power struggle with their parents. Lisa’s parents supported her to learn for herself how much she could handle.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Notes from Jane

It is so rewarding to hear that Positive Discipline is making a difference all over the world. Recently I received the following email.
My name is Marisol Zeron and I am head of the orientation department at Escuela Bilingue Bambinos in Honduras. As you know we are a Third World Country with lots of limitations. Our school has become addicted to your Positive Discipline curricula it's just amazing!!! We really want to make a difference among the children in Honduras and we were wondering if there was possibility that we could fly you out here to give a seminar to a whole community of schools?
The goal is to get people hooked on Positive Discipline to understand it and love it the way we do!
I also want to thank you for opening our eyes to much better, fresh form to raise our kids, but the population of children is too much and we can't do it alone!! :)
Thanks from the bottom of my heart,
Marisol Zeron
marisolzeron@yahoo.com
We are looking forward to sending Certified Positive Discipline Associates to Honduras.
This weekend I facilitated a two-day workshop on Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way and we now have 30 more Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educators. It is such a joyful and gratifying experience to be with the people who are attracted to this work. They are so positive and passionate and really believe we can create peace in the world through creating more respectful relationships in homes and schools. I have scheduled another two-day workshop for March 7-8, 2009. Please go to www.positivediscipline.com for more information. The last workshop filled up three weeks in advance, so register early.
To find two-day workshops on Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way and Positive Discipline in the Classroom in other locations and dates, please go to www.posdis.org If you haven’t already listened to podcast No. 49 where I interview Marianne McGinnis on “Workshop Results,” you will find it delightful and inspiring.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Upcoming Workshops:






Teraching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way

Two-day workshop for parent educator training and/or in depth training for parents--filled with experiential activities.


Dates and Times: November 8-9, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Cost: $295.00, couples: $500.00
Register


Location: Inns of America Suites

5010 Avenida Encinas Carlsbad CA 92008




Take Canon exit in Carlsbad

For more information about this workshop go here

Contact: Jane@positivediscipline.com




Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way

Two-day workshop for parent educator training and/or indepth training for parents--filled with experiential activities.


Dates and Times: March 7 and 8, 2009, Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Cost: $330.00, couples: $600.00
Register

Early Bird Cost until 2/6/2009: $295.00, couples: $500.00

Location: Inns of America Suites

5010 Avenida Encinas Carlsbad CA 92008




This hotel is only 1/2 mile from the ocean beach

For more information about this workshop go here

Contact: Jane@positivediscipline.com



Mistakes are Opportunities to Learn

Question:

It is only today that I've discovered your website, a day after my husband and I have already told our 11 year old son that as a consequence to two pretty severe behavioral issues, he was not going to be able to participate in an upcoming motorcycle race, or to sleep over at a friends' house for Halloween. I am now realizing after scouring your website, that taking away privileges, isn't the best method; and we certainly didn't agree in advance what limits would be set, and what would happen. My concern however, is that if we don't follow through with the "punishment" that has been set, that we will have totally missed an opportunity to impart the seriousness of his behavior, and our ability to stick to our plan. Help? Olivia

Answer:

Olivia, in my opinion you would be more effective and teach your child many valuable life skills by admitting you unknowingly made a mistake. Then let him know you would like to work WITH him to find a solution. Then ask him if he knows what his mistakes were, what he learned from them, and what ideas he has to solve the problems that would work better than punishment. I'm sure you can see how much more he will learn from this. Before you start, remember the new Positive Discipline theme: Connection before Correction. Let him know how much to love him before you start this conversation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Child Alienating Friends

Question:

Hi,

My daughter will soon be 8. We have a great relationship and are very close. She is having difficulty at school. Sometimes with her friends she is like a different person to how she is at home, she becomes very bossy and sometimes possessive of her best friends. Unfortunately it is making some of the other girls dislike her and leave her out, not inviting her to parties etc. I don’t know how to deal with the situation and how to stand back in a positive light rather than feeling like I want to tell these kids off for being so mean. It’s a difficult situation as really she is being over enthusiastic and I feel misinterpreted. I don’t have any problems at home and the flip side is that my laid back 6-year-old girl is Miss popular in her class. Help how can I help her to be liked?

Answer:

Hi Vanessa, One of the most difficult things for mothers to do is just step back and allow children to learn from their experiences. But it is usually the most effective. You might find the following excerpt from Positive Discipline A-Z helpful.





Friends (Choosing)

“I have one child who complains that she doesn’t have any friends. Another child keeps choosing friends I don’t like. How do I help my children make friends with children I approve of?”
Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation

We often forget to honor the different styles and personalities of our children and try to make them all fit one mold. This tendency can be most blatant when it comes to the secret dream of most parents--to have popular children. Some children are quiet and passive, some are active and assertive, some choose conventional lifestyles, and some choose unique lifestyles. The following suggestions focus on meeting the true needs of the situation--to help your children honor the uniqueness of each individual and feel comfortable with who they are.

Suggestions

Allow your children to choose their own friends, but help your kids have contact with others their age by signing them up for after school activities and driving them to sleep-overs and play dates. When your kids are young, arrange play dates for them at your house, too.
If your child chooses a friend you don’t like, invite that person into your home often and hope that the love and values you practice will be beneficial to him or her.
If you are afraid a friend you don't approve of will have a negative influence on your child, focus on being a positive influence through a good relationship with your child. It is okay to express your concerns as long as you are sharing ideas and not giving orders.
When your child has a fight with a friend, listen empathetically, but do not interfere. Have faith in your child to handle the fight. (See Fighting, Friends.)

Don’t worry about whether your child has the right number of friends. Some prefer just one best friend; some like to be part of a large group of friends.

If your child complains that he or she has no friends, practice your listening skills. Try rephrasing your child’s complaint using feeling words, such as, “You’re pretty upset right now because you don’t think you have any friends. Did something happen today between you and your friends at school?” Often children will catastrophize and speak in absolutes, when what they are really trying to say is that they are having a problem with one of their friends. Be a good listener to help your child think through the situation out loud.

Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems

Help children who have difficulty making friends by exposing them to many opportunities, such as trips to the park, Scouts or other youth groups, and church groups.
Do not expect your children to enjoy the children of your friends or insist that they play together if your kids don’t enjoy their company. Find time to spend with your friends without subjecting your children to feeling stuck having to play with kids they don’t like or with whom they don’t have anything in common.

Go along with your child’s wishes about clothing styles so he/she won’t be embarrassed about not fitting in.

Make your home a place where kids love to come because they experience unconditional love, safe and respectful rules, and plenty of fun, child-oriented activities.

If you have issues about having enough friends yourself, don’t worry about your child having the same problem or project your experience onto your child. Be careful not to put your judgments about friendships on to your children. You may think friends are forever while your child may enjoy moving in and out of different groups of friends. Be a good observer and see how your child handles friendships.

Children don’t like to bring friends home when one or more of their parents is chemically dependent, because they are embarrassed and fear what they might walk into with their friend. If someone in your family suffers from chemical dependence, get help, because your children will be missing out on a lot if they are afraid to bring friends home.

Life Skills Children Can Learn

Children can learn that their parents are their best friends because they love them unconditionally, value their uniqueness, and have faith in them to choose friends that are right for them. Their friends can feel safe around their parents because they offer guidance without lectures and judgments.

