Effective Discipline, Part II

So in last week’s blog post I gave you ways to control yourself so you can control the interactions with your children.  I’m sure some of you where like, “What?”  But it works.  Kids are always trying to get adults off center and tipping towards a meltdown.  When you don’t let that happen, the game is loads less fun for your kids.  They give up, after a while, and start listening.

Once you’ve got control of yourself, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Control The Environment

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Insert your face here.  You rule over the stuff.

 

  1. I own all the stuff.  I do.  Since children legally cannot enter into contracts without the implied consent of their adult guardian, the adult guardian actually owns all the stuff.  You should see kids’ faces when I explain this.  They cannot legally buy anything without your implied consent and therefor ownership.  Now let an evil laugh loose, bwa-ha-ha! I therefore control all the resources in this environment.  Toys, phones, stuffies, video games, gaming systems, i-pods, tablets, etc.  Once you have this attitude, your children will know that messing with the rules leads to the next point.
  2. I will take all the stuff in SMALL increments.  Never, never, nunca, not at all, do you ever take all the stuff at the same time!  Your kids will tempt you to do this, “Just take it all!”  Yah, I’m not that dumb.  When you have all the stuff your child no longer has anything to lose.  That’s how action movies start.  The hero has nothing left to lose and the fight is on.  Take stuff from your children in logical ways and small increments.  Take 15 minutes of their favorite TV show.  Hold them back from the first house while their siblings get to trick or treat that one. Take one action figure at a time. When they start throwing the rest at you, put them back in the room and talk through your emotions.  “I think you are wanting to throw your stuff at me so I’ll get really mad and take everything away from you.  Then you’ll be all melodramatic and hope that I lose my cool even more.  I am mad that you threw toys at me but I will keep my self-control.  You don’t get to have that.”  Stick with this and be consistent.
  3. I will take the stuff quickly.  My son has had to buy back his toys with his allowance because I told him to clean up and he played for that hour instead.  Fine.  I cleaned up.  It all went into a bag and he could buy back any object in the bag for $1.  He had $13 saved up.  He remembers that very clearly.  Say what you want, give one warning only, then take something quietly.  No screaming (control yourself first), and no further warnings. It’s good to remember that you don’t have to take the phone or the x-box to mess with access to them.  I can recommend Circle, a one stop for controlling internet access from your phone.  No more YouTube videos at 1am if the little rotter’s tablet won’t be allowed access! (Yes, we have dealt with that at my house.) Circle usually about $99 and well worth it.
  4. My wallet will be open for business not charity. Stop giving your children money outside of Christmas and their birthdays.  This gives you leverage to ask for chores, homework, instrument practice, whatever.  It’s the carrot for good behavior.  Carrots don’t mean anything if your kid has them everyday without having to do anything. Give the carrots back their meaning.  Hand out less.
  5. I will take control of my house and I will get adult help if I need to. Want your kids, and possibly your spouse, to know that you ARE the new sheriff in town? Have a friend come over and help you clean.  If you have the $, hire someone who will help you clean and organize.  Either way, kick everyone out of the house and get ruthless.  You are the parent, you have the right to throw random crap away.  You especially have that right if the random crap is in a pile under the bed that hasn’t been touched in years.  If the original dust bunnies now have grandchildren, you have the right to thoughtfully toss that. Now introduce the family to the new standard of clean and let them know you expect it to stay that way.  Use consequences both negative and positive to reinforce how you mean it. If you are in a situation where you can’t do this, then do a small version of it.  Taking control of the physical space gives you a visual message and then communicates the same thing to the rest of the family.  Give yourself that message.  Even if it starts in a closet no one else sees and then spreads from there.  Physical control of the environment helps you feel better.

When you think your child is a criminal, or maybe just bad.

Parents say this to me in whispers and then draw back into themselves waiting to be judged.  They just KNOW that I’m either going to rip into them about the name calling or agree that the behaviors are so bad and therefor the parenting must be equally BAD!

Instead, I ask some questions about how that child interacts with the world.

  • Does your child accept adult authority? (No)
  • Does your child ask questions about why things are right or wrong? (Yes)
  • Is your child loud and outspoken when they feel the situation is unfair? (Oh yeah)
  • Will your child repeat behaviors that you’ve yelled and screamed at them for? (yup)
  • Do you ever feel like you have a little mobster in your house and it’s all about quid pro quo? (you scratch my back, your back gets scratched.)
  • Does your child attempt to talk to you as a fellow adult? (Yes)
  • Do they like to negotiate even when they’ve got nothing? (lawyers, every one)
  • Do they follow some rules and toss others that they are fully aware of? (and they can even tell you about the rule they ignored.)
  • Can they tell you the negative consequences that may happen but still seem oblivious to them? (You’ll notice they sing song out the negatives while rolling their eyes)
  • Do they tell you when they feel you have broken a rule? (With unholy glee.)

