You do NOT control kids… but you can still get them to behave!

So this is third in a series on discipline for your children. These build on each other.  It starts with controlling yourself (the only person you will EVER be able to control, give up on everyone else!) Next you control the environment for more effective consequences and increasing your odds of getting through the day without screaming at anyone.  Last, you need to give your kids an idea of what’s coming and options they can use. I call this being a mirror for them. It’s how you take control of the feedback. They’ll ignore you a lot and get themselves into trouble anyway.  Smile, hand out a consequence or point out the natural one that already happened, repeat.  It will take some repetition but it will work.

 

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Be a mirror to your child’s path.

 

Control the Feedback

  1. I confront everything.  Notice I didn’t say that I fight everything.  You are NOT going to have a fight to prove your child left the toilet seat up, didn’t clean up their crumbs, or used a nasty tone of voice with you.  You just need to reflect back.  No judgement, no screaming, no emotions (from YOU!).  Since you’ve already established control of yourself and the environment, they know your words have meaning.  You do not need to add all the emotions to get attention.  State what you see.  Remain calm. Hand out consequences as necessary.
  2. I tell this child how he looks. “You’re wearing shorts and it’s 45 degrees outside.” “The look your making with your face right now is angry and sad.” “You were so sad last week when your friend didn’t want to play with you.  And you just told your friend you didn’t want to play with him.” Describe the behavior and leave the judgement for later.  These steps build on each other so you will get to say how the behavior ends out, just not at first.  Describe first.
  3. I predict how this action is going to end up. This is for the immediate effects of behavior.  You wore shorts on that cold day, “Your legs will be cold today.”  You don’t have your homework done this morning, “The teacher may take your recess today.”  I asked you to clean your room and that didn’t happen, “If your room isn’t clean in the next 15 minutes I will fill one bag with whatever is on the floor.”  You yelled a mean thing at your friend, “Johnny will want to go home if you keep yelling at him.” Point out the natural consequences that are coming (the cold, the rain, the other kids won’t want to play) and the logical consequences that you will enforce (I take your toys because you took your brother’s dessert, I limit your electronics since you watched You Tube videos while you were supposed to be doing chores.)
  4. I make educated guesses. This is where parents get to talk about consequences that will happen in several weeks or months. It’s also a good time to talk to kids about where small choices and peer pressure can lead to trouble.  Don’t try this if you haven’t already established that you control yourself and your words carry meaning.  Kids tune out adults they don’t have to respect.  Consequences for their negative behaviors help your children listen when it’s important later.  Self-control allows you to maintain your composure when kids roll their eyes and try to tell you they KNOW! already. They are trying to end the serious conversation by having a stupid fight about their bad attitude.  You have the control.  So you don’t take that bait.

I will talk about the long term future. My husband and I talk to our son about college.  He has to learn to take showers because there won’t be any bathtubs in the dorm.  He has to learn how to fold his own clothes and make breakfast because your room mates don’t want to take care of you.  There are so many skills your children need in order to fly out of your nest and get a real life. Be sure you are talking about the future and the reasons you have them unload the dishwasher instead of doing it yourself in half the time.  Do not leave your children free to make up reasons for their chores and the rules of your house.  Kids left to their own devices on this will tell everyone that you adopted them in order to have slave labor!  They will be sure that all the rules, morals, and boundaries are set to make their lives horrible.  Make the future a constant that you talk about. And make sure you have a solid reason for every chore they do, every rule your family lives by, and every moral precept you want them to follow.

Picture by LabrynthX “Mirror Clouds”

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.

You do NOT have to live in chaos. Here’s your blueprint for regaining your control and making your child listen!

The kids are screaming at you.  The house is a mess and nobody listens when you ask for help.  Siblings are supposed to love each other but all your kids do is fight.  You are overwhelmed, outnumbered and outgunned.

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Help is on the way!  In the next three posts I will teach you 15 surefire ways to regain control of yourself, the situation, and the discipline of your kids.  If you can do these things consistently for 2 weeks, you will finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.  Give this a month and you’ll start feeling like a parent and not a prisoner!

To set these up you have to understand the following concepts.  You can’t control your kids.  Didn’t get that or think I didn’t write it right?  You CANNOT control your children.  When you try all hell will break loose in your house.  There’s plenty of ways to encourage them to control themselves.

Punishment doesn’t work.  Consequences work, punishment works against you.  Consequences teach your children the connection between their own actions and what happens next.  Punishment teaches them to hide from you because they’re avoiding your anger.

You control yourself first.  Then you take control of the environment.  Last of all you reflect back to your kids.  There are consequences you will be handing out throughout all of these steps.  Anytime you loose control of yourself, you can’t do discipline.  Making children upset to match how they’ve upset you is punishment.  It teaches children that revenge is good and the strong get to take it.  Now imagine they’re 15 and bigger than you.  I’ve counseled that family too many times.  Control yourself, control the environment, then be a mirror that allows your child to see her own behavior.

Control Yourself

  1. Take your own time outs.  Instead of standing around screaming with the kids, take a five minute time out and concentrate on bringing your own heart rate down before you go back to dealing with them.  Children match the agitation level of the dominant adult in any situation.  Give them a calm to imitate.  This can take a while for parents to get.  Kids know when you’re pretending calm and when you’ve really got it.  Keep working towards a calm your children can match.
  2. Put yourself on the top five of your priority list.  You aren’t going to have a calm that your children can imitate if you don’t have taking care of yourself as a priority.  It can seem backwards to women especially when I tell them to take a yoga class and leave their children in the daycare. “But my kids will bite each other and I already don’t have enough time!”  I know.  But time and self-care can’t be the last thing you give yourself each day.  You will NOT be able to consistently discipline your children if you are too worn out to think straight.
  3. Be a neutral expert. Before your kids start their daily exercises in trashing your house and smacking each other, concentrate on your long term role.  You need to be the neutral expert that they come to when there’s sex questions or peer pressure on drugs.  Take your emotions out of the interaction!  You must sound like a calm judge not the screaming Queen of Hearts. Practice sounding like Mary F*ing Poppins no matter what!
  4. Talk about your emotions out loud until your children at least roll their eyes.  I love this one and my son HATES it.  “I can feel my neck getting stiff when you ignore what I’ve said and act like you can’t hear me.  I know you can hear me and that makes what you’re doing very rude.  You are pretending I don’t exist so you don’t have to deal with me and now my skin is getting hot because I’m mad.  I will need to calm myself down before I come up with the consequence for your behavior.”  I can go on for as long as necessary.  Talk yourself through your emotions, their physical manifestations, how you’re calming yourself down and what you intend to do.  My son would rather me take a toy than talk about my emotions.  It’s that effective.
  5. Stop giving your children emotional Touch Downs. When I ask kids in my office how long it takes to get their mom or dad frothing mad, they can give me a timeline and exactly what parents say along it before the adult tantrum commences.  All children want control and power.  If the best way to feel powerful is make you lose your control, that’ll happen on the regular.  You may be scaring your kids silly when you lose it, but you are also dancing on the end of their strings and they know which tune it takes to get you there.  Take that time out and stop giving up your power.

 

Once you control yourself, you are ready to take control of the environment and hand out consequences that work.  I hear from clients how frustrating it is to practice self-control first.  Sorry, it’s the only thing that works every time.  No technique works if you don’t have control of your own emotions and meet your own needs.  Most every technique can work once you have yourself trained.

Stay tuned for the next two posts. We’ll go over the ways to control the environment and help your child start predicting how their behavior will bring positive or negative consequences.

Before you go, ask me a question! I love to hear from all of you.

Lorinne

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.