Monday, April 28, 2008

Child Won’t Eat Without Being Nagged


We have a family dinner time, in which we are supposed to sit down together and eat and talk and share our day. My 4 year old does not eat with out being nagged at and/or fed. He plays around until my husband gets upset and we both end up telling him over and over and over to eat, then I usually shovel a few bites in his mouth, with his resistance, and I call it good. My husband gets upset because I have a rule that we all sit down until everyone is finished, loosely interpreted as we all sit down until my son is done, he is pretty good about asking to be excused or stating that he is done. If he doesn't eat anything I tell him there will be nothing later to eat, no candy, no dessert etc…. Some days he will eat a few bites and ask if that is enough to get candy. Sometimes the meal isn't anything that he likes, but I always try and incorporate something that I know he does like, so he can choose what he wants to eat. I am tired of nagging and it's not working anyway and I know it is wrong to use candy as an incentive to eat, but I just don't know what to do. My question is how do you have a pleasant dinner time without nagging and feeding my 4 year old?

Hi Melanie,

I'll start by answering your last question--by putting food on the table and then ignoring what he eats or doesn't eat. Too many parents get too involved in trying to control what and how their children eat. He has you well trained to give him a lot of undue attention. Of course, you should also eliminate candy and desserts from your home for awhile. There has been a lot of research that show that children will choose a balanced variety of food when they have the opportunity to choose and are left alone, but sugar interferes with the body's craving for good food.

The following excerpt from Positive Discipline A-Z by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn may help you gain a better understanding of what is going on, as well as some more ideas about how to solve the problem. (This book covers just about every behavior challenge you can think of.)

Mealtime Hassles
“My kids’ table manners are atrocious. They get up and down during the meal, grab food across the table, and complain about my cooking. One of my kids is always on a diet and another one will only eat hot dogs. I thought mealtimes were supposed to be a pleasant family event?”

Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation
You are correct. Mealtime should nourish both the body and the soul. Too many families forget this and turn mealtime into a nightmare of corrections, nagging, threats, fighting, and individual grandstanding—if they even have a mealtime. Many families take the kids out for fast food, or everyone eats at a different time of day. In some families, the kitchen is open all day with family members grabbing snacks whenever they feel hungry. While some children seem to survive on a unhealthy diet, there is an epidemic of overweight children and adults. Quite often, instead of providing healthy choices and trusting your kids to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are not, you inadvertently interfere in this natural process. Without knowing it, you could be planting the seeds for eating disorders. We have several suggestions to make mealtime a place where your family can have a positive experience together, eat healthy foods, and enjoy each other’s company. It starts with you.

1. At least once a day, sit down as a family and eat a meal together. Do not eat in front of the television. Adults should sit down and eat with the kids—at a table. Occasionally set the table with flowers, candles, or place mats, or eat in the dining room to create a special experience for the family.
2. If kids know it’s okay to choose what they will or won’t eat, they are less apt to complain. Don’t try to force your child to eat anything. Do not insist on children eating everything on their plates or tasting every food. Don’t give your child a lot of undue attention if they refuse to eat something.
3. It is normal for young children to play with their food, spill their milk, and drop food on the floor. Behavior appropriate for their ages is not misbehavior. Clean up spills, let kids finger-paint in their food, and let the dog eat what drops or put a plastic sheet under your young child. Teach your children to help you clean up the mess.
4. Let your kids serve themselves and do not discuss what they eat or don’t eat. Simply clear their plates at the end of the meal (fifteen to twenty minutes is plenty of time).
5. If kids complain about your cooking, tell them it’s okay not to eat what they don’t like, but it hurts the chef when people complain. With a young child, when he says, “I don’t like this,” remove his plate and say, “Okay, you don’t have to eat it.” That usually ends the complaining very quickly.
6. Some families allow children to make themselves a sandwich or tortilla with cheese if they don’t like the meal. This is better than cooking special dishes for each child.
7. If you think your children’s behavior has become too obnoxious, you might try deciding what you will do instead of trying to control your children. Pick up your plate and go to another room to eat.
8. Don’t panic when your child says she is going on a diet. Wait and watch to see what really happens. She may say one thing and do another.
9. Don’t perpetuate secrets. Let your child know that you saw her make herself throw up (or any other unhealthy behavior that you have seen). Ask what steps she will take about her eating problem and what help she needs from you.
10. If dysfunctional eating patterns, such as anorexia nervosa (self-starvation) or bulimia (binging and purging) persist, get information from an eating disorder clinic, a dietician, or therapist about possibilities for help. This is particularly important if there is any history of addiction within the family since there can be a correlation between family history and eating disorders.
11. If your child decides to become a vegetarian or try out any other health conscious new way of eating, ask your child how you can be supportive. Don’t make fun of your child or insist he or she eat the way you do, or treat the new habit as an eating disorder. Many vegetarians made the decision to change their eating as very young children. If you are a vegetarian and your child insists on eating meat, the same advice applies. Do not force your way of eating on your children.

Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems
1. Schedule your meals. (But allow snacking on healthy things -- don’t make children wait until they are overly hungry to eat.) Stress that mealtime is a time to share stories about the day, visit with each other, and share the good feelings of being together as a family.
2. When children complain about the food, it may be time to involve them in choosing what they eat, at least one night a week. Let each child cook dinner one night a week. Even small kids can tear lettuce leaves, open a can of beans, and make a simple salad.
3. Plan with kids what they can do to contribute. Talk about the different jobs that need to be done, such as setting the table, cooking dinner, washing the dishes, and feeding the pets.
4. Do not bring junk foods into the house. Of course children won’t eat regular meals when they have filled up on snacks or junk foods. Especially avoid products that contain sugar. Sugar can really mess up the body’s natural craving for good foods.
5. Provide healthy snacks. It is fine if your children don’t eat because they have filled up on cheese, carrot sticks, or other healthy snacks. Who said good food should be eaten only at mealtimes?
6. Practice good table manners at a time other than mealtime, or choose one night a week to practice. Make it fun. Exaggerate.
7. During a family meeting, get the whole family involved in planning ways to make mealtime enjoyable for everyone.
8. Look at your own attitudes about weight, food, and eating patterns and what they may be suggesting to your children. Are you saying things like, “Finish everything on your plate,” and then later getting upset because your child is overweight? Do you tell your kids they can’t eat between meals, which may encourage them to binge at mealtimes? Are there other ways you are unconsciously trying to control your child’s food intake?

Life Skills Children Can Learn
Children can learn that they are not going to get in trouble at the table, so they don’t have to sidetrack their parents with bad manners. The table is a fun place to be, and there are many positive ways to get attention by joining in and being part of the family. Children can learn that they can develop a taste for foods on their own schedule. They can learn that they will not be pressured to eat what they don’t want, nor will be they be given special service. Children can learn that respect is a two way street.

Parenting Pointers
1. You can help your child learn to listen to his or her feelings and body wisdom instead of training the child to be an overeater to please you or a picky eater to defeat you. Think of how many overweight adults were members of the “Clean Plate Club” as children, and have completely lost touch with the meaning of the word “hungry.”
2. If you see mealtime as a time to make kids eat and to lecture about manners, the kids will probably pay you back with bad manners. If your attitude is that meals are one of the special times that families can share together, the kids probably reflect that thinking.
3. At different stages of development, your children’s bodies may not fit the national ideal, so be patient with them and with yourself. When all else fails, trust your sense of what is normal for your children.
4. Encourage regular exercise. Turn off the television and kick the kids off the couch if necessary.
5. We have talked to people who were raised during the Depression. They say picky eating was never a problem. Parents didn’t make a fuss when a child didn’t want to eat because there often wasn’t enough to go around. When children didn’t get any “mileage” out of being a picky eater, they ate what was available or went hungry.

