Sunday, February 23, 2014

Take Time for Training

Several members of the Positive Discipline Social Network have been having fun with the Positive Discipline Tool Cards. When they share their great examples, I ask for their permission to share with others. Following you will find some helpful and encouraging examples from Katie Clark.

Take Time for Training

I applied a few Take Time for Training strategies today during "room cleaning" day. In the past my procedure was as follows: "Go clean your room" the children would stay in their rooms for hours (why isn't it clean???) and eventually I, or someone else, would clean it.

Today I decided to have a "clean room workshop." (I have a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, and my roommate has a 5-year old and a 3-year-old.) I started with a "make your bed" tutorial for the 6-year-old. The 3 and 5-year-old watched and immediately rushed to make their own beds. They were so proud of themselves!

Later, I broke down the rooms into small tasks for each child (clothes...stuffed, etc) and if they got off task I redirected them with curiosity questions, Where do the shoes/dirty clothes go? Could you help me with that? In 30 minutes, the three of them had cleaned up their rooms when normally it would have been an all day (sometimes all week) process. They also agreed that it would be easier to clean their rooms daily.

Unfortunately, my two-year-old was the only one that did not cooperate. I tried to get her involved in tasks that she could do, but after the first request, she threw herself down on the floor and cried. I know that she knew that if she kept at it long enough, I would eventually pick her up, hold and coddle her, and I would complete the task I asked of her. So, I left her on the floor (told her I loved her, and that she was welcome to participate when she was ready) and instructed the other kids to ignore her, but be polite (excuse me). I think eventually she would have stopped, but dad intervened after 15 minutes, and picked her up. She sat with him while the others completed the tasks. We will just have to keep working on it.

Comments from Jane:

Katie made a great start with the older kids. Her struggle with her younger child gives me an opportunity to point out that the way to take time for training with children under the age of six is to do tasks with them. Lets take making beds as an example. As soon as your child graduates from the crib, purchase a bedspread for her bed that has some kind of stripes. Then when making the bed with your child, you can teach her how to line up the stripes. You do one side and she can do the other. You can talk about the graduation celebration she can have when she is six and can start making her bed by herself. Before she is six she is likely to be looking forward to her graduation day.

Another Example of Taking Time for Training

The following question from Tamee on the Positive Discipline Social Network (and used by permission) provided an excellent opportunity for me to teach about the Take Time for Training tool card.

This morning my 5-year-old put a bunch of dirty dishes from the sink into the dishwasher. It made me happy to see her doing this. Afterward I told her that was very helpful. Then she said, "Since I did that for you, would you bring all my breakfast things to the table?" I didn't really think that was a good idea, since it would make doing dishes seem like something to do to get something in return. I said, "I'm willing to bring the gallon of milk out and pour it. You can do the rest." She started crying, saying it wasn't fair that I didn't do half of her breakfast things. It became a fit and she said, "Fine! I'll just do it all myself!" which led to her feeling sorry for herself, having to pour the big heavy gallon all by herself and blaming me for it....HELP!

I asked Tamee if her daughter was used to getting rewards somewhere else? Tamee shared that her ex-husband and ex mother-in-law used rewards all the time. It wasn’t difficult to make this guess because her daughter’s behavior was typical of the long-term results of rewards.

My suggestion for Tamee was to let her daughter have her feelings (without trying to rescue her or talk her out of them) and then later take time for training by discussing how nice it is to do things for other people without expecting anything in return. (This is a good example of seeing challenges as opportunities for teaching skills.)

Part of taking time for training might be to make a game of it. "Let's find at least one thing to do for each other every day as a surprise and see how long it takes the other person to find out what it was." This could be expanded at dinnertime discussions by taking turns sharing, "What did you do for someone else today without expecting anything back?"

We need to take time for training in many areas (such as manners and problem-solving) instead of expecting children to learn from our “lectures.” Children may resist the training you provide in your home (it is part of their individuation process—always testing how to use their power in a safe place), but your friends and neighbors will notice and tell you what a great kid you have. Get over your shock and keep taking time for training, even when it seems like it is not working.

