Showing posts with label discipline. Show all posts
Showing posts with label discipline. Show all posts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Making Wise Parenting Choices in the Heat of the Moment

You did it. You just said something you regret. You just doled out some punishment you really don't want to see through (or something you literally cannot see through). Ugh.

It happens to us sometimes as parents! We are surprised by some behavior and we respond basically without thinking and we are soon regretting our response (whether we picked a bad punishment, we yelled, we were grumpy, or something else). 

How do we make wise parenting choices in the heat of the moment? 

Take 10 Seconds
You know that advice to count to ten before you respond when you are mad? It is perfectly acceptable to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten before you respond in any way (of course assuming the situation is safe enough for you to do so). Let yourself cool off. Give yourself a time out if needed! Give yourself some time to get your composure together so you can think. 

You don't need to appear to be some all-knowing being that can respond perfectly in any given moment. Often times, children are hoping for some emotional response from you, so if you can maintain your composure, you will greatly thwart a major goal your child has in the behavior.

During this time, think through the situation. What was misused? Think of a consequence that goes along with the situation.

Think Ahead
Think about what types of consequences you will use in situations. If your child has a consistent behavior problem, think through how you will respond in those situations. Think it through when you are not in the heat of the moment. Think about it in times of non-conflict. Have some standard consequences if your child has you stumped. "You need to go sit on your bed while I think about this situation" is an okay thing to say to your child.

You will have an easier time responding in the moment if you have an idea of your policies before the moment arises. 

Vow Not to Say...
As you are thinking ahead of what you will do, also think about what you will not do. You want to be sure you have banned yourself from certain things. Don't give idle threats you could not and would not ever fulfill (for example, if you hit your sister again, I will bite your fingers off. That isn't getting you anywhere when that hit inevitably comes again--and this is a real-life example I have heard used). 

Also, don't promise things in exchange for better behavior. This starts a pattern and a habit of your child knowing if he or she holds out and is disrespectful and naughty that he can soon be promised a treat of some sort in exchange for his good behavior. 

I find it helpful to read through books on discipline to keep my head in the correct frame of mind for what to say and what not to say. I really like Parenting with Love and Logic for this purpose. I don't necessarily agree with everything I read in that book, but I like a lot of it and he helps me be more ready for those crazy parenting moments. 

Take Time to Think
It is okay to say, "I need a minute to myself. I am going to go sit in the family room and think of a consequence for you. I will let you know when I know." Often times, this is a dreadful situation to the child. You are off dreaming up a consequence while your child frets about what it will be. Sometimes the waiting is more of a punishment to your child that the actual punishment will be. 

Taking time to think gives you time to cool off. It also gives you the opportunity to ask like-minded parents for advice or guidance. You can talk to your spouse about it. If you don't know the right action to take, take time to think it through. You are not required to react at that very moment. Your child will remember the negative behavior in two hours. She remembers a promise for a treat, correct? Children are not dogs. They are far more intelligent. 

You can also ask your child for ideas on what he thinks the punishment should be. Any time I have done this with Brayden or Kaitlyn, they have always come up with a punishment bigger than I would have done. 

Remain Calm
Always remember in your disciplining to remain calm. Keep your personal emotions out of it. Don't take behaviors personally. In your response, remain calm. 

Retract if Needed
Sometimes you will say or do the wrong thing. You are a human and you will make mistakes. When this happens, retract if needed. Go to your child and say, "I was thinking about the consequence I gave you for xyz and I realized it was not appropriate for what you did. I apologize. An appropriate punishment is abc." It is not only okay but it is good for our children to see that we make mistakes sometimes, too. 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Quotable Mondays: Discipline

image source

Today's quote is:

"Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions, not retribution." L.R. Knost

This quote is saying that rather than getting "payback," you should be using discipline to help solve a problem.

A lot of times, we get offended or our pride hurt by our child's actions. We react to their actions with anger rather than what is best for the moment. It is important to think before you act. Give yourself a time out if needed to cool off and get your head where it needs to be. 

Always remember, your child isn't out to get you. Your child is a little more selfish than that, frankly. When your child disobeys, it is to satisfy your child's own wants, not to say, "Ha! I am going to get mom good on this one!" Some actions are done to get your attention, but again, it isn't to get to you, it is to get your attention. Get you to pay attention. 

Your job is to help your child learn what was wrong and have a proper consequence to help your child remember to not do it again in the future. Remember, solutions, not retribution.

See these posts for more:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Should You Correct for Attitude?

This week, we from the BFBN are each writing a post about attitude. Today, I wanted to talk about correcting for a bad attitude--not the how, but the why.

I believe as parents today, we can really waffle on the idea of correcting or disciplining for attitude. No one likes to have a child roll their eyes or grumble whenever an instruction is given. We don't even like it if the bad attitude ensues while the child carries out the instruction. However, we are also told to allow our children to feel emotions and to not suppress them. We don't want to raise emotionally dysfunctional people, so we freeze a bit and think, "Should I allow my child to express these emotions? Should I discipline for feeling these emotions? Should I just be glad my child is doing what I asked, even if she is doing it grudgingly?" Let's discuss.

Shouldn't We Allow Children to Feel Emotions?
First, let's be clear here. Your child's attitude toward life and your child's emotions aren't necessarily the same thing. We are exploring disciplining for attitude. So say you ask your child to pick up the family room. She does it, but stomps around in anger the entire time. This is different from her coming home from school upset because she had a fight with her friend. 