Parenting Pointers

If your child is consistently choosing friends of whom you do not approve, look at your relationship with your child. Are you being too controlling and inviting her to prove you can’t control everything? Is your child feeling hurt by your criticism and lack of faith in her and trying to hurt back by choosing friends you don’t like?

Have faith in your children and honor who they are. Try to make the people your children choose as friends welcome at your home, even if they are not the friends you would choose.
Your children may be making decisions about friends based on how you treat your friends. Are you acting how you would like your children to act?

Booster Thoughts

Peers don’t make children what they are. Children choose their peer group as a reflection of where they are at the time. Drop a skater into a high school, and he’ll find the other skaters by noontime. The same is true for cheerleaders, jocks, and brains. (And even as adults, when we go to a party, we tend to seek out people who have similar interests and avoid those who don’t.)

Sometimes teens think their lives are over if they don’t have a friend. Often we overemphasize the importance of having friends, so that children who choose to be alone feel uncomfortable with that choice, because they “should have friends,” rather than learning to be a friend to themselves.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Defiance: Where does it come from?

Question:

Dear Jane:

My daughter is 7 3/4. This morning, she left the house and walked to school without saying a word. What is an appropriate disciplinary action for this? I feel that the issues are:

1) Anxiety: in me & her Kindergarten Brother - every morning we walk to school as a family, she snuck out the back door and headed to school. Meanwhile, my son and I were calling around the house, and looking around our property for her. We walked to school hoping that she would be there. My son was worried that Madison would be afraid if we're at school and she was still home. I knew she would be there, but in the back of my mind I did have worry about her safety.

2) Defiance: I believe part of her sneaking out without saying anything was an act of defiance. Earlier she had hit her brother and taken his Pokemon cards away. I had previously told her not to touch his cards while they were getting ready for school - we have a rule about no playing with toys while getting ready or they get taken away and put in my room. After the incident I asked her to give me her Pokemon cards - which she said were lost. I then asked her to think about what else of hers I could hold on to until she figures out how to stop hitting her brother and playing with cards while getting ready.

I was thinking that one angle might be to talk to her about what it means to be in the family, including the privileges; pack up some of her "things", and give her the opportunity to act like a part of the family and earn her things back.

Looking forward to your insight. Jill

Answer:

Hi Jill,

A new theme of Positive Discipline is "Connection before Correction." The first thing you need to do is make a connection with your daughter. There are several ways to do this.
  1. Make sure the message of love gets through: Honey, I really love you and I need your help to figure out how to solve this problem.
  2. Validate her feelings: Sweetie, I'm wondering if you are feeling angry about what happened this morning? I wonder if it hurt your feelings when I yelled at you and you wanted to hurt me back by leaving without telling me.
  3. Name what is going on and take responsibility for your part: I think we are in a power struggle or a revenge cycle and I'm wondering what I have done to create this. Maybe I'm being too bossy and focusing on punishment instead of having faith in you to work out solutions.
  4. Try a hug.

Okay, you may be wondering, after the connection--then what? After a connection has been made, children (and adults) exit their mid brain mentality (fight or flight) and enter their rational minds where positive learning can take place. During this time you can focus on a solution instead of a punishment (even if it is called appropriate disciplinary action): Honey, I really would like to hear your version of what happened this morning. I saw you hitting your brother and I'm wondering, and I'm wondering what happened before that. This is where it is important for you to just listen. Don't interrupt and give your explain your point of view. Don't tell her she shouldn't think of feel this way. Just listen and then validate her feelings. Then you can ask, "Would you be willing to hear what happened for me and why I was so upset?"


Children will listen to you AFTER they feel listened too--so long as you don't get into the lecture mode that include blame and shame.





This could be followed by focusing on solutions where both of you can figure out what will work. You might ask if she would like to brainstorm together for solutions right now, or put the problem on the family meeting agenda where the whole family can brainstorm for solutions.
First let me teach you about some preventative methods. If she is feeling defiant, are you willing to take a look at your part in creating that defiance?


It sounds to me like you are talking too much. You do a lot of telling instead of asking. Please look at the two lists below and decide which one might invite defiance if you were a child, and which one might invite cooperation and the opportunity for you to feel capable and responsible?

Telling Parent
Go brush your teeth.
Don't forget your coat.
Go to bed.
Do your homework.
Stop fighting with your brother.
Put your dishes in the dishwasher.
Hurry up and get dressed or you'll miss the bus.
Stop whining.
Pick up your toys.

Asking Parent
1. What do you need to do so your teeth will be squeaky clean?
2. What do you need to take so you will be warm outside?
3. What do you need to do to get ready for bed?
4. What is your plan for doing your homework?
5. What can you and your brother do to solve this problem?
6. What do you need to do with your dishes when you have finished eating?
7. What do you need to do so you catch the bus on time?
8. What words can you use so I can hear you?
9. What do you need to do with your toys when you are finished playing with them?

I hope you did find Positive Discipline A-Z so you can look up "Fighting" for many more ideas on how to deal with sibling rivalry. Please keep one thing in mind. You don't know what your son may have done to provoke your daughter. By taking sides you engage in victim/bully training. You son gets to feel loved by being the victim (and will master this role and learn more ways to provoke so he can get sympathy) and your daughter gets to feel like a defiant bully (and will master this role). Instead, try using the words "kids" or "children." "I have faith in you kids that you can work out this problem. Let me know when you have found a solution."




I hope you will start having regular family meetings so your children can learn many valuable social and life skills that will help them develop a sense that they are capable and have a lot to contribute with their good ideas for solving problems.

My best to you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Demanding Child

Question:

I am a mother of 5 children aged 8, 7, 5, 4 and 8 months old. There are many things I could ask about but I have gained so much just through reading as much as I can through your website. As well as this, we plan to order at least one of your books when we can afford it.

However, something I have not come across yet and am desperate to have answered is this. My (just turned) 4 year old son is very difficult to live with and hard to figure out at the moment. Briefly put, firstly, he will speak over someone else in the family or try to override their will with his without paying any attention to what they need or want no matter how reasonable. For example, when I am talking on the telephone, (which isn't that often), he will talk to me or yell and demand for what he wants even though he knows I'm talking to somebody else, it's very embarrassing. If he wants his own way he will fight or make a scene to get it no matter who's around or where we might be at the time! We sometimes give in to him because it's just easier, more peaceful or if in town, less embarrassing than to fight it. But other times, I stand my ground with him and have to calmly and kindly carry him out of the room to gently hold him and calm him down. The second problem is this, lately he has taken to hitting me whenever he perceives that I am being "mean" to him which is usually over the slightest little thing, like me kindly correcting him with a lilt in my voice or asking him not to annoy his sisters or brothers. But worse than that, he is verbally abusing me at the same time. He repeatedly says he "hates" me, that I'm being "mean to him", that I don't love him, that I'm a "disgusting" mother, when all I've done is tried to love him by setting boundaries for him. He totally overreacts and misunderstands me and my intentions.

I've always had a strong bond with him as a baby and he's normally a very joyful, delightful, social, outgoing, gregarious child who loves to be the center of attention! He's always known I love him and when he's happy he's been the one child who'll always tell me how much he loves me and so forth. I'm sad and concerned as he's miserable and his behavior is such that I getting to the stage of feeling anxious when we are around other people incase he behaves in any one of these totally inappropriate ways mentioned above. Or sometimes, it will be overtly rude or foolish behavior like saying rude or inappropriate words or annoying, repetitive noises where I have to ask to be quiet or leave the room, which is always to no avail.

