Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Letting Go: Morning Hassles and Responsibility



"Jimmy, time to get up! C'mon, Jimmy, get up now! This is the last time I'm going to call you!"

Sound familiar? Mornings in Jimmy's home are much like mornings in other homes around the world—hectic, argumentative, and full of hassles.  Jimmy has not learned to be responsible because Mom is too busy being responsible for him.  It gets worse as the morning continues.

"How should I know where your books are?  Where did you leave them? How many times have I told you to put them where they belong? If you don't hurry up and eat, you're just going to have to go to school hungry. You're still not dressed, and the bus will be here in five minutes! I'm not going to take you to school if you're not ready—and I mean it! (While driving Jimmy to school), “Jimmy, when will you ever learn?  This is absolutely the last time I'll drive you to school when you miss the bus.  You've got to learn to be more responsible!"

What do you think? Is this the last time Jimmy's mother will drive him to school when he misses the bus?  No. Jimmy is very intelligent. He knows his mother’s threats are meaningless.  He has heard the threats many times and knows his mother will drive him to school when he's late.

Jimmy's mother is right about one thing:  Jimmy should learn to be more responsible.  But through morning scenes like these, she is teaching him to be less responsible.  She is the responsible party when she keeps reminding him of everything he needs to do.

Lecturing, Nagging, Scolding, Threatening 

Children do not learn from the lecturing, nagging, scolding, and threatening.

Actually, they do learn from these methods—just not what you hope they will learn.  They learn to engage in power-struggles, resistance, rebellion, and revenge cycles. They may learn to comply and become approval junkies—more concerned about pleasing others to feel a sense of belonging and significance than to cooperate out of mutual respect.

It is possible to enjoy hassle free mornings while teaching children self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, and problem-solving skills—the characteristics of happy, successful people with a healthy sense of self-worth and respect for self and others.  What a wonderful gift to give your children while enjoying peaceful mornings. The key is letting go. Many parents are afraid that letting go means abandoning their children or giving in to permissiveness. In Positive Discipline terms, letting go mean allowing children to develop their sense of cooperation and capability

8 Tips for Letting Go, Avoiding Morning Hassles and Teaching Responsibility     

1.  Involve children in the problem-solving process.  When children are involved in solutions they have ownership and motivation to follow the plans they have helped create.  Sit down with your children during a family meeting or a more informal session.  Present the problem and ask for suggestions, "We are having a lot of morning hassles.  What ideas do you have on how we could solve this problem?"  Your attitude and tone of voice in presenting the problem is crucial.  Humiliation invites resistance and defensiveness.  Respect invites cooperation.  Write down every suggestion.  You can make suggestions too, but only after allowing plenty of time for theirs first.  Select the suggestions that everyone can agree upon and discuss exactly how it will be implemented.  Willing agreement by everyone involved is essential so that everyone feels the desire to cooperate.

Ownership and motivation are not the only benefits of getting children involved in the problem-solving process.  They usually have great ideas when we allow them to contribute.  They also develop the perception that they are capable and the a feeling of self-confidence that comes from making valuable contributions. And, it helps you let go.

2.  Involve children in the creation of routines.  One of the best ways to avoid morning hassles is by starting the night before with a routine that helps avoid bedtime hassles, so start with the creation of a bedtime routine with your children.

After your child makes a list (either writing herself or with you transcribing) of everything she can think of to include as part of her bedtime routine, ask, “What about getting your things ready for the next morning?" During this time she can choose the clothes she wants to wear the next morning.

Have you noticed that when children are under time pressures they always want to wear the special shirt that they can't find anywhere?  If they do finally find it at the bottom of the clothes hamper they insist it has to be washed and ironed before school.  On the other hand, when they have plenty of time it seems easy for them to choose something in their closet and lay it out for the next morning. During this time they can also find their shoes, socks, books, homework, and whatever else they need for the next morning.

Next, help your children create their own morning routine chart.  Let your children decide what time they need to get up, how much time they need to get ready, what part they will play in the breakfast routine, and rules about the television not being turned on until everything is done and their is time left over.

Young children love it when you take photos of them doing each task on their routine charts and let them post the photo next to the task, and then hang the routine charts where they can be easily seen.