I think this quote from On Becoming Preteen Wise sums it up perfectly, " is not the emotions themselves that get us into trouble, but the manner in which we deal with them."

We need to help our children learn how to respond to emotions correctly. This is why we discipline for attitude. The emotion is not the problem, it is our response to the emotion that is the problem. As adults, we still feel strong emotional reactions to situations. Most adults are able to work through a situation and respond in a mature fashion without having an emotional outburst (unfortunately not all). It isn't about burying nor suppressing emotions. It is about handling emotions in a mature fashion. 

What Do you Mean by Discipline/Correct?
To discipline, according to the my New Oxford American Dictionary, is to punish to correct bad behavior or disobedience. That is the connotation and denotation today. The word discipline originated, according to the dictionary, from Latin and meant "instruction or knowledge." This is the way I tend to look at discipline. Yes, there are at times punishments or consequences that happen, but I start at the root of the word with instruction and knowledge for the child. 

Sometimes as you correct or discipline your child, you will be teaching and imparting knowledge on your child as to why the behavior was not okay and what would have been the right choice. Sometimes, you will be giving time outs to allow your child time to chill out and get the attitude in check. Sometimes you might be removing privileges for the way your child reacted to something. Sometimes, there will be punishments involved. 

Why Do I Want to Correct Attitude?
I have no doubt that there is a sizable portion of the population out there that will disagree with me and say you should never do any correcting nor disciplining over attitude. I am not in that camp. I do think it should be done. I have thought at length about it over the years. I do want my children to be okay with their emotions and I do want them to face emotions rather than bury them. I do think you can maintain both emotional health and controlling emotions. As I quoted above, it isn't the emotion that is the problem, but the response to the emotion that is the problem.

  • I value a good attitude. I do. I think there is a lot of power in being an optimistic and positive person. Guess what? Life can be hard. Life will be hard. Not everything that you face in life is fair or just. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. Sometimes other people are mean. Sometimes people abuse authority. Bad and hard things happen to ALL OF US. Our character is based on how we respond to the trials, not which trials we face. I value the ability to have a good attitude even in the face of adversity. That is one reason I want to correct attitude. I want my children to learn that they can control their attitudes. Ask yourself if you want your children to be able to have a positive outlook in the face of negative things going on around them.

  • I believe in self control. I believe we can learn to control ourselves. We can learn to master ourselves. I even believe that we should learn to do these things. That is why I love concepts like Independent Playtime. I do not think we should allow our emotions to be the master of our outward actions. See also Self-Control: A Foundational Virtue

  • I believe we can and should learn the right way to respond. We aren't animals--and even if you wanted to argue that we are merely animals, animals can be taught to control their actions. If a dog can do it, your child can do it. I also believe that people who learn to have a good attitude are happier, more successful adults. Do you like to be around people with good attitudes or bad attitudes? 

  • When we correct for attitude, we help our child develop the habit of having a good attitude. On Becoming PreTeen Wise states, "The more we respond to an emotion in a certain way, the greater the likelihood that it will develop into a habit" (page 26) and "[you] can help establish patterns of right behavior." You become what you think about. If you indulge in a bad attitude, you will be a grumpy person. If you entertain a positive attitude, you will be a positive person Lao Tzu said:

How Can I Correct For Attitude?
I will brush on this here a bit. You don't want to raise children who are adults who ignore their emotions in order to deal with them. It isn't about not having emotions. You can raise children who have even tempered emotions. It will be more natural for some than others, but you don't have to get your feelings hurt over everything. Not everything requires a strong emotional response in life. You can look for the good in others and assume the best about other people's intentions. 

When your child has a bad attitude and your are correcting or even punishing for it, make it clear that the emotion is not the problem, but the way your child chose to act when feeling that emotion. Some people have a shorter fuse than others, but that doesn't mean those with short fuses get to run around being jerks to everyone. 

If you have a child who tends to be pessimistic, work with that child to see the good in life. We have a child who is naturally pessimistic and one who is the extreme opposite and endlessly optimistic. I get that there is a natural disposition to work with. Work on it! You can make headway and your child can learn to see things in a positive light.

As in all things, always remember the power of your example. See also More is Caught Than TaughtIt Starts With You,  and Be a Good Sheep. If you are positive and have a good attitude, your children will have an easier time doing the same. I am a very, very chill person. My dad is the same way. His dad is the same way. His dad was the same way...I have generations of people who were highly defined in their histories by their calm, relaxed, positive demeanor. Is there something in our genetics? I don't know. I believe a strong part of it is that we had a parent who was an example to us. See You Teach What You Are. And always remember to use Encouragement as Discipline

With little ones, you can often prevent a tantrum from happening by your attitude. Last night when we told Brinley it was time to come inside for bedtime, she screamed, "No!" and started to whimper and back up. I threw my hands in the air and declared, "Yay! Bedtime hurray I love bedtime!" and started running (toddler speed) to the house. She followed me, cheering all the way in. You have a powerful influence over the way your children respond to situations.

When choosing consequences for poor behavior, look to logical and natural consequences. Maybe your child needs some time alone. Maybe your child needs to have a break from a fun activity if a huge fit was thrown when it was time to end (when Brayden, now 9, was 3, he played Mario Kart for his first time. When I told him it was time to turn it off, he got mad and threw the controller on the ground. He lost the privilege to play for a week. He was literally on his knees, hands clasped together pleading to not have the punishment. The punishment stuck, and he has never thrown a controller again to this day). If your child has a bad attitude about the length of his chore list, maybe he needs a longer one. 