Monday, February 17, 2014


An excerpt from the book Positive Discipline.

One of the most encouraging things parents can do for their children is to spend regular, scheduled special time with them. You may already spend lots of time with your children. However there is a difference between have to time, casual time, and scheduled special time.

Children under two require a lot of time and are not really old enough to comprehend special time. As long as they feel your enjoyment, scheduled special time is not necessary. Between the ages of two to six, children need at least ten minutes a day of special time that they can count on. Even more time is better, but you’ll be surprised how magical it can be even if 10 minutes of special time is all you can manage in your busy schedule.

From six two twelve, children may not require special time every day (you be the judge), but they like to count on at least half an hour a week. The particular time and amount would be individual for each family. It could be cookies and milk while sharing after school, or an hour every Saturday. The important part is that children know exactly when they can count on time that has been set aside especially for them.

Don't be fooled when teenagers act as if they don't want to spend special time with you. At this age their friends are more important than family, but the older they get the more important family becomes. If your teenager doesn't have ideas for special time, you may need to make suggestions. Teenagers love to eat. Offer to take your teen to breakfast or lunch. Keep brainstorming until you find something they will look forward to.

Listen to this success story podcast of a single dad who scheduled special time with his teenager.

Positive Discipline Podcast #9 - Special Time

There are several reasons why special time is so encouraging:
  1. Children feel a sense of connection when they can count on special time with you. They feel that they are important to you. This decreases their need to misbehave as a mistaken way to find belonging and significance. 
  2. Scheduled special is a reminder to you about why you had children in the first place—to enjoy them. 
  3. When you are busy and your children want your attention, it is easier for them to accept that you don’t have time when you say, "Honey, I can’t right now, but I sure am looking forward to our special time at 4:30."
  4. Plan the special time with your children. Brainstorm a list of things you would like to do together during your special time. When first brainstorming your list, don’t evaluate or eliminate. Later you can look at your list together and categorize. If some things cost too much money, put them on a list of things to save money for. If the list contains things that take longer than the 10 to 30 minutes you have scheduled for the special time, put these items on a list that can be put on a calendar for longer family fun times.
I often suggest that parents take the phone off the hook for special emphasis that this is special, uninterrupted time. However, one mother would leave the phone on the hook during her special time with her three-year-old daughter. If the phone would ring, she would answer and say, "I’m sorry I can’t talk with you now. This is my special time with Lori." Lori would grin as she heard her mother tell other people how important it was to spend time with her.

Teachers may be surprised at how effective it can be to spend two or three minutes after school with a child and NOT talk about the child’s problems. Instead they can ask questions such as, "What is your favorite thing to do for fun?" Then share what you like to do for fun. Students feel very special when a teacher also shares things that reveal who they are as a person. Many teachers have reported that simply spending a few minutes after school with a child for special time has helped the child feel encouraged enough to stop misbehaving, even though the misbehavior is not mentioned during this time.

Mrs. Petersen was concerned about a child in her room whose mistaken goal was power. Debbie often refused to do her work and openly displayed hostility with sneers and sullen looks. Mrs. Petersen asked Debbie to stay after school one day. Debbie stayed, looking as if she were ready for a battle. Mrs. Petersen did not mention any problem behavior; she instead asked Debbie if she would tell her about the most fun thing she had done the night before. Debbie would not answer. Mrs. Petersen thought, "This isn’t working," but continued "Well, I would like to tell you what I did for fun last night." She then went on to share something she had done with her family the night before. Debbie still refused to respond. Mrs. Petersen told Debbie she could leave, but she would love to hear from her anytime she felt like sharing what she liked to do for fun.

Mrs. Petersen felt discouraged, thinking the exchange had not been very helpful. However, the next day she noticed Debbie no longer had a chip on her shoulder and did not display any hostility. After school Debbie showed Mrs. Petersen a picture she had drawn of herself and a friend riding bikes. She explained this was the most fun thing she had done the night before. Mrs. Petersen then shared another fun thing she had done.