Any advice to help and understand my son is so welcomed and much appreciated! Thank you.

Jody

Answer:

Hi Jody, I can "hear" from you email what a good mom you are (and a busy one with five children) and how difficult and frustrating it is to deal with a challenging child. I can also tell that there is a lot going on that will be too difficult to explain in an email--it would take a book, but I will try a few concepts and suggestions.

As a mother of 5 children, you know (as do all mothers) that every child is born with different "temperaments" and little personalities. In the book, Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, we discuss temperament. Following is a brief summary:

Temperament and Development1[1]


Why Do They DO That?

Compiled from Positive Discipline the First Three Years and Positive Discipline for Preschoolers by Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, and Roslyn Duffy

A child’s behavior is the result of
individual temperament
emotional, physical, and cognitive development
what he or she has decided about how to find belonging and worth
Temperament is inborn and appears to remain constant throughout our lifespan. (See Chess and Thomas’s “Know Your Child”)

3. Behavior is a dance between temperament, development, and what your child believes about himself, you, and the world around you.
Temperament:

1. Activity Level
High activity -----------------------------------------------------Low activity
2. Rhythmicity (predictability of physical functions)
Predictable---------------------------------------------------------Unpredictable

3. Initial Response (reaction to something new)
Approach--------------------------------------------------------------Withdrawal

4. Adaptability (ability to adjust to change over time)
Adapts quickly------------------------------------------------------Adapts slowly

5. Sensory Threshold (sensitivity to sensory stimulation)
Very sensitive-------------------------------------------------------Less sensitive

6. Quality of Mood
Optimistic--------------------------------------------------------------Pessimistic

7. Intensity of Reactions (response to events)
Intense reactions--------------------------------------------------Mild reactions

8. Distractibility (willingness of a child to be distracted)
Highly focused--------------------------------------------------Easily distracted

9. Persistence and Attention Span (ability to stay focused on an activity for a length of time)
Persistent/long attention span------------------------------Gives up/short span
Parents have temperaments, too; “goodness of fit” refers to how well a parent’s temperament matches his or her child’s.

Effective parenting means planning for the child you actually have!
In the early years, a child’s behavior has more to do with development than with “misbehavior”; children are young and unskilled, and need discipline that teaches, rather than punishment.

No matter how old your child is, it is important to know your child!!

I'm sure you will find your little 4-year-old on the scale. My guess is that he also feeling "dethroned" by the new baby. He got to be the "youngest" for quite awhile. To watch a candle demonstration you might want to try to deal with "dethronement," go to http://janenelsen.com/video.html

Once you understand all this it is important to understand that you can't change him any more than you can change a petunia into a rose (he may alwyas be an "intense reactor") but you can do things to help him be the best he can be. The worst thing you can do is to give in to him. That teaches him that his methods work so you are engaging in tyrant training.

Some suggestions:

1. Keep doing many of the positive things you are doing--more consistently.

2. Don't worry about what other people think. I know this is difficult, but someone once asked me, "Do you want to be a good mother for the neighbors, or for your children?" That was a huge reminder to me to think more about what my children needed than what others thought.

3. Set up a special time with your son for 15 minutes a day. (It is a good idea to do this with all your chldren.) Then when he is demanding your time when you don't have it, you can say, "I'm busy now, but I sure am looking forward to our special time at 4:15." Then ignore his demands.

4. Ignore his demands a lot. Do the above or simply validate his feelings. "I know you really want that and you are so angry and upset that you can't have it now." Then ignore.

5. Let him have his feelings. Allow him to be upset and angry without thinking you have to rescue him or fix it for him. Children need to learn to develop their disappointment muscles so they learn confidence and resiliency--that they can handle the ups and downs of life.

6. Try hugs. For a great example of this, go to http://www.positivedisicpline.com/ and scroll down to the free podcasts and listen to # 39.

7. Start regular family meetings on a weekly basis so all of your children can learn so many valuable and social lifeskills such as looking for the positive by giving and receiving compliments and by focusing on solutions. All the Positive Dsicipline books have chapters on family meetings. You can also go to http://www.focusingonsolutions.com/ and order the ebook on the Family Meeting Album.

I wish you the best,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Morning Hassles and Power Struggles

Question:

Hi Jane,

My 4-year old recently started kindergarten and has to wear a school uniform. I tried to prepare her as much as I could over the summer about having to wear it for school. Thankfully we haven’t encountered any major issues in the morning when she has to put it on.

A couple of weeks ago however, we found out that the kids are going to be doing Judo once a week, and last week they were given their Judo uniforms, and the parents were asked to send the kids
to school every Wed in the Judo uniform and pack their school uniform in the backpacks. Again, we talked about it, tried it on, and she seemed to be fine with the idea.

Well, this week when she had to put on her Judo uniform in the morning, the drama began. She REFUSED to wear it, so trying to give her a choice, I said she could either put it on and participate with her classmates, or she could put her school uniform instead, but she wouldn’t be able to participate, but that it was her choice. Well needless to say she wanted the best of both worlds. She wanted to wear her school uniform, and still be able to do her Judo class. I always feel like I’m walking that fine line between giving her choices (within limits) and adhering to certain policies (such as school policies). Also, these struggles ALWAYS happen when I’m racing again
st the clock to get to work in the morning, so more times than not, my patience inevitable runs out. I need some advice.

How could I have handled this? Any suggestions on dealing with these power struggles would be GREATLY appreciated!

Thank you,
Angie

Answer:

Angie,

When you give a choice you need to be okay with either choice and follow-through. Allow her to experience the consequences of her choice at school. When she cries and complains, simply validate her feelings. "I can see how upsetting that was." Then allow her to learn from the experience and decide what she will do next time without any lectures (especially in the “I told you so,” form from you.

You do offer another clue when you say these things happen when you are racing. One possible way to prevent the problem in the first place is to have her create a bedtime routine chart that includes laying out her clothes for the next morning. Is is fun for the kids to have pictures of themselves doing each task. Pictures for the "Laying out clothes for morning" could include one in her regular uniform and one in her Judo uniform. All you would need to ask is, "Since tomorrow is Wed, which uniform do you need to lay out tonight.

I'm sure you can see that helping her create her own bedtime routine with pictures helps her feel capable and allows her to use her power in useful ways so she doesn't feel the need to use it in "power struggles."

Best wishes,

Jane Nelsen

www.positivediscipline.com

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is Positive Discipline Permissive?

Question:

I love your books! They have taught me so much about parenting in a non putative way, very different from the way I was raised. I have two daughters 12 and 14, and my husband has two sons 11 and 15. He has an authoritarian mindset when it comes to discipline, and I am using the Positive Discipline techniques I learned from you. My daughters are used to the positive approaches I use, and when we blended they were shocked and resentful of their stepfather's approach. I have shown him your book and he agrees with some things, but other things he thinks are ridiculous, that they are too permissive and lets children do what they want. I have expressed my concerns with his approach with my daughters but he feels he should not have to change. I then resorted to asking him to just back off from disciplining my daughters because I am uncomfortable with his methods, and that I would handle the disciplining of the girls, and he refused. I am getting no where. Any thoughts?

I tried to find your book, Positive Discipline for Blended Families, but couldn't find it anywhere. Where can I get a copy?

Thanks!!!!!