4.  Let go by allowing children to experience natural or logical consequences.

Natural consequences are what happens naturally, without adult interference.  When you stand in the rain, you get wet; when you don't eat, you get hungry; when you forget your coat, you get cold.

Logical consequences require adult intervention.  Obviously, you aren't going to allow your children to experience the natural consequences of playing in the middle of a busy street, or when a child is throwing rocks at another person, an adult needs to step in, because the child is interfering with the rights of another person.  Also, when the results of the child's behavior do not seem like a problem to the child, natural consequences (such as eating junk food and not brushing their teeth) are ineffective.

Children can learn a great deal from natural and logical consequences to help them develop responsibility if you are willing to let go.  Jimmy will learn to be responsible when his mother stays out of the way and allows him to experience the consequences of being late.

5.  Decide what you will do.  This is one way to take a small step in letting go of the power struggles you create when trying to make children do something. Let your children know in advance what you plan to do. For example, Jimmy's mother might tell him that she will call him once to get up.  (Or better yet, she will buy him an alarm clock, teach him how to use it, and let him take full responsibility.)  If he doesn't take the responsibility from then on, he will probably miss his bus.  Mom can let him know in a kind and firm manner that she is not willing to drive him to school. If he misses his bus, he will have to walk to school and may have to stay late to make up the time. (If walking is not an option because safety is an issue you may wish to find another solution. Perhaps Jimmy can spend time after school doing something for mommy to make up for the time spent driving Jimmy to school.)

6.  Follow-through with actions, not words.  When children test your new plan, the fewer words you use the better.  Keep your mouth shut and act. If Jimmy continues to dawdle and misses his bus, don't resort to "I told you so." Just follow through on agreed-upon consequences.

The few words you do use to ensure firmness with dignity and respect should be stated in a kind and friendly manner.  "I'm sorry you missed your bus, Jimmy.  We can talk about your walking experience tomorrow."

Ignore the temptation to become involved in a power struggle or revenge cycle.  Children will do their best to get you sucked into your usual response.  When Jimmy says, "Please drive me, Mom.  I won't be late again," don't give in.  Kindly and firmly remind him of your decision.  Then jump in the shower so you're not tempted to get involved in further discussion!

7.  Things may get worse before they get better. Children may try hard to get the response they are used to getting from you. Be consistent with your new plan of action and children will learn a new response-ability.  If Jimmy is late and misses his bus, he will have to experience the natural consequence—walking to school.  If Jimmy doesn't like walking to school, it won't be long before he begins to take responsibility for himself.

8.  Have faith in your children. Children learn to be capable people by spending time with people who believe they are capable.  For example, when Jimmy's mother believes that he can get himself up and ready for school without her hassling him constantly, Jimmy will also believe that he can accomplish this feat on his own.  It gives him a new sense of self-confidence—even at age six.  If he can handle getting himself up and ready for school, what can't he handle?

If you want to turn morning hassles into morning bliss, practice the steps for letting go outlined above.  Teach your children the joys of responsibility, cooperation, and self-discipline.  How much better to face a morning full of love, understanding, and fun than a morning full of hassles, criticism, and arguments.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SILENT SIGNALS

Silent Signal Podcast

Try a silent (secret) signal. (Kids love the secret part—especially when they have helped create it.) Creating silent signals can be part of “taking time for training” (another great tool card).

My daughter, Mary Nelsen Tamborski, took time for training with four-year-old Greyson about interrupting. (Remember, that time for training takes place during calm times—not at the time of conflict.) They decided on a secret signal and then they practiced. When Mom is talking to someone else, Greyson squeezes her hand to let her know he wants to say something. She puts her hand on his shoulder to let him know she will finish as soon as she can and listen to him. Greyson seldom interrupted after that. It was obvious that he felt pleased about their secret code.



The silent signal illustrated on the Positive Discipline Tool Card is to point to your watch when you have agreed (together) on a specific time that something should be done. Remember to smile while you are pointing.

Following are some more examples of using Silent Signals.


Mr. Perry, a principal, decided to attend a parent study group at his school. He made it clear to the group that he was attending as a parent who would like to learn some skills to use with his own children.