Booster Thoughts
One of our toddlers participated in a university preschool program where they put all kinds of foods on the lunch table and allowed kids to eat what they wanted. Sometimes he would eat cake first, and sometimes he would eat broccoli first. The main thesis of this program was that children would naturally choose foods that would balance out to good nutrition (over time) when they were allowed to choose from a variety of nutritious foods--without anyone making a fuss.
One mother thought it was her job to control what her daughter ate. If her daughter didn’t eat her oatmeal for breakfast, Mom would give it to her for lunch. If she didn’t eat the oatmeal for lunch, Mom would give it to her for dinner. Of course, her daughter refused to eat it. The daughter became sick. A doctor discovered she was developing rickets. It was more important for the daughter to win the power struggle than to eat.
When the doctor learned what was happening, he said, “Please put good food on the table, and then leave your daughter alone.” When the mother did this, her daughter started eating better. Not perfect, but better.
The first time I sat down to eat a meal with my new stepchildren and their grandparents, I was dismayed at the number of comments that were made about the youngest’s eating habits. He was coaxed to try this, that, and another thing, he was labeled the family’s “picky eater,” I was told that he doesn’t eat vegetables or fruit, etc. Of course he was a picky eater, getting tons of negative attention and also engaging in a power contest at every meal.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008



My husband and I came to one of your seminars in February. One subject you didn’t touch was interrupting. Our 4 1/2 year old does it all the time. How can we stop it? It drives my husband and me crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!




Hi Lisa,

Following is an excerpt from the book "Positive Discipline A-Z." You'll see why this is such a helpful book. This excerpt demonstrates the format the covers just about every discipline challenge you can think of. You can even read the suggestions with your 4 1/2 year old and decide together on a solution that might work for all of you.

Interrupting/The Pest
“I can’t get on the phone or talk to a visiting friend without constant interruptions from my three-year-old. I have told her a hundred times not to interrupt me, but she still does.”

Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation

Children often come to the mistaken conclusion that their belonging and significance are threatened when their parents focus on something or someone else. It helps to understand that this is normal and to deal with the threat in respectful ways instead of increasing the threat through anger or punishment. The more the child demands, the more parents--and teachers--give them attention, be it positive or negative. In fact, children who are pests often receive too much attention--not too little. No amount of attention can fill the hole for children who believe they do not belong unless they have constant attention.

The longer this problem persists, the harder it is to retrain yourself and your child. Therefore, it is extremely important to start early, in infancy, setting your limits of attention giving and sticking to them. You also need to give your kids opportunities to find belonging through cooperation and contribution. When you respect yourself as well as the kids, you’ll know it’s okay to have time to yourself and that your children can figure out how to entertain themselves. They won’t die from lack of attention.


  1. When a friend comes over, say to your child, “I would like to spend five minutes with you without any interruptions from my friend. Then I would like some uninterrupted time with my friend. You first, then my friend.” (Let your friend know in advance what you would like to do and why--to help your child feel loved and to learn to respect your time, too.)
  2. For ages two to five, say, “Would you like to get a book or toy and sit next to me while I’m on the phone?” For ages five to eight, say, “I want some time on the phone or with my friend. What ideas do you have to keep yourself busy for ten to fifteen minutes so you won’t need to interrupt me?”
  3. Tell your child, “It is a problem for me when I’m interrupted while talking on the phone or visiting with a friend. Would you be willing to write this problem on the family-meeting agenda for me, or should I?”
  4. If your child has been waiting all day to play with you, when you come home from work ignore the chores and spend fifteen minutes having fun with her or ask her to work with you.
  5. Spend time with your spouse and other adults while your children are around. This lets them know that they will get some of your time, but not all of it. If they interrupt, move to another room where you can put a door between you and them or ask them to play somewhere else.
  6. Let your children know that you hear them interrupting but you choose not to respond when you are busy doing other things. One way to do this is to use a non-verbal response such as putting your hand on their shoulder while ignoring their demands. This lets them know you care about them even though you won’t respond to constant demands.
Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems

  1. If your child is being a pest, plan special time with him/her where he/she has you all alone. When she bugs you, say, “This isn’t our time to play. I’m looking forward to our special time at 2: 00.”
  2. Set up places where your children can play safely and entertain themselves. Let your children know that you still love them when you are busy with a friend or another child, but it is not time for you to be with them. Try setting a timer for the amount of time you need to spend uninterrupted. If they can’t handle that, ask them to play in their rooms and try again later.
  3. Let your children know when you are available for certain activities, such as, “I’m free from 7:00 to 9:00 to help with homework.” “I will be happy to make library runs on Monday and Thursday after school.” “I’d like to read the paper first and then spend time hearing about your day.” Then act like you mean it. Keep control of your schedule.
  4. Wait until small children are sleeping to make phone calls. For ages three to four, let your child help you put some favorite toys in a box. Label this the “phone box.” Plan ahead with your child to keep herself busy with the phone box while you are on the phone.
  5. Have a junk drawer near the phone. There are all kinds of interesting throwaway things you can put in a junk drawer. Let your child explore the junk drawer when you are on the phone.
  6. Discuss the problem at a family meeting and get everyone’s ideas on how to solve the problem.
Life Skills Children Can Learn
Children can learn that they are loved and important even when they aren’t the focus of attention. They can take care of themselves while respecting their parents’ desires to pay attention to other people or things. They can experience the concept of give and take. They can entertain themselves. They will feel better when satisfaction comes from within instead of having to constantly seek attention from others.

Parenting Pointers
  1. Since this problem requires so much concentration and commitment on your part, make sure you have a plan and then follow it consistently until your child learns that you have a right to uninterrupted time.
  2. Anytime you have a recurring problem, you will be most effective if you deal with the belief behind the behavior (help the child feel belonging and significance) and take time for training.
  3. You do a real service to your children if you help them correct their mistaken notion that they only count when they are the center of attention. If you do this while your children are growing up, you can save them years of rejection and isolation as adults.
Booster Thoughts
During one of our Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way workshops, we were doing a role play on effective ways to help children with the mistaken goal of “undue attention.” The group who planned the role play chose the behavior of interrupting while Mom was on the phone. In scene one, the person playing Mom portrayed ineffective ways to handle this situation. She scolded the person role playing her 3-year-old daughter. In the second scene, Mom portrayed an effective method as follows: Mom said “excuse me” to the person she was talking to on the phone. Then she took her watch off her wrist and handed it to her daughter, saying, “Honey, please take my watch and tell me when the second hand (she showed her which one) goes all the way around and reaches the twelve at the top two times.” Then she started talking again. Her little girl watched the wristwatch intently. When her mother hung up the phone, her little girl said, “Mommy, Mommy, you had more time.”
This role play portrayed an excellent way to redirect the child and to show her how to get attention in a helpful way. Another participant had an equally effective but different method. She put her finger to her lips, lovingly patted her child, and kept talking. First the child tried interrupting more. Then he stomped his foot and shook his fist. Then he found a toy and started to play.
In the classroom, teachers have found that an agreed upon non-verbal reminder works wonders. One teacher had an agreement that whenever one of the kids talked out of turn, she’d hold up a finger. She never got past three fingers before he stopped interrupting and waited his turn.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

School Code of Conduct


Do you have any articles on School Code of Conduct?

I am on a committee in a Junior High School (Grade 7-9) for the purpose of developing a code of conduct for the students to follow.
  • Some of the issues we wish to address:
  • behavior between classes (in the corridors)

  • behavior on the school bus (I have read your article about bus behavior on your home page)

  • giving/showing respect

  • consequences of negative behavior
I was hoping to get ideas from other schools and professionals to present to the committee members in preparing our own code of conduct.
Any help you can give would be appreciated.



Hi Mary,

Our book Positive Discipline in the Classroom addresses a school code of conduct directly and indirectly. I would like to start with your issue of giving/showing respect. We believe in mutual respect -- that it is equally important for teachers and all school personnel to show respect for students as well as visa versa. The most important way to show respect to students is to involve them in problem-solving. When students are involved in creating a code of conduct they have an investment in it and are motivated to cooperate.

Instead of consequences for negative behavior we have found it much more effective to allow students to use problems as an opportunity to learn problem-solving skills. I won't take the time or space to repeat the whole book here, but Positive Discipline in the Classroom includes the eight building blocksfor effective class meetings -- a process that answers all your questions. During class meetings students learn to "help each other" find non-punitive solutions to problems. Students feel empowered to improve their behavior when they are treated with respect, when they are listened to, and when they have their thoughts and ideas taken seriously and validated.