If you analyze it, you will understand why such a brief exchange can have such dramatic results. First, the child feels singled out for special attention. The child may reject this special attention at first because of his or her suspicion that it will probably be another session for blaming and lecturing. Second, the child experiences the unexpected when the teacher ignores behavior problems. Third, adults often show interest in having children share, but they don’t demonstrate mutual respect by sharing themselves. A child may feel extra belonging and significance when you share something about yourself.

It is suggested that teachers spend a few minutes of special time with each student in their class during the year. Start with the children who seem the most discouraged, but keep track to make sure you don’t miss anyone.

Many teachers complain that they don’t have time for special time. It is true that teacher’s are feeling so much pressure to help students pass academic tests. However, teachers who understand that encouragement is just as important (if not more) as academics find a few minutes while children are doing seat work or walking in line.

Parents can apply the concept of special time as part of the bedtime routine (although the bedtime routine should not replace daytime special time). When Mrs. Bruner tucks her children into bed at night, she asks them first to share the saddest thing that happened to them during the day and then the happiest thing. She then shares her saddest and happiest events.

At first her children went overboard on this opportunity to complain about sad things and would sometimes end up crying. She would patiently wait for them to calm down and then say, "I’m glad you can share your feelings with me. Tomorrow, when you don’t feel so upset, we’ll talk about it some more to see if we can figure out some solutions. Now tell me your happiest thing." If the child couldn’t think of a happy thing, Mrs. Bruner would share her happy event. After the children got used to this routine, the sad events were reported in a matter of fact way, followed by ideas for solving or avoiding a similar problem in the future. The children soon enjoyed sharing their happy events more than their sad events.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Recently I was asked why children need routine charts when adults don’t need them. I pointed out that many adults create lists to help them keep track of what they want to do during the day, week, or month—and feel such a sense of accomplishment when they get to cross things off their lists. Many create goals and write them down to increase the effectiveness of their resolve. Others carry day planners to keep track of their appointments (and lists and goals).

Creating routine charts is great training for children to learn time and life management skills. Parents help their children by guiding them in the creation of their routine charts instead of creating charts for them. Parents add to the effectiveness of routine charts when they allow their children to experience the satisfaction of following their charts because it feels good (a sense of accomplishment) instead of giving them stickers and rewards—which takes away from their inner sense of accomplishment.

Some parents forget that their most important task is to make their job obsolete. Their job is to help their children be self-sufficient instead of dependent. Teaching children to create routine charts is a great step toward that end. Does this mean that routine charts are magical and will prevent all future resistance and challenges from children? No. Testing their power is part of their individuation process.  However, working “with” children to help them learn skills will make your job obsolete much quicker and more effective than thinking it is your job to be in charge of everything they do. Guiding your children to create routine charts is just one of the many ways you can empower your children to feel and be competent and capable.


The more children do for themselves, the more capable and encouraged they feel. One of the best ways to avoid bedtime hassles and morning hassles is to get children involved in creating routine charts and then letting them follow their charts instead of telling them what to do.

Start by having your child make a list of all the things she needs to do before going to bed. The list might include, pick up toys, snack, bath, pajamas, brush teeth, choose clothes for the next morning, bedtime story, hugs. Copy (or when children are old enough let them copy) all the items on a chart. Children love it when you take pictures of them doing each task so they can paste the picture after each item. Then hang the chart where she can see it.

Let the routine chart be the boss. Instead of telling your child what to do, ask her, "What is next on your routine chart?" Often, you don’t have to ask. She will tell you. Choosing clothes the night before is one task that eliminates some morning hassles when children follow their morning routine (for which you may have another chart). If they have laid out what they want to wear the night before, they don’t get upset trying to find something the last minute. Other bedtime routine tasks that make mornings routines go more smoothly is for children to make their school lunch the night before.

Remember that the goal is to help children feel capable and encouraged. A nice fringe benefit is that you will be able to stop nagging and will experience more peaceful bedtimes and mornings.