Julie

Answer:

It is a common mistake for some to believe that Positive Discipline is permissive. In fact, many parents who are so against punishment may become permissive. However, I believe that permissiveness could be even more harmful to kids than punishment. Permissiveness creates weakness in children. They don't develop beliefs in their own capability and resiliency. They develop attitudes of entitlement and are very unpleasant to be around. They seem to think the world "owes them." They don't learn important social and life skills for self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, respect for others, and problem-solving skills. So, I can certainly understand your husbands reluctance to go the permissive route. I'm not sure how to convince him that Positive Discipline is not permissive.

It might help if he read the article titled, "I was punished, and I turned out fine" that can be found at www.positivediscipline.com

Julie it might help if he understood that kindness and firmness are equally important in Positive Discipline. It might help if he understood that punishment is designed to make kids "pay" for what they have done, while Positive Discipline is designed to help children "learn" from what they have done by focusing on solutions. Positive Discipline helps children learn to use their power in "useful" ways through family meetings, choices, and focusing on solutions, so they don't use their power to rebel.

Most parents don't realize that even though punishment works short term to stop misbehavior, it has damaging long-term results in that children are left with a sense of doubt and shame or resentment and revenge. Parents don't understand that brain and how much more effective it is to wait until everyone has had time to calm down before discussing a problem. They don't understand how important it is to create a "connection before correction." Many research studies have shown that a sense of connection is the number one predictor of "good" behavior.

One other thing we point out in Positive Discipline for Step Families, is that both parents can feel comfortable engaging in discipline (not just the birth parent), when the discipline they use is kind and firm at the same time with a focus on teaching valuable social and life skills while helping children feel capable with the sense of self work in tact.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Three-year-old Love/Hate Relationship with Baby Brother

Question:

I have a 3-year-old daughter and 7-month-old son. Until now my daughter has been really gentle with the baby but in the last couple of weeks she has been "testing" out being a bit rougher with him (pinching his cheeks, hugging him a bit too tight, giving him a kiss but holding on until he cries.) I usually try to quietly remind her that if the baby is crying it means that he is feeling hurt and that she needs to loosen up her grip. I've asked her how she thinks it makes him feel and what else we could do to show him love. She kind of half listens with a grin and stays away for a little bit...until about 10 minutes later. I believe she is doing it to get my reaction, but I feel like I can't ignore it or say that they need to sort it out themselves. (Obviously the baby has no way to defend himself.)
Also, because he is starting to become mobile and grabbing for toys she is in the habit of grabbing the toys he is playing with away. I know that sharing is still a difficult thing for her age, but I just want to try and handle it in a way that helps out both children.
Any suggestions that you can provide would be great. I just finished your Positive Discipline book and have ordered the Positive Discipline for Preschoolers edition and can't wait to read it. I have already found the suggestions so helpful and a good reminder of the way I want to parent....from the heart but firmly.

Thanks so much, Christine

Answer:

Hi Christine,
What you describe is so classic that I could have written this script for how a "dethroned" child might behave to display her love/hate relationship with the "usurper" in her world. You might want to re-read the chapter on Birth Order in Positive Discipline as a reminder of how children make decisions about themselves based on their decisions of how to find their place in the family when they compare themselves to their perceptions of their siblings.
The following candle demonstration may help you understand her thinking and a way to deal with the belief behind her behavior.

Using Candles to Deal with the Belief Behind the Behavior

There is a belief behind every behavior, but we usually only deal with the behavior. Dealing with the belief behind the behavior does not mean you don't deal with the behavior. You are most effective when you are aware of both the behavior and the belief behind it.
The following is a classic example of the belief behind a behavior. Suppose you have a four-year-old boy whose mother goes off to the hospital and brings home a brand-new baby. What does the four-year-old see going on between Mom and the baby? -- Time and attention. What does your son interpret that to mean? -- Mom loves the baby more than me. What does the four-year-old do in an attempt to get the love back? -- He may act like a baby himself and cry a lot, ask for a bottle, and soil his pants.
Wayne Freiden's and Marie Hartwell Walker have created songs (Family Songs, (Available at www.focusingonsolutions.com) that help adults get into the world of children and understand the beliefs they could be dealing with based on their birth order. Their songs include seven different birth order positions. Following is one verse from the song, Number One:

Oh it's hard to be number one.
And lately it's just no fun at all.
Life was so nice, when there were three,
Mommy and Daddy and Me.
And now there's another.
And I don't like it one bit.
Send it back to the hospital
And let's just forget about it.

Four-year-old Becky, who could identify with this song. Becky was feeling dethroned by the birth of a baby brother, and was experiencing confusion about her feelings for the baby. Sometimes she loved him, and other times she wished he had never been born because Mom and Dad spend so much time with him. She didn't know how to get attention for herself, except to act like the baby.
One evening, when the baby was asleep, Becky's mom sat down at the kitchen table with her daughter and said, "Honey, I would like to tell you a story about our family." She had found four candles of varying lengths. "These candles represent our family." She picked up one long candle and said, "This is the mommy candle. This one is for me." She lit the candle as she said, "This flame represents my love." She picked up another long candle and said, "This candle is the daddy candle." She used the flame from the mommy candle to light the daddy candle and said, "When I married your daddy, I gave him all my love -- and I still have all my love left." Mom placed the daddy candle in a candle holder. She then picked up a smaller candle and said, "This candle is for you." She lit the smaller candle with the flame from her candle and said, "When you were born, I gave you all my love. And look. Daddy still has all my love, and I still have all my love left." Mom put that candle in a candle holder next to the daddy candle. Then she picked up the smallest candle and, while lighting it from the mommy candle, said, "This is a candle for your baby brother. When he was born I gave him all my love. And look -- you still have all my love. Daddy has all my love. And I still have all my love left because that is the way love Is. You can give it to everyone you love and still have all your love. Now look at all the light we have in our family with all this love." (To see a video of this demonstration, go to http://janenelsen.com/video.html
Mom then asked Becky if she would like to use her candle to light the other candles, so she could see how she could give all her love away and still have all her love. Becky was excited to try this. Mom snuffed the flame on all the candles except Becky's, and then helped her pick up each candle and hold it over the flame of her candle until it was lit. Becky's eyes were shining almost as brightly as the flame of the candles.
Mom gave Becky a hug and said, "Does this help you understand that I love you just as much as I love your baby brother?"
Becky said, Yes, and I can love lots of people just the same.
What happens to us is never as important as the beliefs we create about what happens to us. Our behavior is based on those beliefs, and the behavior and beliefs are directly related to the primary goal of all people -- to feel that we belong and are important.
Mom had learned to deal with the belief behind Becky's misbehavior.
Once you understand the belief, you still need to know what to do. But first I want to tell you what not to do. Don't expect her to understand her feelings and her beliefs and her actions. Also, don't expect her to understand your explanations. When she is being too harsh with baby brother, try any of the following:

1) Use action, not words. Kindly and firmly distract her.
2) Give them both a hug at the same time. (Again, avoiding words and/or lectures.)
3) Try hugging just her when she "misbehaves." I know this sounds like rewarding the misbehavior. It is not. It is dealing with her faulty belief that she is not loved as much as her behavior. When her belief changes her behavior will change.
4) Show her how to "touch nicely," over and over.
5) Ask your daughter for her help with such things as finding another toy for her brother or for herself.
6) Supervise, supervise, supervise--so you can quickly intervene with any of the above.