It is amazing what happens when teachers take the problem of behavior between classes (in the corridors) to students and ask them to develop guidelines -- or any other problem. Another useful book is, Positive Discipline A Teacher's A-Z Guide. The article you read about bus behavior is from that book. Following is another article about lunchroom behavior that illustrates the essence of what I'm trying to convey in answer to your questions. I'm sure you will see how the suggestions could be adapted to corridor behavior. The article gives suggestions for all ages of students, (the example of utensils being thrown in the trash was handled in a 7th grade class). Teachers can choose the suggestions that fit best for their grade level -- or adapt others.

I hope this helps, Mary, and that you will come to our home page often.


From book Positive Discipline A Teacher's A-Z Guide, by Jane Nelsen, Roslyn Duffy, Linda Escobar, Kate Ortolano, and Debbie Owen-Sohocki


To "Do Lunch" means to let go of responsibilities, forget routine and to socialize extensively for a very short period of time. When the people who are "Doing Lunch" are students within a school, the potential for chaos is great. It is important to acknowledge that students need a break from their routine. It is also important that they learn to find a balance between relaxing and respecting others. Behavior in the lunchroom is a good indicator of the leadership style of school personnel. Misbehavior in the lunchroom could tell us that the leadership style is one of control. A controlling leadership style invites rebellion, resistance, and a lack of self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and social interest. Cooperative lunchroom behavior could tell us that the school personnel leadership style is democratic. A democratic leadership style invites students to learn self-discipline,responsibility, cooperation and social interest.


Anytime you see a problem behavior, simply ask the students involved what they are supposed to be doing according to the rules they helped create. (See No. 1 in Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems.) Often this is enough to motivate a student to change her behavior.
Another possibility is to describe the behavior you see: "I notice you are throwing food. I notice you are yelling. I notice you did not pick up your trash." Then ask, "Can you correct this problem, or would you like to put the problem on the class meeting agenda for a discussion if you don't agree with the rules, or to get help from the class?"

Admit that the behavior is a problem for you (such as loud shouting, shoving, running) even though it may not be a problem as far as the students are concerned. Ask the student if she would be willing to help you by working on a solution to the problem.

When the noise level in a lunchroom is very high, we believe that we must speak in voice that competes with that noise. Rather than yelling, lean close to the student or students and speak in a soft tone of voice.

Put all the students in the same boat. When a student at a table is throwing food, involve all of the students at that table in the clean up. "As soon as this table is cleaned up you may leave."
Let the student table monitor handle the misbehavior. (Student table monitors should be trained in methods to gain cooperation respectfully, such as using the suggestions herein. Otherwise they may try to act like dictators and invite resistance and rebellion.)

Hand a copy of the appropriate lunchroom behavior list to a table or student and ask them in a quiet voice to locate the misbehavior that they need to work on. Thank them for their cooperation.

Use a class meeting to discuss problems with behavior in the lunchroom. Invite lunchroom aides to put items on the agenda and to be present for discussion and problem-solving.


During a class meeting ask each class to brainstorm typical lunchroom problems and then create rules that will prevent or solve the problems. (We cannot emphasize enough how powerful it is to invite students to solve problems so they will feel respected and motivated to follow rules they have helped create.) Students enjoy role playing disrespectful lunchroom behavior followed by a role play of respectful behavior.

Invite lunchroom personnel to visit class meetings and share their concerns and ask for help and solutions. Many students are not aware of how their behavior causes problems for others.

To get students more involved in maintaining appropriate lunchroom behavior, introduce a system of students monitoring their own behavior. A position is created called a rotating monitor who ensures and respectfully motivates appropriate behavior and cleanup.

Have students from the upper grades sit with younger classes to help monitor and teach proper lunchroom behavior.

Acknowledge and validate your students need for relaxation and a break from their classroom routine. Share your own need for a lunch break. Balance this with a discussion of behavior which respects others and the property of the school.