Sometimes, it will be appropriate to simply talk about why a behavior was not okay. This is especially true when your child gets to be school-aged. With initial offenses, you can often talk about why it wasn't okay and the moral and social implications. You can talk about why it is important to have a good attitude and that it might be something to work on. 

Teach your children that if they feel themselves starting to lose control, they can remove themselves a regain control. You can do hand-folding or going to a space alone for a time. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from situations or channel our energy elsewhere. See Hand Folding: Establishing Self-Control.

And remember, Actions Precede Beliefs, so that is why requiring, "Yes Mom" is a great tool for having a good attitude. I have even required, "Yes Mommy, I would love to!" if they are started to be grumpy. Sometimes saying they would love to do something is so ridiculous that it makes them giggle and their mood is changed. 

I hope I have convinced you that it is okay to correct and even discipline for attitude. You can be a positive person who is still emotionally healthy. Being positive in our attitude isn't necessarily something that comes naturally to all of us. What a gift you will give your children if they are able to be positive adults! What a gift to society! What a gift to your future grandchildren! It is worth the effort.

Related Posts:
Be sure to check out all of the BFBN ladies this week:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When Kids Push The Limits (Dos and Don'ts)

As I write this, it is summer. Something that comes with summer is less structure and therefore more freedoms for the child. This can lead to a child basically doing whatever she wants to, or in other words, being "wise in her own eyes." "Wise in own eyes" can definitely happen no matter the season. The question becomes, what do we parents do when this happens? And notice I said when and not if. All children have moments of being "too big for their britches." 

Do Understand What Is and Isn't Appropriate For Your Child
Let's say your child takes off from the park on her own and rides home on her bike without asking you first (real-life experience for me this month). Was that appropriate? Why or why not? Think through what freedoms are appropriate for your child and the ones that are not. It is important that you have a firm opinion on this so that you can respond to situations with authority. 

Do not assume that just because your child wants to do something or physically can do something that means your child should be allowed to do it. There is more to consider than just your child. Think through the full implications of a freedom. 

Also, try to understand your basic moral principles and policies. Despite your thinking, your child is sure to come up with a myriad of things you never thought about. Understanding why you have the rules you do will help you respond appropriately with the unforeseen events.

Do Have a Plan for when Rules are Broken
Think through what the consequences will be when a rule is broken. Try to make the "punishment fit the crime." Have it be related.

There will be times your child surprises you and comes up with new things to try that you never forsaw. I find this more true for my younger children. You think you have seen it all and you stop being as diligent in thinking through what could go wrong and the child just surprises you with a new one. At these times, you can say something like, "You will need to have a consequence for this. I will think about it and talk with your father about it and we will let you know what the consequence will be." There is no harm in thinking for a bit before responding. 

Do Clearly Outline Rules, Expectations, and Consequences
Sometimes we think something is obvious. For me, it seems obvious that my child should not ride home from the park alone and without telling me first. For Kaitlyn, it seems like it isn't a big deal. The park is right by the school and she frequently rides her bike home from school, so what is the problem?

These are times to use your judgement. Maybe you will forgive this transgression and explain that what the child did is not okay and stress that it should not be done again. Perhaps you will offer some grace but still apply some sort of consequence to help the child remember in the future. This can be appropriate for children who are smart enough to understand "why" behind rules and who can be expected to judge the action with accuracy, or at the least, know to ask you first. 

Do Re-establish Structure
You might reflect and find that the little problems you see with your child are correlated with the time you started to be lax in your daily structure. Children who are tired, hungry, or who have too much free time tend to find trouble more than those who are well-rested, eat regular meals, and who have some structure in life. You might need to pay better attention to naps and bedtimes to get your child behave the way she knows how to.

Don't Laugh Openly
Sometimes the insolence is quite funny and even cute, especially in the young ones. Don't laugh in front of your child. Children love to get a laugh out of adults and will do anything to get it more laughter. Don't let the child see how amused you are. Save your laughs for when the child is away.

Don't Brush it Off
It is a big deal for your child to ignore your rules. Do not fool yourself into thinking there is no harm in it.

Don't Be Afraid to Discipline
It is your job to offer up discipline when your child does something she shouldn't. 

Don't Think it is Only a Phase
Doing nothing and waiting for a phase to pass is like standing in the middle of a steep hill and waiting for it to taper off. Yes, children go through phases, but it being a phase doesn't mean you should do nothing about it. Work to get your child through the phase. Teach your child how she should be and give consequences when she chooses incorrectly. Just as you need to hike to get over that steep hill, you will have to work to get your child through the phase. Phases can become habits very easily.

I have several other posts that will help you with this concept. They are worth the read:

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Screaming Non-Verbal Baby/Toddler

You may be familiar with it. The child who is old enough to know what she wants and certainly has an opinion on what she wants, but she can't communicate it with you. The screaming. The crying. The despair. And that's just you! Kidding, kidding.

Of my four children, Kaitlyn was by far and away my easiest pre-toddler (the age range of 12-18 months). One of Kaitlyn's big talents in life is communicating. She started signing before 7 months. She started talking around the same time. By 14 months, she was speaking sentences. She could communicate what she wanted and she knew we understood her, so there weren't the tantrums that come with communication frustrations.