Remember that there are millions of dethroned children in the world and children who did the dethroning. Most of us survive and grow up just fine.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I See It, I Want It, I Take It.

Question:

My three year old started pre-school last year at age 2 and with that came the "take it" behavior. I see it, I want it, and I take it no matter who is playing with it. She will play tug of war with her friends over whatever it is until one of them wins. Push her way in to take a stroller from someone. If she loses the battle, she doesn't cry, fit or otherwise react, she just moves on to something else. How can I work with her to realize it isn't appropriate behavior to take toys from other people?

-Nisaa

Answer:

Dear Nissa,

What you describe is normal, age appropriate behavior. I know all children don't do it, but that has to do with temperament. You can not teach her that this is inappropriate. She does not have the brain development to understand appropriate and inappropriate. All you can do is kindly and firmly supervise. When she grabs something, intervene and distract. When I say kindly and firmly, this means to avoid saying a word. She won't understand your words anyway and the words most parents say at times like this sound like shame. This starts the long process of the development of doubt and shame in children at the time they could be developing a healthy sense of autonomy (according the child development specialist Erik Erikson). You are lucky that she doesn't have a temper tantrum when she doesn't get her way. (Brace yourself, because that too is a normal, age appropriate behavior that may be coming.) Just keep supervising, distracting, and redirecting. Eventually, she will catch on.

By the time she is 3 1/2 to 4 she will be able to understand reasoning. To avoid power struggles at this age, be sure you are prepared with lots of skills to get her involved in decision making. The books Positive Discipline the First Three Years and Positive Discipline for Preschoolers are filled with information on child development and age appropriate behavior as well as parenting skills you can use to help your child develop a sense of capability, self-discipline, responsibility, problem-solving skills.

--

Jane Nelsen, Ed.D

http://blog.positivediscipline.com/
http://www.positivediscipline.com/

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When is a Child Old Enough to Choose?

Question:

Hi Dr. Nelsen,We seem to be having morning issues with my three-year-old daughter. She wanted to wear a dress this morning even though it was a little chilly out. My husband put pants and a shirt on her and she was practically convulsing on the floor in anger. Do you think a three year old should be able to choose her clothes for the day? Thanks for any help that you can offer.
Tracy,

Answer:

Dear Tracy

Oh my goodness, you are going to be in big trouble if you don't start letting her use her personal power in useful ways—unless you enjoy power struggles. Sounds like you are making the mistake many parents make in the name of love—over parenting.

Have you thought about what you want for your daughter? Do you want her to feel capable? Do you want her to develop life skills? Do you want her to be responsible? Do you want her to learn problem-solving skills?


What does she learn when you choose her clothes? That she is not capable; she isn't responsible--you are; she can't learn problem-solving skills. If she gets cold, I'll bet she can figure out how to solve that problem--if you let her. It would not be effective to tell her what to do, but to ask her what she thinks she could do to solve the problem. By asking curiosity questions, you provide her with the opportunity to think, to figure it out, and to feel capable.

Let me give you a few more examples of how curiosity questions could help your child feel capable and develop problem-solving skills. You could ask, "What will happen if you are wearing a dress and it is cold?" What can you do if you want to be warm?" Suppose she still wants to wear a dress and does get cold? This is not the time for the "I told you so," lecture. It is time for validation and faith in her. When she complains about being cold you can respond, "I'll bet you are, and I'll bet you can figure out why and what you need to do to solve that problem."

I hope you will read Positive Discipline for Preschoolers for many more ideas on how to help your daughter use her power in useful ways and to help her develop a sense of her own capability and other valuable social and life skills for good character.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

When are Children Old Enough to Participate in Family Meetings?

Question:

Jane - How old do you suggest children be to start family meetings? My boys are 3 1/2 and 5 years old. I'd like to start family meetings to discuss issues that need to be addressed and get the boys involved, but I'm thinking they may be too young. Thanks.

Julie

Answer:

Hi Julie, Your 5 year old is definitely old enough. Only you will be able to tell if the 3 1/2 year old is old enough--can he participate? The magic age seems to be 4. It is very important to start family meetings as soon after 4 as possible so children start learning to use their power in useful ways and to develop the belief, "I am capable." This will eliminate many power struggles--and 4-year-olds are so good at problem-solving when given the opportunity.
You might find the following excerpt handy for getting started:

Why have Family Meetings?

An excerpt from Positive Discipline and from Our Family Meeting Album, an e-book By Jane Nelsen available at www.focusingonsolutions.com

Holding regular Family Meetings is one of the most valuable things you can do as a family. Why?
Family Meetings provide an opportunity to teach children valuable social and life skills for good character. They will learn:
  • Listening skills
  • Brainstorming skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Mutual respect
  • The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the weekly challenges pages so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
  • Concern for others
  • Cooperation
  • Accountability in a safe environment. (People don’t worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
  • How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
  • A sense of belonging and significance
  • Social interest
  • That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn

Family Meetings provide an opportunity for parents to:

  • Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
  • Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
  • Listen in ways that invite children to listen
  • Respectfully share responsibility
  • Create good memories through a family tradition
  • Model all of the skills they want their children to learn

If parents really understood the value of family meetings, it would be their most valuable parenting tool–and they would make every effort to schedule 15 to 30 minutes a week for family meetings.

Family Meeting Agenda

Compliments

Challenges
Evaluate last week’s solutions
Focus on solutions for this week’s challenges

Special Event

Meal Planning

Calendar
Weekly essentials such as events, who needs rides, etc.
Family togetherness event planning

Family Fun

Compliments

Each component of the agenda is important. Start with compliments for several reasons:

  • Compliments create a positive atmosphere
  • Children learn to be “good finders” when they look for and verbalize the things they appreciate about family members.
  • Children usually fight less when they participate in regular family meetings beginning with compliments.
  • It is important to have each member of the family give a compliment to every other member of the family so everyone feels a sense of belonging and significance.
  • Remember that compliments may sound awkward in the beginning. They get better with practice.

You will create a positive atmosphere in your family when everyone learns to look for the good in each other and to verbalize positive comments. Please don’t expect perfection. Some sibling squabbling is normal. However, when children (and parents) learn to give and receive compliments, negative tension is reduced considerably. Of course, a positive atmosphere is increased even more when families have regular family meetings to find solutions to problems.

Family Meeting Jobs

Recorder: Be sure to have someone write down all the ideas that are brainstormed. It is so much fun to look at these ideas later – as much fun as looking at old family picture albums.
Circle the solution that works for everyone. Consensus is important in family meetings. If you can reach consensus, table this item and try again next week.

Chairperson: Rotate this job so everyone has a chance to be the “person in charge”. The Chairperson calls the meeting to order, asks for compliments to begin, and handles the Weekly Challenges page by announcing the next challenge to be solved and following the rest of the agenda.

Timekeeper: A timekeeper can keep everyone on track so the meeting doesn’t go on and on and get boring.


Do's and Don'ts for Successful Family Meetings
by Jane Nelsen

DO:
1. Remember the long-range purpose: To teach valuable life skills.
2. Post an agenda where family members can write their concerns or problems.
3. Start with compliments to set the tone by verbalizing positive things about each other.
4. Brainstorm for solutions to problems. Choose one suggestion (by consensus) that is practical and respectful and try it for a week.
5. Focus on solutions, not blame
6. Calendar a family fun activity for later in the week – and all sports and other activities (including a chauffeur schedule).
7. Keep family meetings short 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the ages of your children. End with a family fun activity, game, or dessert.

