Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oh, the Things Parents COULD Say!

If parents could learn to laugh at childish things, most homes would be a lot calmer.  But parents  respond with gravity – as if their child had a PhD in the subject at hand and deserved an academic discussion!

American parents are very good at taking their children seriously – way too seriously.   A Mom recently announced that from now on the children would be doing regular chores (GOOD leadership!).  But one of the kids shot back, dripping with sarcasm; “So what are YOU going to be doing while we do ALL the work.”  Mom lost it, yelled that she does all the cooking and cleaning and shopping and laundry and picking up and chauffeuring, and she is sick and tired of being talked to like this….. kids didn’t listen to one word!

A better response?  “Oh yes while you do the work, I am going to be on the sofa, eating chocolates and watching TV.”  After which, Mom would smile and walk away.

Not every comment deserves a serious answer!

Parents often get caught off guard when their kids throw a zinger. That is one reason why I recommend taking 2 or 3 steps backward and giving yourself a chance to think about what is going on and what your response ought to be.

Here are some useful stock phrases that can either be your final word on a non-negotiable subject or buy you some time to come back with your final answer.
  • ·         Child doesn’t like your direction and is screaming at you.  “Well when I was your age, I probably wouldn’t have liked this either”.
  • ·         Child asks for something to which you say no and she starts begging and hammering with WHY to everything you say.  Good leadership responses are “Because I said so” or “Because I am the grown up”.
  • ·         Child is defiant and refusing to go along with your directions.  “Well, Brian, you make your decisions and I will make mine”.  At a later, calm point you implement a consequence that presents itself and tell him it is because he didn't follow your earlier directions.  This suggestion is hard to do because you are angry at the defiance, but it defuses the moment and you remain completely in charge.
  • ·         Similar statements are “I guess you will just have to paddle your own canoe”; “Well I think I am just going to let you stew in your own juices on this one”; and “Life isn’t always fair”.  After which you must calmly walk away.
  • ·         Child interrupts you whenever he wants something.  A calm “Really?” combined with “THE LOOK” is a great response.
Most of these replies do not resolve the issue.  They just end the discussion and give the child the chance to let your message sink in.  Sometimes that is all they need!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Walk Away - When You Want Your Child to Obey!

Helicopter parents!  Micromanaging parents! Why do they do it?  To keep their kids safe?  To make sure their instructions are followed? To be seen as a good parent?

Probably a lot of reasons.  But it is a habit that is sure to backfire because whatever they achieve in the short run, is often lost in the long run.  Why?  Because micromanaged kids don’t learn how to assume responsibility for themselves!  If you are following and reminding when your child is 5, unless you teach him some independence, you will be still be reminding when he is 16 or 18 or 25!!!!

Besides, most children just don’t like being micromanaged!  While parents think watchful attention is necessary for safety and obedience, kids often rebel and you get the opposite effect.  And even if the kids do obey this time, there is no guarantee they will the next time! 

The Rosemond leadership parent gives instructions once – clearly and concisely.  There are no threats or bribes in the instructions.  The parent, having issued instructions that he expects to be obeyed, simply walks away.  When parents consistently, reliably give direction in this manner, they are definitively more likely to be obeyed.

But if their child chooses to ignore them or misbehave, they don’t obsess over it.  They simply wait for a strategic moment to issue a consequence that will capture their child’s attention.  And the next time a clear instruction is issued, the child’s likelihood of obeying has suddenly increased tenfold!  In the process, he learns responsibility.

Parents tell me they want their children to obey immediately.  If they announce it is time to pick up the toys, they stand there and wait for the child to start.  If their child isn't fast enough, thorough enough or mutters under his breath, the parent pounces on him.  All red faced, he yells “Did you hear me, I mean NOW”  “What is that you are saying?”  “I don’t appreciate that attitude, young lady”.

Yet if the parent had walked away and checked back in 10 or 15 minutes, he would never know how the child went about following the instructions.  If you come back and the job is done, all is as it should be –if he muttered a lot or slammed a few things around; you don’t know it and no worries!

