Sunday, July 29, 2012

Helpful Hints For Empowering Vs. Enabling

An Excerpt from Positive Discipline for Teenagers
by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.

A friend asked me if Positive Discipline was a program to teach parents to manage their children. I said, "No, it is a program to help parents empower their children to manage themselves."

You may be vividly aware of how skilled most of us are in using enabling responses to our children, and how unskilled we are in using empowering responses. Parents who are used to controlling and rescuing may have a difficult time seeing the benefit of empowering statements.

Before we introduce the empowering actions and statements, we’ll go over enabling actions and statements—just in case you aren’t familiar with them. Our definition of enabling is, "Getting between young people and life experiences to minimize the consequences of their choices." Enabling responses include:
  1. DOING TOO MUCH FOR THEM: Doing things for kids that they could do for themselves, bailing them out after bawling them out. “I can’t believe you have procrastinated again. What will ever become of you? Okay, I’ll do it this time, but next time you’ll just have to suffer the consequences.”
  2. GIVING THEM TOO MUCH: Buying everything they want, cell phones, cars, insurance, clothes you can’t afford, CDs, junk food. “I can’t believe you didn’t do your homework after I bought you a car, a cell phone, clothes I can’t afford, and gave you a big allowance.”
  3. BRIBING AND/OR REWARDING: “You can have a new CD, allowance, cell phone, if you do your homework.”
  4. OVERPROTECTING:  What to wear, when to wear coats so they won’t get cold as if they are too stupid to know or to learn, picking their friends, extreme fear of danger. “Honey, I’ve got the car warming up in the garage so you won’t be cold.  Did you see the clothes I picked out for you?  I’ll wait till you’re ready to go, cuz I’d like to drive you to school so you won’t catch a cold.” 
  5. HOVERING: Doing their laundry, waking them up in the morning, making their lunches, driving them places when they could walk or ride a bike, excusing them from helping the family because they have homework. “I just don’t understand. I excused you from chores, I woke you up early, I drove you everywhere so you would have more time, I made your lunches. How could this be?”
  6. LYING FOR THEM:  Excuses to the teacher, writing notes when they just slept in, I won’t tell Dad/Mom. “Okay, I’ll write a note to the teacher that you were sick this morning, but you’ll need to be sure and catch up.”
  7. PUNISHING/CONTROLLING: Grounding, taking away privileges, creating your agenda for them. “Well then, you are grounded and you lose all your privileges, no car, no TV, no friends, until it is done.” 
  8. WHAT AND HOW LECTURES:  Telling them what happened, what caused it to happen, how they should feel, and what they should do about it. “Well, no wonder. I saw you wasting your time on MySpace and spending too much time texting your friends and sleeping in. You should feel ashamed of yourself. You’d better shape up or you’ll be shipping out to live on the streets like a bum.”
  9. HOW, WHAT, AND WHY CAN’T YOU LECTURES: “How many times have I told you to get your homework done early? Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Why can’t you be more responsible? What will become of you?”
  10. BLAMING AND SHAMING: “How could you ever do such a thing, how come you always forget and never get your homework done, I can’t believe you would be so lazy.”
  11. LIVING IN DENIAL: Thinking your child could never do such a thing--being oblivious to the cultural mores regarding sex and drugs, and believing things are dangerous without educating yourself. “Well, honey. I’m sure you don’t really need to do homework. It is a stupid thing for teachers to expect. You are smart enough to do just fine without it.”
  12. RESCUING/FIXING: Buying new things to replace what your child loses, hiring lawyers, staying up late to help with (or doing) last minute homework. “I’ll hurry and do it for you while you get dressed and eat your breakfast. Sorry I won’t be able to fix your bacon, eggs, and waffles. I’m sure you’ll do your homework tomorrow.”
    Our definition of empowering is, "Turning control over to young people as soon as possible so they have power over their own lives."  All of the following Empowering Responses are possibilities that can be used in response to neglected homework as well as other challenges you may be experiencing:
    1. SHOW FAITH: "I have faith in you. I trust you to figure out what you need. I know that when it's important to you, you'll know what to do."
    2. RESPECT PRIVACY: "I respect your privacy and want you to know I'm available if you want to discuss this with me."
    3. EXPRESS YOUR LIMITS: "I'm not willing to go to school to bail you out. When your teacher calls, I'll hand the phone to you or tell her she'll need to discuss it with you. "A respectful attitude and tone of voice is essential.
    4. LISTEN WITHOUT FIXING OR JUDGING: "I would like to hear what this means for you."
    5. CONTROL YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR: "I'm willing to take you to the library when we come to an agreement in advance for a convenient time, but I'm not willing to get involved at the last minute." "If you need my help with your homework, please let me know in advance."
    6. DECIDE WHAT YOU WILL DO WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT:  “I’m available to help with homework between 7:00 and 8:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I won’t be available to help with last minute projects.”
    7. FOLLOW THROUGH WITH KINDNESS AND FIRMNESS: “I can see you are stressed about waiting until that last minute. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. I’ll be available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:00.”
    8. LET GO OF THEIR ISSUES: "I hope you'll go to college, but I'm not sure it's important to you."
    9. AGREEMENT NOT RULES: "Could we sit down and see if we can work on a plan regarding homework that we both can live with?"
    10. LOVE AND ENCOURAGE: "I love you just the way you are and respect you to choose what is right for you."
    11. ASK FOR HELP: "I need your help. Can you explain to me why it isn't important to you to do your homework?"
    12. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS: Share your truth by using the "I feel ______ because _______  and I wish" process without expecting anyone else to feel the same or grant your wish. This is a great model for children to acknowledge their feelings and wishes without expectations. "I feel upset when you don't do your homework because I value education so much and think it could be very beneficial to you in your life and I really wish you would do it.
    13. JOINT PROBLEM SOLVING: "What is your picture of what is going on regarding your homework? Would you be willing to hear my concerns? Could we brainstorm together on some possible solutions?"
    14. RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION: "I'm feeling too upset to talk about this right now. Let's put it on the agenda for the family meeting so we can talk about it when I'm not so emotional."
    15. INFORMATION VS. ORDERS: "I notice you spend a lot of time watching television and talking on the phone during the time you have set aside for homework." "I notice you often leave your homework until the last minute and then feel discouraged about getting it done."
    16. ENCOURAGE LEARNING FROM MISTAKES: “I can see that you feel bad about getting that poor grade. I have faith in you to learn from this and figure out what you need to do to get the grade you would like.”
    If you are used to using short-range solutions of control and rescuing, you might not realize how powerful these empowering statements are.  Empowering statements and actions are important because they turn control over to your kids so they have power over their own lives. This power often leads to mistakes and failure. When you understand and trust that learning from mistakes and failure is an important part of a successful life process, you may find it easier to use the empowering statements.  If what you are currently doing isn’t working, take a leap of faith and work on using empowering statements with your kids.

