Archive for Behavior Anticipation

Why I Avoid Arguing with Children

When parents and children live in the same house for years, tensions can get a little high at times.  It may be that parents feel children need to be disciplined and children do not like it.  It could be that children are trying to gain a certain amount of independence and parents are not willing to let go.  Where ever the tensions stem, emotions can rise which fuels arguments.  In this post, I am going to let you in on a little parenting psychology and show you the strategies I use for avoiding arguments with children.

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The Allowance Dilemma

A question was posed to me recently about what age is the right place to start to get an allowance and what the conditions should be.  Here are my thoughts and they may surprise you a bit.

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Underlying Problems

St. Joseph Children’s Home was the place where I learned many of skills pertaining to how to work with difficult children.  There were certain house parents who did a great job with these children and others who struggled.  I worked hard to learn from the best.  It is my intent in the article to give you an inside look at a parenting strategy used.  One of the tricks to dealing with misbehavior is to find and correct as many underlying problems as possible.  When this is accomplished , a parent will either reduce the size and scope of the problem or eliminate it.

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Applying Discipline

Many parents I talk to want to know my “smoking gun” of discipline.  They are interested in finding out how I have made very difficult children behave in such a pleasant manner.  No one is perfect with children and I’ve had moments when I wish I would have done things a little better.  Overall though, I work well with difficult children.  Today, I’m going to give you some insight on how I accomplish this.

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4th and Goal

The readers who have visited my blog know my passion is parenting.  I LOVE being a dad and I love to watch other parents work their magic.  Sometimes, I see things that make me cringe.  Today’s post though is going to relay a story that gives me yet another assurance that this parenting stuff really work.

Last weekend, my son and I worked together on catching passes before his flag football game.  A boy I’ll call Jack wanted to play with us.  I’ve known Jack several weeks.  He’s a nice child but is a little temperamental at times.

We played a game where my son played offense and Jack played defense on him at the two yard line and I gave each child 4 downs to score a touchdown.  My son was able to score on Jack so now it was Jack’s turn to play offense.  Jack did a great job of getting away from Cameron on 1st down but was unable to catch my pass so we moved to 2nd down.

2nd and 3rd down were a bit rougher for Jack because my child played better defense.  It didn’t help that on third down- a clown could have thrown the football better than me.  Therefore, we moved to 4th down.

On 4th down, both children worked hard.  I held the ball for a while because I really wanted Jack to score.  In the end though, my son’s defense was tough and my throw was a hair off.  The result was an incomplete pass.

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6 Parent/Teacher Conference Tips Not Often Heard

Parent- teacher conferences are a time where there should be a meeting of the minds.  Teachers should be able to lay out their case for the child’s progress academically, socially, and emotionally.  Parents should be able to compare what they are hearing to what is going on at home.  At that point, a plan should come together as to how to work with the child going forward. It should be the ultimate collaboration crammed into about 15 minutes.

When I was a teacher, I was meticulous about laying out my arguments about how a child was performing before a parent walked through my door.  Instead of dominating the meeting, I would lay out these arguments as quickly as possible in order to allow the parent to agree or disagree with my assessment.  Because I have been on both ends of the parent teacher conference table ( I was an elementary teacher for 7 years) perhaps these tips will guide you through a conference.

 

The first tip is for a parent to keep samples of student work just like a teacher.  This is especially helpful if there is a disputed grade in a subject.  Bring the student work to the conference and compare it with the work the teacher presents.

The second tip is to respect the knowledge of the teacher concerning your child but don’t take it as the law.  You have been around your child for years.  At this point, a teacher has had your child two months (give or take).  I’m not saying that teachers do not know what they are talking about.  What I am saying is that you know your child better than anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trusting your instincts unless the teacher can present irrefutable evidence.

The third tip is to approach the conference as a problem solver.  The last thing a parent should want is to be lectured for 15 minutes about poor grades or behavior then sent home shamefully.  Let’s pretend there is a behavior problem in the classroom.  As a parent, you should be able to present a few effective methods you have used at home for handling discipline. If concentration is an issue, what do you do at home to help your child concentrate?