During Brinley's pre-toddler months, we had a lot of tears shed over communication issues. Now, I happen to be a really good communicator. I read non-verbals like a pro--and really my minor was in communications and we studied those things closely, so I am not just operating off of instinct. I have read studies on such things (fascinating, let me tell you). I often find myself interpreting what my friend's children are trying to tell them--I catch it faster than the mom.

All that to say, even without words, I know what a baby or pre-toddler wants. 

But Brinley didn't seem to have respect for my education or years of experience--news flash child! You are my fourth. This isn't my first time in the saddle. She didn't care. Any time she asked for something and I didn't give it to her, she was sure I mis-understood her meaning. Positive. And she has a flair for dramatic emotions. We are talking hands covering the face while crying, "No!" (those moments when you turn around and walk away so you can laugh without the child noticing).

The older children don't help. They love to inform me of what Brinley wants. My response is, "I assure you I know what she wants. I know what she wants better than she knows what she wants. I promise I get it." And why doesn't that help? Because I have a desperate pre-toddler along with her three desperate body guards who seem to think she should never cry. And because they interfere with her making an effort to communicate on her own. I read about this when Brayden was a baby. Children with many older siblings often speak later because they have several people "speaking for them." 

We have happily moved past it. Brinley realizes that I get her and she is putting a lot more effort into communicating. So I know you are wondering what can you do to help your child move past the fits when she can't communicate them verbally? Here are some tips.

1-Teach Sign Language
If you have a 14 month old, you might cringe at this tip if you haven't taught any signs yet. It is never to late to learn signs! I didn't teach Brayden until he was older than a year (I think it was 13-15 month range). 

I always say to teach a sign that is going to reduce fits. So one of the first signs I taught Brayden was "help." I have shared this before, but he would want help with something and go into a fit. That wasn't the way I wanted him communicating help, so I taught him to sign it. It is best to teach when they aren't mad and screaming. Then when I knew he could do it, I would not help him unless he signed for help. 

If you have a young baby, start working on showing and helping your baby sign when they are young. I like to teach "more" and "all done" as two of our first signs. It helps immensely with meal times. 

2-Require Communication Effort
Do not fulfill the desires of your fit-throwing or screaming child until effort to communicate has been made (effort beyond the fit). Moms like to say, "Use your words" to fit-throwing children. If your child wants you to pick her up, don't do it at the first tears. Tell her to ask you to pick her up.

When you first start requiring communication, the communication your child will give you will likely be through tears and anger. I still remember telling Brayden he needed to say please for something and him slapping his chest in anger in order to sign please. A recent memory is Brinley saying, "buh!" through her tears when she wanted me to pick her up. I always reward the communication early on, even if the heart is still angry. 

I have hierarchy to this learning process. I want them to learn that communicating is the way to get what they want, so when they communicate, even if they are angry, I cheerfully respond to the "request." Once they get used to the fact that communication is what gets them what they want, then I will start to work on them asking for things with a cheerful heart. I will usually say something like, "Oh, that isn't how we ask for things. You ask me nicely." 

And RESPOND when your child makes an effort. Don't say, "just a minute" or ignore your child. You are trying to teach your child to turn to communication first instead of screaming or crying, so reward communication efforts.

3-Learn to Read Non-Verbals
Get to know your child. Learn what your child means when she says a word (most words come out quite wrong initially). Know what she means when she gestures a certain way. And get to know the pre-fit signs. If you can catch your child before she moves into tantrum mode, you will be more likely to coach her through the communication process without the fit occurring. This will be great reinforcement for her to communicate rather than have a fit.

4-Repeat What Your Child Has Told You
Make sure you remain calm and firm. You need to be a rock right now. When your child has commnicated something to you, repeat it. A big fit-session we would have with Brinley was when she would want some sort of treat (the girl has a sweet tooth). She would gesture for it and I would tell her she couldn't have it right now. She was sure I misunderstood and she would move into upset and frustrated mode that she wasn't being heard. 

Try to get eye-contact and say, "I know that you want a treat right now." You might even point to the treat to help her further see that yes, you get it. "You may not have a treat right now. Even if you cry about it." I add in my own non-verbals. I shake my head no. 

Once your child knows you get what she is saying, it doesn't mean she will happily move along thinking, "Oh well. I wanted a treat but mom said no. That is okay."


She will likely cry. 

She is learning what it is like to be told no (and she doesn't like it). Once she realizes the fits don't get her anywhere, they will start to go away.

5-Don't Give In To Fits, Screaming, and Tears
And this leads me to the important factor to not give in to the tears. Don't say no unless you intend to stick with it. And once you have said no, stand by it. This gets trickier as kids get older; their desires are more complicated and you might get more information that can change your opinion on the matter. I am not talking about that. Your baby and/or toddler has very simple, basic desires. Take 10 seconds to think it through before you answer. You want to teach your baby that your rules don't change based on decibel levels or water shed. 

6-Give It Time and Consistency
You won't follow the above five steps and have this screaming solved in a week. Nope. Things are not that fast with children. It will probably take at least a month, maybe a few. Improvements will be made along the way, but it will take time for your child to move past the fit-throwing. Have faith! I promise it will work if you stick with the tips above.

7-Get the Family In On It
I find I often need to sit down with my older kids and really explain what is going on to them. I need to tell them why she is doing what she is doing and what their reactions do to help/hinder the situation. I need to tell them why I do what I do. And they get it once it is explained! (much like an adult being told about their reactions and how it affects their child). And they get on board. And they are supportive of helping to improve the situation instead of being three more hurdles for me to get over. And this is a new situation with Brinley--I never had issues with Kaitlyn or McKenna as babies. I think my kids were too young then.