If you recognize your child from these questions, I’m going to guess they think about the world differently than you do and that you are extremely frustrated with them.  I can help. You have a Transactional Child. Their world is made up of;

  • What’s in it for me?
  • Why is it right or wrong?
  • What use is it?
  • If I’m supposed to listen to you, what makes you the expert?
  • Why are you in charge and not me?
  • Does this make sense?
  • Is this consistent?

Your child does not adhere to rules because it’s the right thing to do.  That phrase doesn’t even mean anything to them.  They adhere to rules because the consequences for breaking them are logical, consistent in when and how they happen, and fair.  But now you’re ready to tell me that you’ve been doing that, all the time, and it doesn’t work!  And I’m going to tell you to get out of your own way.  It is a brutal truth that a transactional child will never get the point if your emotions are clouding everything up.

If you are handing out consequences while angry, then your child is receiving two different messages.  The first one is how stealing all those cookies leads to a cookie drought in their immediate future.  Important stuff.  The second message is about your anger.  Guess which one is more important to your child.  The anger.  You might as well be talking like one of Charlie Brown’s teachers.  Even if your child can parrot back what you’re saying, she isn’t getting it.  She’s dialed into your emotional state and desperately trying to remain still so you don’t get any worse.  If that doesn’t work, she may start acting out since there’s no hope to calm this down anyway.  Because if all is lost, why not go out in a blaze of glory?

Try to imagine this from your child’s point of view.  He eats the cookies, all the cookies.  Your emotional response is frustrated, you ask him questions he can’t answer and you talk about being disappointed.  All of this is confusing and hurtful, but has no logical connection to the particular action of eating all the cookies.  Then he does it again.  Now you’re ANGRY, you yell things he’s not really listening to, you point out other members of the family that are angry at him and you wonder aloud if he will be a good person when he grows up.  He did the same action each time.  You did not.  Even if there were logical consequences for the misdeed, he can’t see them through the cloud of different emotional reactions.

Emotions cloud the connections.  Every. Time.  If you can get this, you will make your life 10 times easier and it can happen overnight.

So let’s revisit the cookie incident.  Little Janie sneaks into the kitchen at night and eats all the homemade cookies.  She wakes up the next morning with a terrible tummy ache and you know immediately what happened. And now, you will be the better mob enforcer.

Just here to do a job. Nothing Personal

The enforcer from the movies who makes sure everybody knows, it’s nothing personal.  This does not ruin your day, because you are just here to hand out consequences without emotion and then move on.

“Janie you ate all the cookies and now you feel crummy!” “Oh dear, and now you’re lying to me about it when I already know what happened.  That must be very frustrating for you.” “So here’s the deal kid, you stole all my cookies.  So now I’m going to take one of your Polly Pockets for every cookie of mine that you took.  I don’t really want your Polly Pockets and I’m not even sure what I’ll do with them, I’m still taking them.  You stole your brother’s cookies too.  He gets to pick a small toy of yours for every cookie of his that you took, because that’s fair.”

In order for this to work, you MUST sound calm.  Try for Mary Poppins about to go out for her day off.  I know you’ll want to make this important by infusing it with lots of emotions.  DON’T!!!  No matter what emotions your child throws around, remain calm and serene.  Stick to consequences that are logically connected to the bad behavior.  Make sure the consequences are small enough to be immediately enforceable and easy for you to carry out.  Hammer of God! only works for God.  If you aren’t Him, keep the consequences small and the voice tone to Fred Rogers.

Most parents think I’m crazy until this works.  They also think it sounds MEAN.  Because no matter what your child feels, you need to still be calm, serene, and OK for the rest of your day.  Emotions cannot be consequences if you want a healthy relationship with your child.  If you’ve accidentally taught them that your negative feelings are the end product of their behavior, they’re going to throw that back at you now. Hey!  Dad yells and throws his emotions at me when I do stuff he doesn’t like.  I can do that too!

Consequences work, loud important emotions just get in the way.

Kids like yours do not think about the world in terms of right/wrong and chains of command.  So when you tell them, “Because I said so!” You just made no sense to them. What will work, every time, is calmly delivered consequences that logically fit the bad behavior.

Stay tuned next week when I’ll explain why so many of these kids repeat negative behaviors and how to counteract that too.  This will actually be a series of posts on dealing with the child that thinks in transactional terms so you can both keep your sanity.

Stay calm, and be sure to ask any questions you have in the comments below.

 

Attributions: @markheybo Norwich Street Art; Why do you do this?, floodllama Mobsters, Jeremy Rivera Mr. Rogers in a Bear Suit.  All from Flickr with a CC license.