Click Here to read a Routine Chart success story.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Compliments Create a Positive Atmosphere in Homes and Classrooms

Compliments and appreciations bring us closer together. Finding ways to compliment your children can be a very valuable parenting tool. So often we are focused on what our children have done wrong. This week focus on what your children have done right and give them an appropriate compliment. "I appreciate how quickly you get dressed and ready for school." "I notice how kindly you cared for Anna when she felt sad, I bet it helped her feel better." "Thank you for setting the table." You will be amazed how this simple act will change the atmosphere in your home.

It is also important for children to learn how to give compliments. Siblings don’t have any trouble bickering and putting each other down, but they struggle with the idea of appreciating each other? Maybe it all boils down to training. Giving and receiving compliments is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. Family meetings provide that opportunity.

Begin every family meeting by having each person give every other member of the family a compliment. This may be awkward at first if the children have the habit of name-calling. If this is the case, spend some time discussing the kinds of things they could look for to compliment one another about. Parents can model this behavior by beginning with compliments for each member of the family. Also, if you see something nice going on between the children, remind them to remember it for a compliment. You might even suggest that they write it on the family meeting agenda so they will remember—and their sibling can enjoy seeing it as well as hearing it.

Hearing my kids be mean to each other was so difficult for me, so I was thrilled that the hurtful comments were reduced when we held regular family meetings starting with compliments. However, one summer we got so busy that I did not follow my own advice to not let anything interfere with regular family meetings. Bickering and discipline hassles increased tremendously. The kids started insulting one another more often. Finally, I called for a family meeting. The kids had been so mean to each other that I thought they would have difficulty giving one another compliments. However, their years of training came back to them and they gave each other very nice compliments. As we continued regular family meetings the insults decreased significantly, as did bickering and discipline hassles.

Following is an excerpt from the Family Meeting Album


You can 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 Compliment Activity:
  1. Place blank compliment sheets on the refrigerator (or another spot) where everyone can write down compliments for others each day. (Young children can dictate their compliments to older members of the family.) 
  2. When you see someone that deserves a compliment, write it down, or ask a child who also observed something someone else did, "Would you like to write that on our compliment sheet?" Once children develop the habit of noticing compliments, they won’t need reminders. 
  3. At the beginning of each family meeting, family members can read their compliments. 
  4. Ask for any verbal compliments that were not written down. 
  5. Make sure every family member receives at least one compliment. 
  6. Place this compliment sheet in the family meeting binder, and place another blank sheet on the refrigerator to be filled out during the week.
Classroom Example

Two boys in a class were frequently putting one another down. The problem began to escalate into other issues between them. At that point, the boys brought the topic of put-downs to their teacher for a problem-solving session.

At the teacher's suggestion, the boys agreed to keep a record of this problem for a period of time. Together they developed a chart with four categories for data collection. The first column read "Win-Win." To have a check mark in this column, the comment (made by either boy) had to be positive-a nice thing to say and to hear. The next column was headed "Win-Lose." This was for a put-down that one child enjoyed giving but that was at the other child's expense. The third column was "Lose-Lose." This was for any time both boys got in trouble for and felt badly about a put-down. The final column was "Lose-Win." The flip side of the second column, this was for the child who had been on the receiving end of the hurtful put-down. Another feature of this system was that, even though each boy kept a chart, they had to agree on where they would place each mark.

They followed this plan for a week and almost always agreed about where the marks should go. Each boy became aware of how often he was using put-downs. At the end of the week, the boys checked back in with the teacher. He asked them what they had learned by gathering the data. As they discussed their observations, both boys noted that they preferred win-win remarks to any other kind. They also discovered that they were now exchanging fewer put-downs. However, one of the boys clearly felt more disparaged and much worse about the put-downs than the other boy. This was an important realization for both of them.

After becoming more aware of their own behavior and the consequences, these two students chose to stop using put-downs. In fact, they became friends, and for the rest of the year they frequently gave each other compliments in class meetings.