DON'T
1. Use family meetings as a platform for lectures and parental control.
2. Allow children to dominate and control. (Mutual respect is the key.)
3. Skip weekly family meetings. (They should be the most important date on your calendar.)
4. Forget that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.
5. Forget that learning skills takes time. Even solutions that don't work provide an opportunity to learn and try again—always focusing on respect and solutions.
6. Expect children under the age of four to participate in the process. (If younger children are too distracting, wait until they are in bed.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lazy Child or Normal Child?

Question:

Dear Jane,

I am an American living in Germany and have been buying your books. They are great books with wonderful ideas, and I have had some success using the suggestions. Unfortunately real life cannot be completely covered in a book, and so I have a question. I have browsed through the previous questions but have not found anything to help.

I have two boys. My older son Jason is seven and has just completed first grade. We should have named him Calvin after the Calvin and Hobbes comics because Jason also has a very active imagination. After reading my first book of yours when he was about four, I agreed that discipline is not the best way (it just doesn't work on Jason), and wanted to try natural and logical consequences, but it just isn't working.

Jason is basically a very good child and doesn't "misbehave", but due to his energy and imagination we sometimes need to keep his activities in check. Whereas most children are glad to help when asked, or are eager to learn how to do something "correctly" like the adults, Jason is only interested in having fun, being creative and trying things out. Therefore our attempts at involving him by having him vacuum (for example) did not work because he would vacuum the sofa for half an hour because he likes the little nozzle attachment, and then quit, or at the most do a swipe or two across the floor.

The current problems are that he throws his clothes on the floor, or even hides them in corners or under the bed, and that he constantly "forgets" to flush the toilet. I have tried gathering his clothes and storing them in the laundry room until he doesn't have anything more to wear. When that time came he asked me to give him a chance and promised to be better. That lasted a week. Now we do the only thing that works - we say he can't watch TV until his room is picked up. TV is the only leverage that really works. He is only allowed half an hour each evening because he is so obsessed and would like to watch all day.

As for the toilet, we tried locking the door for 24 hours with the key up high so that only my husband and I could reach it. That meant that Jason had to use our bathroom in the basement, which was an inconvenience. That also helped for about a week, and after the second time it helped longer, but he keeps slipping back into old habits. My husband and I are tired of constantly having to remind Jason of things which should be routine by now. Either we must check each time he leaves the bathroom, or we get a nasty surprise later.

Do you have any suggestions on how we can encourage and empower our "lazy" child?

Thanks and best regards,

Evelyn



Answer:

Hi Evelyn--all the way in Germany. Isn't the Internet amazing!!!

I'm going to skip way to the bottom and start by saying that your son sounds normal to me--not lazy. I have not encountered many (if any) of what you say: "most children are glad to help when asked, or are eager to learn how to do something "correctly" like the adults." This is why we need many different tools to encourage children over and over. This is called "parenting."

You are correct in saying that "real life" can't be covered in a book, but a basic philosophy and principles can. I often tell people to "hear" the principles behind the "Positive Discipline parenting tools." Otherwise, the tools will seem techniquey and they won't work. And, principles can be applied in many different ways when you take them into your heart and your own wisdom.

I'm not sure which version of the Positive Discipline books you have, but the latest versions avoid logical consequences in favor of focusing on solutions, because most parents try to disguise punishment by calling it a logical consequence. Please go to www.positivediscipline.com and read the article No More Logical Consequences--At Least Hardly Ever. This article is now incorporated into the lastest edition of Positive Discipline, but you can read it here in case you don't have that edition. While you are on the website, go to the free podcasts and listen to  "Focus on Solutions". You'll enjoy hearing how Marianne solved her problem. However, I must warn you that some people have tried Marianne's suggestion in a techniquey way and found it did not work. Kids smell techniques and resist them. And, you'll note that Marianne incorporated many of the other Positive Discipline suggestions to create an atmosphere of the family working together to focus on solutions. "Focusing on Solutions" is now a huge theme of Positive Discipline--as is "Connection before Correction."

Also, we now have Five Criteria for Effective Discipline as follows:

1. Helps children feel a sense of connection? (Belonging and Significance)
2. Is kind and firm at the same time. (Respectful and encouraging)
3. Is effective long-term, (Punishment works short term, but has negative long-term results.)
4. Teaches valuable social and life skills for good character? (Respect, concern for others, problem-solving, cooperation)
5. Invites children to discover how capable they are? (Encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy)

Punishment does not meet any of these criteria, but all of the MANY Positive Discipline parenting tools do. Now that you have some background, here are two suggestions. (Remember there are many more possibilities--but that would require a whole book. :-)

1. Have regular weekly family meetings. This is a very powerful tool the helps children feel belonging and significance while using their personal power to focus on compliments for every member of the family and then of brainstorming for solutions to problems. These are skills that will serve them throughout their lives. When children are involved in the solutions they feel more capable and are more willing to follow the guidelines they create--for awhile. That "for awhile" is very important for parents to understand. One mother shared with me that the kids came up with a plan during a family meeting to get the chores done. She said it lasted only a little longer than a week, "so that didn't work." I asked her if she had found anything else that got her kids to do their chores for a whole week. She admitted that she hadn't, so I encouraged her to keep having family meetings so the family could keep coming up with new ideas for getting chores done.

2. Stop "telling" and start "asking." I cover this much more thoroughly in the Positive Discipline books, but will give a brief overview here. How would you feel if someone was always telling you what to do and when to do it? Kids usually resent and resist so much parental control. It is much more effective to ask. Following are some examples of what "telling parents" say and what "asking parents" say. In our Positive Discipline Workshops we ask for 9 "telling parent" volunteers line up on one side of the room, and 9 "asking parent" volunteers to line up on the other side of the room. We then give each of them a statement from the lists. Then we ask for a parent to volunteer to role-play a child who first stands in front of a "telling parent" to listen to the first statement, and then walks across the room to hear the first statement from an "asking parent." The "child" continues back and forth until she has hear all 18 statements.

It is very funny and revealing to watch the body language of the person role-playing the child. The "child" becomes more and more resistant to going to the "telling" line and "interested" in going to the "asking" line. Participants watch the child thoughtfully process the messages from the "asking" parents.

Telling Parent

1. Go brush your teeth.
2. Don’t forget your coat.
3. Go to bed.
4. Do your homework.
5. Stop fighting with your brother.
6. Put your dishes in the dishwasher.
7. Hurry up and get dressed or you’ll miss the bus.
8. Stop whining.
9. Pick up your toys.

Asking Parent

1. What do you need to do if you don’t want your teeth to feel skuzzy?
2. What do you need if you don’t want to be cold outside?
3. What do you need to do to get ready for bed?
4. What is your plan for doing your homework?
5. What can you and your brother do to solve this problem?
6. What do you need to do with your dishes after you have finished eating?
7. What do you need to do so you won’t miss the bus?
8. What words can you use so I can hear you?
9. What do you need to do with your toys when you are finished playing with them?

When we process with the "child" about what she was thinking, feeling, and deciding, she shares how resentful and resistant she felt when going to the "telling" parents and how thought and more likely to feel cooperative when going to the "asking" parents.