Give the tips a try! You will start to see improvements and you will move toward communication happening and screaming and tantrums diminishing. 

Related Posts/Blog Labels:

Monday, December 16, 2013

How To Stop a Tantrum

Tantrums! Tantrums are NO fun. But did you know there are ways to stop a tantrum in its tracks? I do not jest. Here are some things I do when I have a young one starting a tantrum. When I was growing up, personal indulgence in a "wo is me" monologue was never entertained. My parents came from poor upbringings and so throwing any sort of fit over things seemed rather spoiled and, well, dumb. I think I have taken the experience from my childhood and applied it to my methods today.

These are all methods I use to stop a tantrum. I don't do each one each time and I don't do any special order. You kind of have to feel it out and go with what you think seems best at the moment. You will find some methods are more effective for different children or different ages.

1-Lighten the Mood
My most common thing to do when I have a little one starting a fit is to lighten the mood. I tickle. I joke. I get them laughing. You don't have to respond to tantrums with a firm, stern face. What you don't want to do is give in to the tantrum. So say your child starts throwing a fit because she wants to watch TV and you have told her no. You might start tickling her to get her to "turn that frown upside down," but you still don't turn the TV on. The rule stays, the attitude changes.

Mimicing seems to work best for the older toddler on into preschooler age range. Sometimes younger toddlers will stop with mimicing, too. Your child starts that fit and you join right in (though I don't think I ever match the magnitude). This is an extension of my suggestion to lighten the mood. Watching an adult throw a tantrum is quite entertaining. Then the child sees how silly it looks and usually goes from mid-cry to laughter.

3-Independent Play Time
Sometimes a child just needs to be alone. If your child is having a super grumpy day, do an extra session of Independent Play. Or make sure to get your one session in there. I often find if Brinley is having a grumpy morning, she will come out of Independent Play quite pleasant. 

4-Remain Calm and Basically Remain Unimpressed
As your child throws a tantrum, continue on with your business. If you weren't doing anything, find something to do. Wipe the counter off if you can think of nothing else. Fluff some pillows. Continue on as though that tantrum isn't phasing you in the least. Your child often wants some sort of reaction from you. If you react with some strong emotion, your child will feel a bit vindicated. 

5-Express Empathy
Sometimes you child needs you to pick her up and hold her and empathize. "I know you really wanted to watch a show. You can't right now, but I know you are disappointed about it."

Redirection can work for any age. Young toddlers can be physically moved to a better location or activity. Toddlers and young preschoolers can be directed to new activities. Preschoolers and children can be given a list of other options to choose from. As your child gets older, you can encourage personal problem solving by helping your child brainstorm what to do. "No, you cannot watch a show right now. Can you think of a different activity you could do instead?" (and if they try to pull the "nothing" thing, see this post: Discipline Phrase: "Just Sit and Be Bored")
See Substitution: Toddlerwise for more on redirection.

7-Tell Your Child To Stop
Sometimes, even admist all of these awesome tools I just listed, your child will carry on with the tantrum. At that point, I tell the child it isn't okay. It is okay to be sad or disappointed, but it isn't okay to carry on and throw a tantrum. If the child wants to continue throwing a tantrum, it will have to be done on his or her bed.

The next time you encounter a tantrum, try some of these methods out. Always remember to remain calm--that is your best tool ever. 

For more posts on discipline, see:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Family Home Evening

I often reference our Family Home Evening, but I haven't ever dedicated a post entirely to it. I thought it was high time!

Simply put, Family Home Evening (FHE) is one evening a week when your family gets together to have a gospel-based lesson and spend time together. We also sing a song, pray, have family business, do an activity, and have a treat.

As you probably know, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. FHE is actually something that is asked of us to do by our Prophet. We are asked to do this on Monday nights if at all possible (having everyone do it the same night means we can have no other activities happening in the church on Monday night--Monday night is family night). This is a "why" vs. "how" thing though--the exact night is not of great importance--the importance is that it happens.

Again, to start simply, it is to protect and strengthen the family. Here is a quote:

"...our dedication to this program will help protect our families against the evils of our time and will bring us abundant joy now and throughout the eternities." (True to the Faith, Family Home Evening).

We are also told:

"It can bring spiritual growth to each member of the family, helping him or her to withstand the temptations which are everywhere. The lessons learned in the home are those that last the longest." Thomas S. Monson

Our church membership was first instructed to hold Family Home Evening in 1915. They were told these blessings would come from FHE:
  • Love at home will increase
  • Obedience to parents will increase
  • Faith will be developed in the youth
  • Youth will gain power to combat evil influences and temptations
These are all great reasons to do FHE. One that can be immediately measured is the obedience to parents. We really noticed this with Brayden when he was young. When he was a baby, we weren't great at having it. It wasn't until Kaitlyn was a baby and he was two that we really started doing this consistently. We saw a marked difference in Brayden's obedience.

Because of that experience, whenever I hear parents concerned about obedience with their children, I tell them to do FHE. So here I am telling you! And the other promises are just as great as the obedience. 

So the idea is picturesque and all, but let me just warn you, this isn't easy. It isn't like your children happily trot over to the couch each Monday night with excitement in their eyes and then sit still and listen eagerly to what is taught. 

My husband and I often look at each other after we are done and just wonder what is the point? Did anyone get anything out of that lesson? A few years ago, David A. Bednar shared this at our church's General Conference:

"Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then the verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as 'He's touching me!' 'Make him stop looking at me!' 'Mom, he's breathing my air!' Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected."