Parents say they encourage self-expression, but they really mean POSITIVE self-expression!  Allow your child the privacy and freedom to deal with his feelings and opinions and don’t let them become a battleground! SOME things, you are surely better off not knowing!

In addition, at some point, you are not going to be able to micromanage – your child will go to a birthday party or as a teenager, will be going out alone with friends.  If your child only obeys when micromanaged, he won’t be able to self-govern and he will not internalize your values.

He must experience the positive and negative aspects of his actions.  Give him a long rope and a lot of leeway – if he messes up, your calm consequences will teach him more than words or hovering attention ever can.  And the lessons will last!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear Child - Go To Sleep!!!!

After a busy Mother’s Day, 4 year old Jenny was as wound up as she could be.  When 8PM bedtime arrived, Mom did an extra special job of trying to calm her down.  First a warm bath with a few quiet tub toys; then a soothing story and finally hugs and kisses.

But… within 5 minutes the real nighttime routine began.  Jenny appeared and asked for water.  Then 10 minutes later, she was back asking for another hug.  2 minutes later, she announced she was scared of the monster under her bed.  And on and on it went for the next 2 hours.

Now if this was just one night as a result of being overtired, I would suggest Mom and Dad muddle through knowing that this too, shall pass.  But for Jenny, it was the same routine she pulled every night.

Mom and Dad reasoned, pleaded, bribed and threatened.  Eventually Jenny went to sleep every night but not until Mom and Dad went to bed.  They had no adult time for themselves!

So what is wrong with this picture?  4 year old Jenny has Mom and Dad exactly where she wants them – catering to her while she pretty much runs the household.  The problem is Jenny does not belong at the head of the house – that is her parent’s role.  It is not healthy for Jenny and is actually a little scary.  Children feel far more secure when there are reasonable rules that are enforced clearly and consistently.

So assuming Jenny’s parents decide to establish themselves as the center of the family unit around which their children will orbit from now on, how can they solve this bedtime battle?

A simple but powerful strategy is built on one single ribbon! After supper tonight, Mom and Dad tell Jenny that at bedtime, they will tie a ribbon on her bedroom door knob.  If she wants to get up after bedtime, she can bring them the ribbon and they will fill her request happily.  But if she gets up with another request, they won’t fill the request and tomorrow night she will go to bed 1 hour early (or directly after supper).

So as long as she has a ribbon, she can get up.  Not having a ribbon won’t prevent her from getting up, but if she chooses to, the consequence is early bedtime tomorrow.  Parents remain completely calm and in charge with absolutely no yelling, reminders or explanations.

This is a really good time of year to start this particular tool because it severely limits outside play time after supper.  Kids don’t like that limit very much when the weather is getting so nice!

I have seen many young children view this as a game and improvement comes quickly. Most other kids start to improve within a week or so.  Sometimes they backslide a bit to see if the parents really mean it.  But when parents remain calm and in charge, governed solely by the availability of one simple ribbon, the problem is solved!

You can keep the ribbon on the door for months or years – it is easy enough and a powerful reminder of a negative consequence most kids don’t want to have! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chores and Money Make Strange Bedfellows!

Children and money.  To give or not to give.  If to give, how much?  And what can parents expect in exchange for the money given?

I think this is 2 issues.  Chores should be every family member’s responsibility.  Our family loves us, provides for us, and is the securest place we will likely ever know.  Citizens have responsibility to contribute to the public good and our very first citizenship experience is in our families.

So what can kids contribute?  Chores!!!

Children over age 4 should have regular chores.  The 4 year old can set the table.  The 5 and 6 year old can make their beds and clear the table.  The 7 and 8 year old can do the dishes and clean the bathroom.  The 9 and 10 year old can vacuum and mop the floor.  Whatever you assign, don’t make the mistake of rotating chores among the kids.  First of all, they will blame the other person in the rotation if it doesn’t get done (“I thought it was his turn”).  Secondly, they won’t have the pride of ownership.  If you want to rotate jobs so that everyone learns how the house operates, then do it every 6 months or so.  By regular chores, I don’t mean occasionally setting the table.  I mean it is their responsibility every night – no one else does it (sure family pitches in if someone is sick, but you get the picture).