It is important for parents to understand the "education" comes from the Latin word "educare," which means "to draw forth." Too often parents try to "stuff in" and then wonder why their "telling" goes in one ear and out the other.

I hope this helps.

Jane Nelsen

Monday, July 7, 2008

When are Children Old Enough to Participate in Family Meetings?

Question:
Jane - How old do you suggest children be to start family meetings? My boys are 3 1/2 and 5 years old. I'd like to start family meetings to discuss issues that need to be addressed and get the boys involved, but I'm thinking they may be too young. Thanks.

Julie

Answer:

Hi Julie, Your 5 year old is definitely old enough. Only you will be able to tell if the 3 1/2 year old is old enough--can he participate? The magic age seems to be 4. It is very important to start family meetings as soon after 4 as possible so children start learning to use their power in useful ways and to develop the belief, "I am capable." This will eliminate many power struggles--and 4-year-olds are so good at problem-solving when given the opportunity.

You might find the following excerpt handy for getting started:

Why have Family Meetings?

An excerpt from Positive Discipline and from Our Family Meeting Album, an e-book By Jane Nelsen available at www.focusingonsolutions.com
Holding regular Family Meetings is one of the most valuable things you can do as a family. Why?
Family Meetings provide an opportunity to teach children valuable social and life skills for good character.

They will learn:
  • Listening skills
  • Brainstorming skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Mutual respect
  • The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the weekly challenges pages so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
  • Concern for others
  • Cooperation
    Accountability in a safe environment. (People don’t worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
  • How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
  • A sense of belonging and significance
  • Social interest
  • That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn

Family Meetings provide an opportunity for parents to:

  • Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
  • Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
  • Listen in ways that invite children to listen
  • Respectfully share responsibility
  • Create good memories through a family tradition
  • Model all of the skills they want their children to learn

If parents really understood the value of family meetings, it would be their most valuable parenting tool–and they would make every effort to schedule 15 to 30 minutes a week for family meetings.


Family Meeting Agenda
Compliments
Challenges
Evaluate last week’s solutions
Focus on solutions for this week’s challenges
Special Event
Meal Planning
Calendar
Weekly essentials such as events, who needs rides, etc.
Family togetherness event planning
Family Fun
Compliments

Each component of the agenda is important. Start with compliments for several reasons:
Compliments create a positive atmosphere

Children learn to be “good finders” when they look for and verbalize the things they appreciate about family members.

Children usually fight less when they participate in regular family meetings beginning with compliments.

It is important to have each member of the family give a compliment to every other member of the family so everyone feels a sense of belonging and significance.

Remember that compliments may sound awkward in the beginning. They get better with practice.

You will create a positive atmosphere in your family when everyone learns to look for the good in each other and to verbalize positive comments. Please don’t expect perfection. Some sibling squabbling is normal. However, when children (and parents) learn to give and receive compliments, negative tension is reduced considerably. Of course, a positive atmosphere is increased even more when families have regular family meetings to find solutions to problems.

Family Meeting Jobs

Recorder: Be sure to have someone write down all the ideas that are brainstormed. It is so much fun to look at these ideas later – as much fun as looking at old family picture albums.
Circle the solution that works for everyone. Consensus is important in family meetings. If you can reach consensus, table this item and try again next week.
Chairperson: Rotate this job so everyone has a chance to be the “person in charge”. The Chairperson calls the meeting to order, asks for compliments to begin, and handles the Weekly Challenges page by announcing the next challenge to be solved and following the rest of the agenda.
Timekeeper: A timekeeper can keep everyone on track so the meeting doesn’t go on and on and get boring.


Do's and Don'ts for Successful Family Meetings
by Jane Nelsen
DO:
1. Remember the long-range purpose: To teach valuable life skills.
2. Post an agenda where family members can write their concerns or problems.
3. Start with compliments to set the tone by verbalizing positive things about each other.
4. Brainstorm for solutions to problems. Choose one suggestion (by consensus) that is practical and respectful and try it for a week.
5. Focus on solutions, not blame
6. Calendar a family fun activity for later in the week – and all sports and other activities (including a chauffeur schedule).
7. Keep family meetings short 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the ages of your children. End with a family fun activity, game, or dessert.
DON'T
1. Use family meetings as a platform for lectures and parental control.
2. Allow children to dominate and control. (Mutual respect is the key.)
3. Skip weekly family meetings. (They should be the most important date on your calendar.)
4. Forget that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.
5. Forget that learning skills takes time. Even solutions that don't work provide an opportunity to learn and try again—always focusing on respect and solutions.
6. Expect children under the age of four to participate in the process. (If younger children are too distracting, wait until they are in bed.)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Aggression and TV—or NOT

Positive Discipline Associates share concerns and information on a list serve. Laurie Prusso, a Certified Positive Discipline Associate, shared the following that I thought was so informative and useful for parents that I asked if I could share it on my blog. So, with Laurie's permission:

Aggression and TV—or NOT

©Laurie Prusso, M.Ed, Instructor of Child Development at Modesto Junior College and popular trainer and public speaker.


This letter was written in response to a teacher of young children who was concerned and a little upset about little boys coming to preschool and playing Power Rangers and other kinds of "aggressive" games.

My Response

My personal belief relative to the findings that children are more aggressive now is that it has more to do with a lack of positive relationships with and an increase in punitive reactions by adults, and too much time too early in group care--kids are having to "fight" for their rights and haven't learned respectful ways to do it. TV and the media only exacerbate those things that are lacking in their lives and reinforce relationships that support disrespect.

But when children demonstrating typical behavior (like Power Rangers, Spiderman, Indiana Jones, etc.) are prohibited from this type of play, and when we call it "violent" when little boys pick up a fallen twig from a tree and say "On Guard", something has gone wrong! When I was a child all of the boys played the very politically incorrect Cowboys and Indians! No one called it "Aggressive" or "Violent" and these boys did not become aggressive or violent.

I'm doing some research this summer on "rough and tumble play", which is often mistakenly (because of our current beliefs and societal trends) referred to as "aggressive" play. There is a trend in all educational institutions to label any kind of pretend play that includes pretend fighting, good and bad guys, weapons, or super heroes, as "aggressive" and to prohibit it with a zero tolerance response. We have to be careful because the words we choose to describe something applies our values and belief system to it. Yesterday, a three-year-old in a local early childhood program was expelled because he said, "I'm gonna get a bomb and kill you," to the teacher when he was mad at her. She considered it a terrorist act and expelled him on the spot! We are missing the big picture and over-reacting to a violent world and applying adult thinking abilities to very young children. If I were the teacher, I would wonder if this child is being hurt. I would wonder if it was just something he heard someone else say and he was trying it out on me. I wonder if he was reacting to her meanness (which was also reported to me)? I wonder if he feels powerless in her classroom because she rejects children, discourages them, and is harsh. We will not know, because he was simply dismissed for his "violent outburst". No one sought to learn what he needed.

Power play, and rough and tumble play is often related to things children have seen on television or in the movies, however, the value of this kind of play is well documented and is universal. Adults today are often uncomfortable with the themes (weapons, violence etc.) children seem to gravitate to, but we need to look under the "media context" and see what the children are really saying and doing. You may recall your young friends playing Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles. These kids have graduated from college and are raising their families now--they are not in jail and they are not violent. My kids even turned their pretzels into guns and then pointed them at each other at the lunch table. They made Chinese stars out of my aluminum foil!