The fourth tip is for parents to understand that teachers aren’t the only professionals in the room.  All parents should be treated like professionals because when it comes to your child, you might as well have a PH. D.  If you feel like you are being talked down to or belittled by a teacher, you can choose to address it on the spot.  If you are not confrontational or if you have a situation that catches you off guard; going to the principal is always a good option.

My fifth bit of advice is to not get too excited or too depressed about the results of a parent/teacher conference.  A conference is simply a snapshot in time.  If a conference goes well, be happy for your child but understand there is still more work to do.  If a conference doesn’t go well, that’s fine in most cases.  There is  plenty of time to turn the problem around.

Finally, here’s the key once a conference has concluded.  Follow up with the teacher (in the next couple of weeks) by phone or email to make sure that the game plan from the conference is being implemented to everyone’s satisfaction.  Often, I had parents who I would not see again until the next conference 5 months later.  It’s much better for all parties (especially children) when the parent clearly demonstrates they are keeping their finger on the pulse.

I hope you liked today’s article.  Don’t forget that there are many other lessons parents can learn from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  Feel free to read the preface located right below my picture.  I hope the lessons you will learn from the book will serve your family well.  Here’s the direct link to the book from www.lulu.com:   http://tiny.cc/8gs8o

I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on www.claytonpaulthomas.com.  For everyone who has ever cared enough to leave a thought on my website, I truly appreciate your time and effort.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  Have a terrific weekend.

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Why Smart Parents Do Dumb Things

If you enjoy this post, consider purchasing my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  It’s full of insights and stories to help all parents use effective discipline strategies.  The reviews at the top of this page will tell you how much others have enjoyed it.  Using the code Tango305 at checkout will also give you a 15% discount.  Here’s the direct link to the book.  http://tiny.cc/sb265

Have you ever wondered at the end of a day why things didn’t go as planned?  Not only does it happen in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well.  Although everyone makes mistakes, I am taking this one step beyond.  Here’s a quick story from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures to demonstrate the point.

One day, several house parents and I were going to take the children from St. Joseph Children’s Home off campus for an activity.  That morning I needed to cook breakfast.  One of my boys I’ll call “Shane” was horse playing with me a bit too much.  I needed to work though so I asked him to get an egg for me just to give him something to do and keep us on task.  As I bent over to get the pan, Shane decided to tease me a bit by holding the egg over my head.  Unfortunately, it cracked and the yolk fell into my hair and all over my nice clothes.  The reaction I had was not one of my finer moments.

I remember being so upset mainly because we were in a hurry.  I hollered, “Damnit Shane!”  He became instantly frightened of me.  I don’t remember ever cursing at another child.  As a matter of fact, I don’t raise my voice to children often so my reaction was completely out of character. Of course, we made amends but this was the dumbest way I have ever reacted to a child.

Although we, as parents, love our children, are educated, and have common sense, we don’t always react well when things do not go our way.  The dumb things we do are numerous but they may include yelling, hitting, ignoring, or frightening (in my case) a child.  Here are three reasons we do them.

1.  Lack of patience– Sometimes we get into a hurry to stay on schedule.  When this happens and our child messes up, it throws us off even more.  That’s when our patience is really tested.  For example, this could happen in the morning while you are preparing your child for school and he/she is dragging along.  Some parents may say or do something they will regret because they are feel a sense of urgency not shared by the child.

The solution, of course, is to place the child to bed earlier so he/she won’t drag along as much or wake the child up a few minutes earlier.  In the heat of the moment, keeping your cool even if the child is tardy is better than losing your composure.

2.  The pressure of others– Some parents have a hard time accepting a child for who they are.  Maybe the extended family or close friends have some overly smart or athletic children.  The parent may want to assume their child should be overly smart or athletic as well.  They may unreasonably push their child to improve but never be satisfied with the results or the hard work the child gives.

I have met so many people who never felt “good enough” for their parents and that is a shame.  Though I don’t believe feeling pressure as a parent is a bad thing, driving a child into the ground in order to achieve a narrow minded definition of success seldom works out.  The child eventually feels bitter and parents are stuck wondering why.

3.  Parents want their children to grow up too fast-This goes along with number two to an extent.  Some of us have an idea of what our children should be doing academically, athletically, or emotionally at any given moment.  But, when reality confronts our expectations, some of us don’t react as well as we should.