And how much should you pay them for these chores? 

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.
Chores are THEIR contribution for the privilege of living in their loving, secure and safe family.  It is what they can do to assure that their family continues to be the best it can be for all members.

Allowance is another topic altogether.  Allowance is a key way to learn about money.  How to count it, what its value is, how to save it, how to budget it.  It amazes me that parents expect children to reach age 18 equipped to handle money when they have never done it.  It takes practice, folks!!!!!  When I volunteer in our local 2nd grade, I see many kids who have no idea what a dime, nickel, quarter or half dollar are – they shouldn’t have to learn this in school!  So regular allowance is a necessity!  And as the point is to learn the HUGE life lesson of handling money, it should not be tied to behavior (unless of course, you find your teen using allowance to buy pot, but that is another story!)

Start your kids at about age 5 with a regular allowance.  As they get older, increase it and by age 8 begin to make them cover some of their expenses from it.  As teens, they should have a large enough allowance to cover more and more of their expenses (school supplies, entertainment, clothes) – this will give them experiential learning in budgeting and money management.

I know it is tempting to tie allowance to good behavior.  But there are so many other ways to manage behavior and the money lessons are too important.  You will be SO glad you gave your kids this learning opportunity when at 19 or 20 year they can handle their own money issues!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Kids are Always Late - Part 2

Ouch!  Got some negative comments on my last blog about kids who are always late!  I had suggested teaching them to safely walk to school.  Then if they miss the bus, have them walk even though they might be late. 

Okay, okay; of course I get that some neighborhoods are not walkable and some people live much more than 6 blocks from school!!!! 

But the point of the article was that if you want your kids to choose a different behavior, MAKE THEM AN OFFER THEY CAN’T REFUSE.  If consequences are imposed at school for being late, so be it – don’t bail them out.  If you get notes from school about being late, take away all weekend privileges. If you are calmly consistent about your new rules, most kids will CHOOSE to start being on time instead of CHOOSING the consequences.  If you put the responsibility on their shoulders instead of yours, they will figure out that the solution lies in their hands.

We could discuss why they are late.  Feeling grumpy, didn’t sleep well, tv is more interesting, want to play with their doll, are slow starters….  But whatever it is, the parent probably can’t solve it.  If this is a pattern, then it is time to act.  The bonus is that your kids will become more responsible in the process;  a characteristic they NEED throughout life!

There are a zillion ways to make your point.  Be creative – based on your realities.  But just to help you out!!!  When my daughter was 5, we lived 10 miles from school.  I was not going to teach her to walk 10 miles if she missed the bus! 

But…. She was always late.  I would nag, remind and yell.  Then I would chase the bus with the car to catch it at the next stop!

EVERY morning was chaotic craziness!  So, I asked my day care mom if my daughter could spend the day with her if she missed the bus again.  I then told my daughter she needed to be ready at 8:10AM.  I would no longer remind or yell.  If she missed the bus she would go to her daycare mom’s for the day.

Things improved for a few days but then she started slowing down and soon missed the bus.  We got in the car, but instead of chasing buses we drove to daycare.  Our daycare Mom was great!  She made the day absolutely boring. There were only toddler toys, toddler lunch choices and everyone took naps.  Oh and she charged a quarter for lunch (exact amount of her allowance!)

That was all it took – my daughter never missed the bus again!  For some kids, it will take 3 or 4 times but if you are consistent and very calm this method works.

And yes, I know that this was not a legal absence and the school probably wouldn't approve of my choice.  But I am the parent and a few days of missed kindergarten in exchange for morning peace and a more responsible child was well worth my brief encounter with civil disobedience!