One night he asked the group to help him solve the problem of getting his son, Mike, to take out the garbage. Mike always agreed to do it, but never did without constant reminders. The group gave Mr. Perry several suggestions, such as turning the television off until it was done or giving Mike a choice as to when he would do it. One parent suggested they try the silent signal of turning Mike’s empty plate over at the dinner table if he forgot to take the garbage out before dinner. Mr. Perry decided to try this.

First, the family discussed the garbage problem at a family meeting. Mike again reaffirmed that he would do it. Mrs. Perry said, "We appreciate your willingness to help, but we also realize how easy it is to forget. Would it be okay with you if we use a silent signal so that we can stop nagging?"

Mike wanted to know what kind of signal.

Mr. Perry explained the idea of turning his empty plate over at the dinner table. If he came to the table and saw his plate turned over, that would remind him. He could then empty the garbage before coming to the table. Mike said, "That’s okay with me."

It was eight days before Mike forgot to empty the garbage. (When children are involved in a problem solving discussion, they usually cooperate for a while before testing the plan.) When he came to the table and saw his plate turned over, Mike started having a temper tantrum. He whined, "I’m hungry! I’ll take the garbage out later! This is really dumb!"

I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it was for Mom and Dad to ignore this obnoxious behavior. Most parents would want to say, "Come on, Mike, you agreed, now stop acting like a baby!" If Mike continued his misbehavior, they would want to forget the plan and use punishment (which would stop the present obnoxious behavior, but would not solve the problem of getting the garbage emptied and allow Mike to learn responsibility).

Mr. and Mrs. Perry continued to ignore Mike’s temper tantrum, even when he stomped into the kitchen, got the garbage, slammed the garage door on his way out, and then sulked and banged his fork on his plate all during dinner.

The next day Mike remembered to empty the garbage and was very pleasant during dinner. As a result of their consistency in following the agreed upon plan, Mike did not forget to empty the garbage for two more weeks. When he saw his empty plate turned over again, he said, "Oh, yeah." He then took the garbage out, came to the table, turned his plate over, and pleasantly ate with the rest of the family.

Another reason it is difficult for parents to ignore obnoxious misbehavior is the feeling that they are letting children get away with something. They feel they are neglecting their duty to do something about it. This could be true, if there weren’t some plan or purpose behind the ignoring. Mr. and Mrs. Perry let Mike get away with his temporary outburst (remember, things often get worse before they get better) but since it was part of an agreed upon plan, they solved the problem of continuous nagging over neglected chores.

Mrs. Beal was frustrated because it irritated her so much when the children would come home from school and dump their books on the couch. Constant nagging was not producing any change.

During a family meeting she told her children she didn’t want to yell and nag anymore about this problem. She suggested the silent signal of putting a pillow slip over the television as a reminder that there were books on the couch. The children agreed to this plan, and it worked very well. Mother no longer got involved beyond the signal. When the children saw the pillow slip, they either picked up their own books or reminded someone else to.

Several weeks later, Mrs. Beal wanted to watch her favorite TV program after the children had gone to school. She was surprised to find a pillow slip on the television. She looked at the couch and saw the packages she had left there the night before, when she was in a hurry to fix dinner.

The whole family had a good laugh over this turn of events. They enjoyed this method, and from then on the children thought of many silent signals as solutions to problems.

Mrs. Reed likes to use silent signals in her fifth-grade classroom. She teaches them to her students almost as a second language on the first day of school. One is to have them give her the silent signal of sitting quietly with their hands clasped on top of their desks when they were ready to listen. When she wants them to turn around and sit down during class or an assembly, she raises her right index finger and makes two small circles and then two up and down motions in the air to the rhythm of the words, "Turn around and sit down." She also taught them a signal for quiet during extreme noise. She would clap her hands once. Everyone who heard the single clap would clap once. Then she would clap twice. By now, several students had heard the echo clap of their classmates and were ready to join the response of two claps. Two claps were usually enough to get everyone quiet. Occasionally it would take three claps before everyone would hear and echo with three claps.

As you can see, the Positive Discipline Tool of Silent Signals can help solve problems, help children follow-through and help parents avoid constant nagging and reminding.


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