In my early research, one of the very interesting things I found is the value of power play and rough and tumble play in helping children develop an internalized sense of self-discipline and self-control. Of course, with three-year-olds, it has not clicked YET, and they often flail themselves around and bump into others with their Karate chops and so forth. What they learn from these powerful movements and from these accidents is how to be careful and throw your punches without really touching anyone.

We can gently guide children to appropriate spaces where there is enough room for them to move about safely, or invite them to do a demonstration while other children watch. Another surprise from the research, and something I had not thought of at all, is that boys develop empathy and concern when they are permitted to play in these powerful ways. You can observe this easily by watching any group of boys playing on their own. When they find themselves getting too rough, or when someone gets hurt, they talk about being more careful and they comfort the injured child or go and get an ice pack on their own, without adult direction.

The research has demonstrated that when this kind of play is prohibited boys are not developing these very important self-regulating behaviors and demonstrate less empathy than boys who have played exuberantly and powerfully. Vygotsky called it "acting a head taller" in play. They demonstrate higher level learning than they can when we ask to perform for us--like stand still in line!

There is a difference between aggression or aggressive play and rough and tumble and power play. The difference can be noted by the expressions on the children's faces. If they are happy, smiling, and seeking each other out, then you can relax--even if they are "running away from" each other, if it is happy running and silly shrieking, then the play is appropriate and children are choosing to participate. If, on the other hand, they are scared, look angry, or are acting out in revenge, that is a different thing and, of course, Positive Discipline is the answer.

One of the things that we know about early childhood play is that children initiate and play with the themes and actions that express the context of their lives--we believe that they do what they "need" to do. Sometimes a young child has older siblings who are rough with him, and preschool is a place to practice having some personal power. Sometimes a child is dealing with family transitions and using his whole-body to be expressive and work out strong feelings. Teachers can listen attentively, support, and encourage appropriate powerful play that enhances development. We can also teach all of the children how to navigate--to tell others that "I don't want to play", that they can say "stop" or "I don't like that" and we can teach the "rough" kids to listen and respond appropriately.

Be careful about labeling this as "aggression". Aggressive behavior is very different from powerful or rough and tumble play. Children who demonstrate aggression really need our help and nurturing so that they can express their pent up anger and often, their hurt. They need our support and teaching so that they can learn the skills that they need to be able to make friends and sustain play. They do not need prohibition or sterile environments.

Unfortunately, aggressive children are often treated with aggression. Caregivers punish them, put them on time-out, withhold pleasurable activities from them, and give negative reports to their parents. None of these is helpful to the child. If we want to help children—all children, then we will learn to listen and help the child heal and be able to do better next time.

Our world is not friendly to young boys anymore. We do not let them climb trees or go up the slide. They can't twist in the swings, or swing on their bellies like we did. They can't climb up the slide and slide down the pole like we did because, "That's not what slides are for!" Where will they learn to take risks, to be careful, to be gentle, to demonstrate concern, and to internalize self-control?

One final thought. When we introduce storytelling and good literature in the classroom, and invite a little "theater" at circle times, we see children changing their play themes to reflect the stories we present. Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Three Bears, the Three (is it always three?) Pigs and so forth, allow children to act powerfully in ways that we "prefer". Rainbow Fish is a story that teaches about kindness and generosity. King Bidgood's in the Bathtub is about a nutty king that won't get out of the bath. They love to act these out.

Please do not condemn little boys to a categorization of "aggressive". Whatever the case, children need us to be their allies, their co-learners, and their teachers--in the true sense of the word.

Children who become violent are consistently children who have witnessed violence, been treated violently (physically, psychologically, sexually), and had that violence reinforced by adults who do not understand their behavior as a plea for help! TV and movies only reinforce what these kids LIVE. If we put the blame on TV and not on the absence of caring relationships, we miss the big picture and parents and teachers alike believe that if we can just control television, we will solve all of the problems in the world. Relationships are the solution to the problems.

I am hoping that your little 3-year-old is not a victim of violence, but rather an energetic little preschooler who is simply adopting a theme that is exciting and interesting to him right now. We can help bring about peace in the world when we apply our good adult thinking skills to what we really know about children. When we model kindness, respect and peace to them, and when we teach--really teach them. He will not become violent because he plays power rangers! I promise you that.

My sons don't play Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles anymore. I think they wish they could. But they still know how to play. Better than that, they know how to be kind and helpful to others, and they learned that from playing.

Good luck to you!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day

I have lots of fathers in my life today (my birth father died four years ago). Five of my seven children and two sons-in-law are fathers of my 20 (almost 21) grandchildren. It is a joy to be able to say that every one of them are excellent fathers. Brad has the special challenge of being a single father with physical custody of his two youngest children. He writes a blog on being a single father, and I don't think I'm just being a mother when I say it is excellent. I have included his essay of multi-tasking here. For more, goto: http://strainge.blogspot.com/

From:
StrAinge
The Life and Times of a Single Dad!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

MULTI-TASKING!!!

Today I feel the need to post another single parenting topic. That of multi-tasking! You've probably heard the saying that "Parenting is a two person job". No it's NOT...parenting is a six person job with lousy pay! So when tackling this project as a single parent, you're only option is multi-tasking!

I've spoken to many parents and we all agree that laundry is one of the all-time most frustrating tasks. Laundry has a mind of its own. Even as I type this I've got a load of laundry in the dryer and another in the washer. I have three kids in this household and one adult with a very limited wardrobe...and yet the laundry keeps coming!!!

But let's face it...as Bill Cosby so accurately put it "Kid's have brain damage!" Case in point: Clean clothes show up in the dirty clothes hamper! Huh? How does that happen? I've observed this phenomenon in action and the only explanation is "Brain Damage". I've watched my son go to pick out a shirt for the day. He grabs one off the shelf and two more fall to the floor. Then I tell him that it's time to clean his room and he picks up those two "clean" shirts and throws them in the dirty clothes hamper! Arggghhh!!!

You might be thinking to yourself...just let the kids do the laundry. We actually have that system in place. Our chore wheel gives each child the opportunity to do the laundry for a week. But you don't really think that happens without supervision from Dad? There have been times when I've had to be somewhere else and the laundry was done without my supervision. And of course I come home to wet laundry in the washer that needs to be re-washed because it has been sitting there all day and is starting to smell or wrinkled clothes in the dryer that needs to be re-washed or ironed.

And laundry is just one of the many tasks that need to be performed simultaneously. There's the dishes which show up about every 15 minutes with hungry kids grazing all day. There's grocery shopping and "What's for dinner?" There's yardwork! There's "Dad's Taxi Service" which is on call 24 hours for trips to music lessons, gymnastics, sports practices, as well as the other necessities of life like the dentist, orthodontist, haircuts, etc. And of course the unexpected tasks; "Dad kitty just coughed up a hair ball" "Dad there's a spider in my room" "Dad I spilt my milk all over my dress and I don't have anything else to wear" "How could you not have anything to wear...I just finished three loads of laundry!!!"

What great timing...as soon as I typed that last sentence my daughter came up to me and said "Dad, could you help me find something to wear? I can't find any clean clothes in my room." HA!!! I guess it's back to multi-tasking! My daughter also just said "Oh Dad...just a reminder that today is the day to go pick out fireworks for the 4th of July!" I'll add that to the list!!!
P.S. - "Dad...can you help me with my hair?" "I'll be right there sweetie...as soon as I finish this blog post!"

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