Don't expect perfection, but keep working for improvement. Whenever something doesn't work, or works only for a short time, put it back on the class meeting agenda so the kids can discuss it and work on another solution or renewed interest in their old solution.


During a two-day Positive Discipline in the Classroom workshop at a Navajo Reservation School, the cafeteria personnel complained about the students throwing their utensils in the garbage barrels when they scraped their food trays. A representative from the cafeteria came to a 7th grade class meeting. The students offered several suggestions. The one they chose to implement was taking turns as utensil monitors at the garbage barrels.

After about a month they decided they no longer needed utensil monitors because the students were being more respectful of school property, and were no longer throwing utensils in the garbage.

Mrs. T., an aide working in the lunchroom, put an item on the agenda for Mr. Wong's fifth grade class meeting. She shared that she was frustrated because she was having to spend a great deal of time over by the fifth grade area because of their behavior and because of the mess they were making. Mr. Wong asked her if she would like some problem-solving help and have the students in the class come up with a solution to the problem. She agreed. The class brain stormed many ideas and voted to try one which appealed to them because it involved them more in the solution.

They chose to start a system in which a student monitor at each table would be responsible to help maintain order and to make sure that students did not leave the area until any messes were cleaned up. They decided to make this position one that rotated among the students seated at the table. They were excited about trying this and agreed to work with this system for a week and then report back at the class meeting. Mrs. T. came to their meeting one week later and was delighted to be able to talk with the students about the changes she had seen. She told them that she wanted them to share their system with other classes in the school. They immediately started making plans about how they would spread the word about the system they had created.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Aggressive Preschooler


Apparently for the past "few weeks" my almost 3-year-old (birthday 3/19) has been pushing and shoving his classmates in his preschool. Today the teacher told me that he poked a little girl in the face and made her cry then refused to look at her when the teacher asked him to tell her he was sorry. I don't know why she didn't tell me this when it first started happening, so I'm not sure exactly when it started. The teacher says there is generally no interaction between my son and the victim prior to the pushing/shoving/hitting. He's just spontaneously doing it.

I have never seen any behavior like this out of him and I'm with him all day long (except for the two mornings he goes to school). He has been a passive child since birth, no signs of aggressive tendencies at all. Before he started school this year and even up until Thanksgiving, he wouldn't even hold his own place in line at the playground. He just let kids push him out of the way and go in front of him. I wanted him to become more assertive, but I sure don't want him to become a bully.

Sam is an only child and we are not going to have any other children. What can I do to nip this behavior in the bud and is this a normal phase even for a well-behaved child?

It would take a whole book to explain what might be happening and how to deal with it. I will do my best in a relatively short answer, but please know that to get the whole picture you might want to get a copy of "Positive Discipline for Preschoolers."

I don't know for sure why he has become aggressive. Is he watching cartoons or other programs that depict violence? Is he watching other kids do this at preschool? It could be that he is simply at that age-appropriate, developmental stage where he gets frustrated and doesn't know how to "use his words", so he instinctively pokes, hits, or shoves. This does not mean he is becoming a bully. I question that there is no interaction between your son and the other child (whom I refuse to call a victim). The other child may simply have something your son wants. He could be discouraged about something only he knows in his private logic. There is so much that is unknown.

However, the one thing I do know is that punishment in any form will not help. A sure way to engage in victim/bully training is to rescue the child who is being hurt and to punish the child who is doing the hurting. It doesn't make sense to hurt a child while saying (overtly or covertly), "I'll teach you not to hurt others. Adults who do this are teaching, by example, the very thing they say they are trying to extinguish. They are also inviting the child who has been hurt to adopt a victim mentality by deciding, "I know how to get special attention. I'll just innocently provoke someone to hurt me and then I'll be rescued and treated specially.