That is so true!

He goes on to point out that his sons (now grown) don't remember specific lessons--the lessons were not life changing, defining moments. What the remember is the consistency. He then compares these things we do as parents to creating a beautiful painting. Each prayer, scripture study, and family home evening is one brush stroke and "...our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results."

Another recent quote I love is from Jeffrey R. Holland. He said,

"So if you are trying to do the best you can--if, for example, you keep trying to hold family home evening in spite of the bedlam that sometimes reigns in a household of little bedlamites--then give yourself high marks..."


So no, it isn't a walk in the park. Know that now. But it is worth it.

And there have been times I have KNOWN my child was not listening during a lesson, but later talks about that lesson and knows what was shared. So even though they seem like they aren't internalizing, they might be.

It is quite simple.
  1. Choose one night of the week. Have it this night every week.
  2. Be consistent. This is like working out--consistency is what brings results. But if you miss a week, don't through it all out the window and assume there will be no benefit.
  3. Our night looks like this: Song, prayer, family business, lesson, activity, treat, closing prayer. Not every night is the exact same--some nights we don't have an activity. Some nights it is all activity.
    1. Note on family business--we each take a turn and share what we have going on for the week. I love this! I love having everyone know what the plans are for the week.
    2. Note on taking turns--we each take a turn doing each thing. So one week, Brayden is on prayer, the next he leads the song, the next he gives the lesson, the next he chooses the activity, etc. We each have a turn for each thing and all rotate.
    3. When it is 
    4. Activities can be a variety of things. You can go for a walk, play a game, do service, go through emergency preparedness things, watch a movie, etc. The idea is to have fun as a family.

There you have it! You should give it a try! It is a great way to have scheduled time as a family where you talk about moral standards and get some good quality family time in. You also have the bonus of organizing your week. And of course, being able to refer to your children as bedlamites every so often. It is all a win-win ;)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Importance of Teaching Morals

When parents encounter a problematic behavior with their child, they usually want a quick list of "how-to" so they can quickly fix the behavior. Sometimes those lists can be helpful, and I know my posts with those lists are some of the more popular posts on this blog.

Here comes the BUT. 

BUT you can't rely on these posts alone. Maybe these lists can help you see some initial improvement, BUT if you want to see some long-lasting improvement, you need to focus on true and basic morals. You need to understand them and teach them to your children. You don't want to simply teach "don't hit" and "share your toys" and "speak kindly" and "don't pick the neighbor's flowers"--you want to teach your child WHY all of these things are a good idea (and remember, teaching why typically is effective around age 3--before that you tend to stick to teaching how).

And why do you want to teach why? Because teaching why helps a child to be able to act correctly in the future. Not with perfection; no human acts perfectly all the time. Behavior will be much better, however, with an understanding of moral principles than without.

A quote I love is:
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. -Boyd K. Packer

This is a very succinct way of putting it. In other words, studying what behaviorists, psychologists  psychiatrists  and so forth, have to say with your "how-to" lists on behavior with not improve behavior as simply studying the moral standards outlined in scripture. Most moral standards in scripture are accepted socially as high moral standards also (though, we know, this is declining. Not even all ten commandments are socially followed anymore).

On Becoming Childwise really focuses on teaching morals and this is why. Teaching morals changes behavior faster and more efficiently than memorizing a list of "if/thens." It will also help you to be a more confident parent. This removes pressure of the "how"--because the how isn't important. The why is important. So long as the how is effective in producing the why, it is great! So when you get the why, you can naturally and confidently institute the how of your choice.

Here are posts on morals:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Be Directive, Positive, and Concrete

Hands on car
by Hank Osborne

Most parents of little ones use words like "no," "don't," and "stop". That is natural in the fact that you can't expect a child to automatically know their boundaries. And it is completely unfair to a child to try and hold them accountable for something they have not been trained on. As the Ezzo’s teach, “you can’t correct what you have not trained.” As parents we have to be careful. These negative terms can become an unhealthy habit. Children need to know what [to] much if not more so than what [not] to do. So what can parents do to balance out these negative phrases?

  Be Directive - First let me say that we still have to train the “no,” “don’t,” and “stop.” Young children must understand their boundaries. However, you can say, “the TV remote is a no touch. Go play with your cars.” With an example like this we tell them what they are doing wrong, but at the same time we are not leaving them to figure out what they can do.

Watch for the Sneaky One - Some kids love the line. In the Growing Kids God’s Way curriculum the Ezzos call them micro-rebellious children. These kids try you to see exactly what you mean when you give an instruction, especially when the instruction has some wiggle room. You might tell your child to stay on the carpet and they stand along the edge and just hang a toe over onto the hardwood. You are not sure whether they are just trying to be cute until you see the sheepish little grin that screams, “What are you going to do about that?!” Yes, this is full out rebellion.

Use Positive Words - Instead of telling your child to “stop chewing on your nails,” you might say, “put your hands in your pockets.” Instead of saying “don’t hit your brother,” you might say “be gentle.” Instead of saying no yelling, you might say “use inside voices.” Of course these things require some teaching and we must not obsess with using positive words.

Use Concrete Terms - This one goes along with a couple of the previous items in that you are using positive terms to be directive as opposed to saying to your pre-schooler, “DON’T MOVE!” while you unload the baby from the car seat. Anne Marie Ezzo shares a tip on how to make use of concrete terms in this situation as demonstrated in a video clip taken from a Toddlerhood Transition class. You can train your child to put their hands on the car using simple positive words that they understand and have practiced at home.

