Monday, January 9, 2012

Time Out

No, I don’t mean for the kids!  This one is for you.  Take a deep breath and let it out slowly……….REALLY slowly………  Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.

There, didn’t that feel good?  Don’t you feel more relaxed?

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is reacting to misbehavior before they think.  If everyone took a long, slow, deep breath and backed 2 steps away from the issue at hand, they would allow themselves to think through their options.  Managing misbehavior is largely a matter of strategy.  When you shoot from the hip with an immediate response, you often act out of anger and you often yell.  And frequently, you just impose the first consequence you think of - without considering if it will really change the way your child is acting.  Oh, it might stop whatever is going on right now, but will it stop it for the long haul?

Consequences that really stop misbehavior are large enough to get your child’s attention and often “larger” than the misbehavior.  But when you get your child’s attention, he will more likely choose better behavior in the future; you won’t need to constantly impose large consequences.

Didn’t pick up his toys?  Parents, take a deep breath and don’t react at all.  But tonight after dinner, announce he is going to bed right now because he didn’t pick up his toys.

Didn’t wash the car when you asked?  Parents, take a deep breath and do it yourself.  But Friday night when he wants to go to the movies, tell him no because he didn’t wash the car.

Now if there is a perfect consequence when the incident occurs, there is nothing wrong with imposing it - if you can do so calmly and without yelling.  But many times there isn’t one at hand.  So take a deep, long slow breath and wait for the right moment.  It will come.  And I promise, your child (older than 3) is going to remember the misbehavior and learn a lesson about how he wants to behave in the future!

One word of caution – it is part of the strategy to REMEMBER to impose a consequence – too often if we get past the moment, we tell ourselves, “oh that behavior wasn’t so bad” or we forget about it until the next time.  Don’t do that – misbehavior needs your attention; it just needs to be your calm, well planned attention! 

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