I'm not advocating anarchy or permissiveness. Adults need to interfere. They just need to do it in ways that teach social skills – eventually. I say eventually, because two and three-year-olds have limited ability to learn social skills, but that doesn't mean we should teach these skills (mostly through example) for the time they are developmentally ready to incorporate the information. (See the information in the subject on "Apologize, Children Who Won't" below.)
At this age children need lots of supervision, distraction, redirection. In the scenario you describe it might look like this: The teacher might pull your son aside and give him a hug. (I know this sounds like rewarding the behavior, but it is not. I won't go into all the information on a misbehaving child being a discouraged child (except when the behavior is age-appropriate), I will just tell you that this is modeling appropriate touching. After your son feels comforted, the teacher could say, The little girl is feeling bad. Lets go give her a hug so she will feel better too. (It doesn't work to get him to make amends before he feels encouraged himself.) Then the teacher could say, "This is how we touch people. Hitting and poking hurt, but hugs or a hand shake feel good." She could then say, "If she has something you want, you can use your words and say, ‘I want that toy.' She may not be ready to give it to her, but you have used your words." Will he understand all this? No. But he doesn't understand punishment or having to apologize either. The former provides a model of positive action. The latter provides a model of negative action.

Regarding the apology, following is an excerpt from our book "Positive Discipline for Childcare Providers" that will be published this fall.

Apologize, Children Who Won't

Child Development Concept

During a lecture at NAEYC in 2000, Bev Bos said, "Telling a child to say ‘I'm sorry' makes as much sense as demanding that a child say ‘I'm Italian'-- even when she isn't.Caregivers who have studied child development know that the intellectual capabilities of young children have not developed to the point where they can think like adults (see Piaget Demonstrations below), yet many adults act as though they should. Forcing a young child to "Say you are sorry" is an excellent example. Suggestions:

1. While upset, children do not have access to rational thinking. Don't expect a child to do or say anything until she has had time to calm down.
2. Allow time for cooling off. This may mean comforting the child for awhile, validating her feelings, removing her from an upsetting situation (while comforting and/or validating feelings), or simply allowing her to spend some time in a Positive Time-Out area until she feels better. Help the child express her own feelings before helping her consider someone else's feelings. Point to the feelings faces chart and let her choose a picture that expresses her feelings if she can't verbalize them without help.
3. Use what and how questions to help the child explore what happened, how she feels about it, and what ideas she has to solve the problem. Part of this process might be to ask, "How do you think the other person feels?" Again, it may be helpful to look at the feelings faces.
4. After the child has calmed down, feels validated for her feelings, and possibly has identified the other person's feelings, she might be guided to apologize – only if it is her idea. This sometimes happens by asking, "What would make you feel better? Would it help you if the other person gave you a hug, or said she was sorry?" Once the child has identified what might make her feel better, you could ask, "Would you be willing to help the other person feel better? What could you do, and when would you like to do it?" Helping a child decide to so something for someone else (and it may not be an apology) is much different that demanding that they do. The point is to help the child think things through in a friendly environment (which invites sincere concern) instead of demanding an apology (which often invites rebellion or just plain confusion).
5. If the child still doesn't feel like doing anything for the other person, express your faith that she will soon learn to care about and help others.
Tips for working with parents:
Parents often demand that their children apologize because they are embarrassed by their behavior. Help parents understand that you are more interested in long-term, sincere results than in short term-insincerity. You also have an opportunity to educate them on intellectual development so they can understand that children don't think like adults. The following demonstration may help.

Piaget Demonstrations

Jean Piaget was one of the pioneers in understanding the cognitive development of children. He devised these demonstrations to help adults understand how children's thinking differs from their own.

• Take two balls of clay that are the same size. Ask a three-year-old if they are the same. Make adjustments by taking clay from one ball and adding it to the other until the child agrees that they are the same size. Then, right in front of her, smash one ball of clay. Then ask her if they are still the same. She will say no and will tell you which one she thinks is bigger. A five-year-old will tell you they are the same and can tell you why.
• Find four glasses: two glasses that are of the same size, one glass that is taller and thinner, and one glass that is shorter and fatter. Fill the two glasses that are the same size with water until a three-year-old agrees they are the same. Then, right in front of her, pour the water from one of these glasses into the short, fat glass, and the other one into the tall, thin glass. Then ask her if they still hold the same amount of water. Again, she will say no and will tell you which glass she thinks contains the most water. A five-year-old will tell you they contain the same amount and can tell you why.

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