Hank Osborne is the father of four boys plus a baby on the way. He produces a parenting podcast and blog at

Monday, October 22, 2012

Encouragement as Discipline

Huh? Encouragement as discipline? But encouragement is positive, and discipline is negative, right?

Nope! Discipline is teaching and guiding. It doesn't mean being angry, upset, or even disappointed. It means you are guiding your children in the direction they should go. Remember last week when we talked about your example as a tool of preventative discipline? Encouragement is another tool of prevention.

On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise states, "...there is also the encouragement side of training which is always positive, affirming and serves to motivate" (page 117).

What are some ways we can be encouraging?

Thank for Obedience
Thank your children for being obedient. Tell your child she did a great job at coming to you when you called her. Offer encouraging words when your child decides to be obedient.

Do this even when you have had to remind her several times and when she is doing it begrudgingly. When my children are obeying in this manner, I often thank them with a twinkle in my eye and I exaggerate the thanks. This often makes them giggle and snap out of the bad mood and into a good one.

Catch Good Deeds
Your child will often do kind things or right things without you having to instruct her to do so. Recognize these moments. Offer her encouraging words, give her hugs, thank her, and/or talk about how that makes her feel inside. Help your child to recognize that choosing correct behavior leads to her feeling happy inside.

Recognize the Effort
Whether your child tried to control her temper but failed, or worked really hard to sweep the floor (and did a great job or a job you might expect from three year old capabilities), recognize the effort that was put into it. 

"I could tell that you really tried to not yell. That was good work." Then you can talk about ways she can be more successful next time. 

"Thank you for all of your work in sweeping the floor. You worked really hard." And don't go on behind her and pick up all that she missed.

When you are encouraging and focus on the positive, your children will want to be even better. They will work harder and put more effort into doing the right thing. That is why I will often thank for obedience even when it is not with the best attitude. They are children after all--adults get grumpy and stomp around  why would a child be any different? A way a child is different is in the ability to snap out of a bad mood quickly, and focusing on the positive helps them do that. Once the attitude is improved, you can sometimes point out, "Isn't it much nicer to be in a happy mood than a grumpy mood?" Most of the time, however, let experience do the teaching. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Love and Logic Magic: Share the Thinking

image source
Principle number four in  Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood  is to share the thinking. This means you have your child sit and think through options--no matter what the question is--rather than just deliver the answer.

This is applied to discipline very well. I have found that when I ask my children what they think should happen when they do something wrong, they come up with a much harsher punishment than I would deliver myself. I sometimes go with their consequence, but most often I suggest something I think is more appropriate for the crime and the child is then very happy to accept whatever it is that is coming. 

Having the child think through things like this helps them really process it and evaluate it. Was it wrong? Why was it wrong? What should happen because it was wrong? 

This helps the child to learn from the mistake and also helps the child to not get angry at the consequence giver. Love and Logic Magic states "Successful people never fail; they turn failures into wisdom." Thinking through the scenario and what should be done about it helps the child to turn that mistake or failure into wisdom. They really learn from it. 

What age can you try this? I would say in certain situations, a three year old can handle this. Three is the age most children start to understand morals, so moral thinking can happen in a three year old. Judge for yourself what age your child is ready. I would start analyzing it at age three.

Related Blog Labels:

Monday, October 15, 2012

More is Caught Than Taught

By the time your child is a pre-toddler (ages 12-18 months), you have no doubt noticed that your child is a little mimic. Your child will start to do some strange action over and over only for you to realize you do that same thing. Children do what the adults in their lives do. Often times this is magnified--some something small you do or say will be exaggerated by your child, making it more noticeable.

I remember when Kaitlyn was a pre-toddler. She started to have an obsession with pushing her long sleeves up. I thought it was quite odd for a child of her age. She did it so intentionally that I knew she had picked it up from someone. As I observed people around her, I quickly saw it was from my mom. My mom always pushed her sleeves up if she had long sleeves. 

So what's the point of this other than that it can be incredibly cute (or incredibly embarrassing at times)? "Beware now and in the future, when it comes to training, more is caught than taught, which means your example forms lasting impressions" (On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise page 117).

I love that--it is catchy. More is Caught Than Taught

Your example is paramount. You can sit and have lessons on appropriate behavior, but your example will teach more than your words ever can. If you find your child's behavior unacceptable, the first place to look is at yourself. Are you doing that behavior in some way?

The next place to look is at siblings. Younger siblings look to the older siblings and "catch" all of their behavior. Then look to other caretakers, family members, and friends. If your child is picking up bad habits from friends, you can minimize it by shortening exposure to the friends. Your child needs to learn to be able to be around friends without problems, but we all pick up on things from the people we are around. 

Minding your example is the first step in correcting children. This is the preventative side of correction. The prevention side of correction is so much more powerful than the corrective side of prevention. Preventing problems takes a lot of work initially, but it makes life much easier in the long run. 

I have written many times on example. Here are the posts:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Constantly Needing to Correct the Child

3.5 years ago, I wrote a post for titled Siblings and the Funnel. In it, I cautioned parents against allowing younger siblings the same freedoms as the older siblings. I talked about why it happens and what to do about it.