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    Decide What You Will Do



    The Jones family is very excited. They have just finished planning a day at the beach. Seven-year-old Jason and five-year-old Jenny have promised that they won’t fight. Mr. Jones, has warned, “If you do, we’ll turn around and come back.” “We won’t, we won’t,” promise Jason and Jenny again.

    The Jones family haven’t gone two miles when a loud wail is heard from the back seat, “Jason hit me.”

    Mrs. Jones says, “What did we tell you kids about fighting?”

    Jason defends himself, “Well, she touched me.”

    Mr. Jones threatens, “You two had better cut it out, or we are going home.”

    The children cry out it unison, “Nooooooo! We’ll be good.”

    And they are -- for about ten minutes. Then, another wail is heard, “He took my red crayon.”

    Jason replies, “Well she was hogging it. It’s my turn.”

    Mr. Jones says, “Do you want me to turn around and go home?”

    “Nooooooo. We’ll be good.”

    And so the story goes. Throughout the day Jason and Jenny fight, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones make threats. At the end of the day, Mr. and Mrs. Jones are angry and threaten never to take the kids anywhere again. Jason and Jenny feel bad that they have made their parents so miserable.  They are beginning to believe they really are bad kids—and they keep living up to their reputation.

    Now let’s visit the Smith family. They have just planned their trip to the zoo during their weekly family meeting. Part of the planning included a discussion about limits and solutions.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith have told Susan and Sam how miserable they feel when they fight. The kids promise they won’t. Mr. Smith said, “I appreciate that, and I think we should come up with a plan for what will happen if you forget.” The kids keep insisting they won’t fight. Mr. and Mrs. Smith know their children have good intentions, and they are also very familiar with the pattern of good intentions gone awry. So, they have decided what they will do and they will follow through.

    Mrs. Smith says, “Well then, is it okay with you if we stop the car if you do forget? We don’t think it is safe to drive when you are fighting, so we’ll just pull over to the side of the road and wait for you to stop. You can let us know when you are ready for us to drive again. How do you feel about that solution?” Both kids agree with innocent enthusiasm.

    Typically, it doesn’t take them long to forget their promise, and a fight begins. Mrs. Smith quickly and quietly pulls off to the side of the road. She and Mr. Smith take out magazines and start reading. Each child starts blaming the other while protesting his or her own innocence. Mr. and Mrs. Jones ignore them and just keep reading. It doesn’t take long for Susan to catch on that Mom and Dad must mean what they said. Susan says, “Okay, we are ready to keep driving.” Mr. Smith says, “We’ll wait until we hear it from both of you.” Sam says, “But, she hit me.”

    Mom and Dad just keep reading.  Susan hits Sam, “Tell them you are ready.” Sam cries, “She hit me again.” Mom and Dad just keep reading. Susan realizes that hitting Sam won’t help, so she tries to reason with him. “We’ll have to sit here forever if you don’t say you are ready.” Susan follows her parent’s lead and starts to color. Sam holds out for about three more minutes before saying, “I’m ready for you to start driving.” Mom says, “Thank you very much. I appreciate your cooperation.”

    About 30 minutes later another fight starts. Mom starts to pull over to the side of the road. Both kids cry out in unison, “We’ll stop. We’re ready to keep driving.” There was no more fighting for the rest of the day, and the Smiths enjoyed a wonderful day at the zoo.

    What is the difference between the Jones family and the Smith family? Are Jason and Jenny really “bad” kids?” No, the difference is that the Smith family is helping their children learn cooperation and problem solving skills while the Jones family is helping their children learn manipulation skills. Mr. and Mrs. Smith demonstrate that they say what they mean and mean what they say by using kind and firm follow through. Mr. and Mrs. Jones don’t. They used angry threats. This had a temporary effect, but the kids would soon be fighting again.

    Mr. and Mrs. Smith stopped using words and instead followed through with kind and firm action. It took a little longer for the kids to catch on, but once they did it had a longer lasting effect. Because they are kids, they just had to test the waters one more time. When their parents started to follow through again the kids knew they meant what they said. They were left with the feeling, not that they were bad kids, but that they were clever enough to figure out a solution to the problem and that cooperation was the most effective alternative.

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    Distract and Redirect


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The answer is always, “No.”

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    Control or Cooperation


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

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

    Winning Cooperation

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

    Correction Does Not Involve Punishment

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

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