A good example of this is when I couldn’t understand why my older son (who was 4 at the time) was busy looking in the sky watching airplanes while he was supposed to be paying attention during his soccer games.  In my mind, I wanted him to be one of the better soccer players on the team.  The reality was that he wasn’t ready.  Nothing I could do would change that.  Over time though, he did improve.  But, I struggled throughout the season because his improvement didn’t revolve around my schedule.

There are a few things parents can do to limit future mistakes.  The first is to own up to the ones you have already made with your children.  Talking to a spouse or a person you trust can also help keep you accountable.  The most important thing though is being honest with the person you see in the mirror.

Another thing you can do is to pay for your mistakes- literally.  Set aside a jar and for each time you repeat a mistake (losing your cool for example) place a $20 bill in the jar.  The amount shouldn’t be enough to break you but it should be enough to get your attention. Sooner or later, you’ll get the message.  Eventually, you can use the cash collected for something useful like the child’s college tuition.

Now that I have told on myself, feel free to leave a comment if you are guilty of doing something dumb as well!  It can be serious or funny.  I’m certain that I am not alone on this issue. (ha ha)

Best wishes and I’ll write to you again Tuesday!

The Psychology of Teenage Discipline

The following is a guest post I wrote for radicalparenting.com.  Their focus is on teenagers and the hardships with parents.  They contacted me and asked if I would write an article.  I was more than happy to help!

The teenage years are a time when the biggest power struggle can occur in most households.  On the one hand, there is a child who feels they should be given the keys to the Cadillac.  On the other side, there is a parent who is not ready to let their baby go.  Though most parents and teenagers are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum- I think you get the point.  Teenagers want to be free of their parents and parents have a hard time letting go.

With this in mind, the question then is how should discipline be handled?  This is a complex question but the point of this post is to give parents some insights and hopefully add to their “parenting tool belt.”

The first thing parents of teens should know is that they are not alone.  Many parents struggle with the same issues.  Just because there are problems in your household doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or you have a bad child.  As a matter of fact, I would worry a bit more if there wasn’t a clash.  Typically, a lack of clashes means one of two things.  Either a teenager doesn’t want to see beyond the walls of your home or the parent doesn’t set any boundaries and the teenager is running wild.  Both circumstances are dreadful.

With this in mind, here are a couple of thoughts to assist with the inevitable clash.

Anxious Moments or Something More

I am very excited to write to you today! I want to thank everyone who sent a parenting question.  I will be answering questions not chosen privately by email.

The question I chose from “Billy” asks if I have worked with children who had anxiety issues and what strategies I used.  I like this question because it is a bit tricky and I enjoy a challenge.

First, please understand it’s difficult for me to group children who have anxiety together. That’s because anxiety is an extremely broad topic.  Some children I worked with have shown signs of anxiety because of something that happened in school.  Depending on the circumstances, symptoms didn’t last very long.  Others though showed anxiety from severe abuse suffered long before they were in my care.  The symptoms were treated with medication and lasted for years.

I read from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America that it may be time to see a doctor if the issues last beyond a month and there are several treatment options.  I am not a medical professional but that seems like a good rule of thumb.  For the sake of this blog, I am going to pretend that the anxiety issues are less than a month old.

My first question to Billy is where does anxiety stem?  Did the child watch a scary movie?  Was there a death in the family?  Is there an upcoming test in school that has the child on edge?  Is there something on the child’s mind he/she doesn’t want to talk about but is driving them crazy? (Drugs, pregnancy)  Getting to the heart of the matter is often a good first step in anxiety relief.

My oldest child once hid a poor school note from me for two days.  The anxiety climaxed when he became physically sick while at school.  Basically, his teacher had confronted him because I had obviously not signed the note. Once I picked him up and he finally told me what happened, consequences were assessed due to the behavior but his anxiety was instantly relieved.

A second step to help a child relieve anxiety is to be a supportive listener.  When I was a child, I had a lot of anxiety issues due to not being popular and bullied at school.  My mother went with the “it will pass someday” philosophy.  Granted she was correct.  But, that “someday” turned out to be years later.  I can vividly remember examples of days when my stomach would be in knots and constant tension in my head that wouldn’t seem to go away.