This was written shortly before my third child was born. If I thought it was difficult to parent inside the funnel with two children less than two years apart, I had no idea what I was in for with the three children, and I am sure as I sit now with a fourth child who is a newborn, I don't know the challenges I will face with children 7 years apart.

On Becoming Pretoddlerwise cautions against parenting outside the funnel, including with siblings. The authors, Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, point out that we don't want to allow 15 month olds 2 year old freedoms or two year olds 5 year old freedoms (see page 106). Why do we not want to allow children to do things that are not age-appropriate? On a physical level, children can get hurt, hurt others, and damage property. 

You will also see the child is very disobedient. "If you start to see that you are constantly correcting, chasing after your pretoddler, if he throws a fit when you remove an object from his hands, or you find yourself repeatedly removing your child from the same unpleasant situations, these are realistic indicators that you are parenting 'outside the funnel' " (pages 106-107).

You certainly can (and will) find yourself parenting outside the funnel when you have just one child. It happens. As parents we are all learning on the job. I think we notice and correct it faster with just one child, though. With siblings, we easily fall into the mistake of allowing the child to do things that are not age appropriate for her. I think we need to make a conscious effort to avoid it--and I find that more true with more children.

On the flip side, always remember to give freedoms when the child is ready. If you withhold freedoms  the child will be frustrated. I think this most often happens with an oldest child.

If you find you have been allowing too many freedoms and you are now trying to cut back, know that some children are tenacious enough to repeatedly try to hold on to that freedom for quite some time. Two of my children will respond pretty immediately to reigning in of freedoms, but my third little one can and often will hold on to trying to maintain that freedom well beyond the time frame that seems reasonable. Some of you may have similar personality types :)

Next week, we will talk about how to set boundaries and I will address doing so with siblings. Sure, with an oldest child you can keep toys that are too old for the child out of reach, but when you have a 7 year old and a 3 year old in the house, how do you keep the 3 year old from playing with toys meant for 7+? More on that next week. For now, learn more about the funnel and freedoms:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk...Or Is There?


I am typically a very calm, patient person. I have excellent control over my emotions on every level--few people on earth have seen me cry. You no the phrase "no use crying over spilled milk"? I took that to heart. I have always been very patient with spilled milk, even when the spill came due to carelessness or goofing off. Brayden and Kaitlyn both quickly became children who rarely spilled. I just gave a gentle reminder about being careful or not goofing around...

McKenna came along and she is decidedly less careful about such things. She is so happy in life that something like spilling milk all over herself isn't annoying at all. Sure, a nice quality to be happy. Not an inexpensive quality--especially when you get your milk from the local dairy--but it's not about the money (money, money...). I maintained my patience with her.

Then came this glorious April day when I did lose my patience. Here I am, getting ready to go help in Brayden's class. I needed to have myself ready, Brayden ready, and Kaitlyn ready by 8:40 AM. McKenna did not have to be ready, which is nice since she sleeps until 8-8:30 AM. I know some of you are ready and out the door daily much earlier and might laugh at this being a struggle for me, but you do have to understand that with being pregnant and needing to sit still for at least 30 minutes after I eat breakfast or I will puke all over, it cuts into my abilities.

So the scene is that I had five minutes before I needed to be out the door and I hadn't even touched my hair or make-up yet. I was in my room, not far from the kitchen, while McKenna ate breakfast. She called to me requesting more milk. I hurried out there because she is extremely independent and I knew she would get it herself if I didn't do it. Despite my hurry, when I arrived on scene she had successfully spilled the entire half gallon of milk all over the bar, floor, chairs, was everywhere. I maintained my cool (outwardly). I cleaned this huge mess up. Just as I wiped the last bit of milk, she was doing some dance and her hands came down and spilled the milk in her cup. 

At that moment, all patience left me. I literally thought about the advice "no use crying over spilled milk" and decided that is silly advice anyway. At least once a day, I was cleaning up a mess of spilled milk from McKenna and this was getting really old. I got her down from her chair, wiped her up, and informed her that she was done eating breakfast. Just then, my dad walked in the house (he was there to watch McKenna while I was gone), took one look at me and offered to clean the mess up for me. It is amazing how even in my 30s my parents can sometimes just save the day for me sometimes. Aren't parents great?

About a week later, a friend and I were talking about cleaning up milk spills and how old it gets when it hit me. McKenna hadn't spilled milk since that day. It was, in fact, over a month and a half later before she spilled anything again. I realized something: sometimes there is use crying over spilled milk. Sometimes being unendingly patient about it just gives the child no reason to try not to spill it. She was obviously being careless before and had obviously put effort into not spilling.

So I  have a new policy. I don't get upset over accidents--and I think that is partially what the old phrase is trying to teach us. Accidents happen, there is nothing we can do about it, and there is no use making a big fuss over a genuine accident. Even adults spill things sometimes. There is no use in crying over what you can't change. You can't change behavior that is purely accidental.

I do, however, get upset over things getting spilled due to carelessness or general goofing around at the table. There will be a consequence for it. It might be as simple as a reminder to be more careful and that we don't play at mealtimes (we can visit, we can enjoy each others company, but we don't tickle or try to grab each other's stuff). It might be that the child needs to have water to drink instead of milk so that the clean-up for carelessness is easy. Maybe the child needs to be done altogether--it is all case by case and moment by moment. And in these cases, crying over the spilled milk, so to speak, leads to behavior chage.

So sometimes you do cry over spilled milk. Sometimes crying once over spilled milk can move the milk from being spilled at least daily to once a month at most. That is useful in my book.


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