Children I have subsequently worked with over the years have had the same issues I felt.  I found that being a good listener and advocating where I felt it was appropriate really assisted in anxiety relief.  When a child knows you are there for them and believes you can help, anxiety will typically be decreased.  The key though is the belief in you.  If a child doesn’t believe you can or are really willing to help, merely talking to you probably won’t be enough to relieve the anxiety.

On a side note, it is important to know a little anxiety is not a bad thing.  For example, anxiety can keep a child attentive while taking a test.  It can also give a child an extra pep in their step while on a football field.

There are a lot of things I am leaving out because this is a complex issue.  I encourage Billy and everyone who is interested to check out this website from the aforementioned Anxiety Disorders Association of America for more information.  I believe you will find the general tips helpful.  http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children-and-teens/tips-parents-and-caregivers/help-your-child-manage-traumatic-

Housekeeping note:

I want to thank the people who take the time to read my material and pass it along to others.  Some of my recent articles have received more attention on Facebook and Twitter than I have ever seen. I’m thrilled you think enough of my work to share it with the people you know and love.

Have a super weekend and I’ll write to you again Tuesday.

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Three Don'ts of Discipline

First, let me send a note of thanks to people who have sent parenting questions they would like answered on my blog this Friday.  For anyone who would like to send a parenting question- feel free.  My mind has not been made up yet as to which one I will answer.  The email address is tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Last Thursday, I wrote the Three Do’s of Discipline.  Please check it out at http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/550 because it leads directly into this blog. Today, I want to flip the script.  There are some things you shouldn’t do when disciplining your child at any age.  I realize that all rules have exceptions.  But, by and large, what you are about to read will save any parent from a lot of stress and headaches.

1.  Don’t discipline your child if you aren’t thinking two steps ahead.

Any chess player knows you have to outwit and outmaneuver your opponent in order to be successful.  Parenting isn’t much different.  Any parent should be able to talk to their child in such a way to get them to open up, calm down, or discipline to redirect him/her.  You never want the tail to wag the dog if you know what I mean.

What happens though is that parents get caught up in the emotion of the situation.  When this occurs, they start to lose their composure which is one of the greatest advantages any parent should have over a misbehaving child.  When a parent loses their composure, it’s much more difficult to think two steps ahead.  Mark my words.  Parents who discipline when they are not composed make mistakes.

2.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

This is a common saying where I am from.  I am using the phrase to mean to separate the overall good of the child from the bad behavior.  If parents were to chart the good versus bad things their children did, many would be surprised to find the amount of good in a child perceived as poorly behaved. Sometimes, parents get so consumed with a poor behavior that they fail to see the qualities of the whole child.  One of my strategies is to find (and file away) the good qualities of a difficult child immediately to combat the behaviors I may see down the line.

Let’s say that I see a child, who struggles controlling their anger, start to rev up.  I want to catch them before the wheels come unhinged and remind them of another time they were able to control their anger.  My theory is if they can do it once, they can do it again.  This tactic has worked countless times but it does take some quick thinking, patience, and self control on my part.

3.  Don’t allow children who struggle with discipline to stay idle.

This tactic is difficult and time consuming but is well worth it.  Children who struggle with self discipline need to stay busy as much as possible.  When they are idle, he/she is more likely to get into trouble.  Therefore, at dinner time, for example, I won’t cook alone if I have a child in the room who struggles with behavior.  The child may be helping me prepare the food, be put to a task (such as reading) or be sent outside to burn off some energy.

I can’t assume a child who struggles with discipline will magically “get it” one day.  What I can assume is that I will put in the time and training to assist as long as I am needed.  There are times, of course, when we have to let children go in order to evaluate what has been learned and what needs to be improved.  Sometimes, the child will misbehave and we have to start over from square one.  There are other times though they will do something right (help a friend, control their temper, etc).  This feeds right in with point two which is very exciting.

Here’s a final thought I’ll make about discipline.  Whether you are working with a “terrible two” or your teenager is testing his/her boundaries, discipline is essential.  Though it can be really hard work, there’s a big personal satisfaction to the parent who watches their “little hellion” start to grow up and implement the discipline that was painstakingly implemented.

I wish you well and can’t wait for Friday’s question/answer post!

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