Tag Archive for Behavior

3 D's of Discipline

Have you ever noticed that parenting can be a lot like a roller coaster?  Sometimes, you are flying high after your child achieves a milestone and sometimes you feel like you’re going to “lose your lunch” based on something your child has done.  Today’s post is meant to assist parents when times are tough with a child and effective discipline is in order.

Many times, parents feel the low points when their child has misbehaved and it is time to implement some discipline.  The shock of the misbehavior may be enough for some of us.  Others though have an even harder time because it’s difficult to implement discipline in such a way as to educate versus retaliate.  It’s with this in mind that I’ve come up with three D’s you should remember when disciplining your child.

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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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Three Do's of Discipline

Housekeeping Note:

Welcome to my blog.  Thanks for the feedback on my slideshow presentation for Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  For those who haven’t seen it, click on the About the Book section located at the top of the blog.

Next Friday, I will have a question/answer blog.  Though I haven’t done this in a while, they are very popular and the parenting questions I get are thoughtful, serious, and sometimes zany (which I enjoy).  If you have a question about a real or hypothetical parenting situation, send it to tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Too often, parents think of discipline in terms of “How to get that child back for what he/she did” or “How can I punish my child sorry for all the gray hair he/she is causing me.” Although consequences/punishment can be a form of discipline, it’s better to think of discipline in an overall behavioral context.  Discipline is simply a means of teaching right and wrong.  When a parent uses discipline effectively, they can often solve a problem before feeling like they have to pull out their hair. With that in mind here are three do’s of discipline.

1.  Make sure your supervision coincides appropriately with the child’s age. For example- If your 3 year old gets in a drawer, finds a pair of scissors, and cuts their hair to the scalp while you were busy watching The View, I would worry more about you taking it as a learning lesson in supervision versus getting on the child for the inappropriate behavior.  3 year old children shouldn’t have that type of access to scissors nor the time to do the deed.

The same principal can be said of the 11 year old who is struggling in math.  If, for example, you know your child struggles in math and you don’t help them- how can you consequence his academic behavior?  Of course, if you do help the child and he/she still struggles, there could be a deeper issue and consequences still would not be warranted.  Contrarily, if they are not giving any effort to improve their work despite your due diligence, consequences may come into play.

2.  When a child misbehaves, reflect back to assess what you could have done better. Something I’ve noticed is that children don’t always mess up on their own accord without a reason (unless we are talking about toddlers who are in their own world).  When a child talks back to their parent, fights their sibling, or misbehaves in school, there’s usually a reason.  Although consequences may still be warranted, sharp parents will dig to the root of the problem to avoid a repeat performance.  In past blogs, I have referred to this as keeping your finger on the pulse.

3.  Turn down the burner before stirring the pot. When I cook spaghetti, I turn the burner on high, boil the water, and turn the burner back down before I place the spaghetti in the pot and stir it.

This analogy is used because something similar happens when discipline is needed with children.  When a child is angry and misbehaving, the blood is already “boiling.”  At this point, I have a couple of options.  I could decide to consequence the behavior on the spot or I could wait for the child to calm down while staying close enough to keep him/her safe.  Waiting is very difficult and sometimes takes an extreme amount of patience.

If I consequence the child on the spot, it would be like never turning the burner down on the stove.  Eventually boiling water will escape the pot.  Children are not fun to work with once things have gone this far so I typically take a different approach although I have the right to use either method.

I like to turn the burner down on children.  By this I mean my own voice is under control, I will be a good listener, and I will apply consequences (if needed) based on the facts of the situation.  With smaller children, some parents may choose to use intimidation to get a child to calm down an angry child.  As a child gets older though, they are less apt to be intimidated-especially during the teenage years.  Turning down a child’s burner before stirring the pot with consequences has been a more effective way of dealing with difficult children for me.

If you’ve noticed closely, all 3 suggestions focused on us- the parents.  Don’t get me wrong, children misbehave all the time and there are times consequences have to be applied.  Regardless, the most effective parents I’ve seen and worked with have the three do’s down to an art.  The ones who didn’t were typically confused with why they were the parent of a “bad child.”

I’ll write to you again on Tuesday.  Until then, have a great weekend with your family!

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Growing Up Versus Getting Older

Good morning to all of you.  The more forceful tone of today’s post stems from several stories I have heard after my bullying post last week.  If you haven’t seen the post, it can be viewed at http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/480. Many emails were sent to tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.  Instead of responding to each one, I’m going to have to peel the gloves off a bit because there is a point which needs to be driven home.

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...

When it comes to bullying, disrespect, and general rudeness of children, let me be very clear.  Just because a child is getting older, that doesn’t mean he/she is growing up. Poor behaviors can be learned from a number of different means.  Neighborhood kids, older siblings, television, and even parents come to mind.

Getting older simply means the child/adult is still breathing.  Therefore, we are all getting older by the second.  By contrast, here’s what growing up means to me.  A child (or even an adult) is maturing and growing into a responsible citizen.  When a person is “growing up” he/she can make a positive impact on society in whatever way they choose.  For example, a 10 year old child who is going to school to learn is growing up.  Contrarily, a 16 year old punk who merely takes space in a classroom and causes trouble for others is only getting older.

There are times when parents dismiss poor behavior in a number of ways.  For example, some may say “My child is going through a phase.”  Others will use the line “They’ll (the children) grow out of it.” Although bullying along with the other behaviors mentioned often has roots in middle school, one of the reasons it persists in high school and beyond is due to the fact it was either not addressed at all or addressed so poorly, the child didn’t get the message.

There are also many behaviors not addressed in very young children which develop over time in aforementioned middle school students.  If you remember nothing else in the post- take this lesson to heart.  Poor behaviors in children are a lot like weeds.  If they are not removed, they will continue to grow until all the beauty around them is strangled.

The “phase argument” from parents is really misguided and over used so allow me to be clear.  Puberty is a phase.  By contrast, poor behaviors are signs of character flaws.  These flaws typically have not been adequately addressed completely by adults in the child’s life for whatever reason.  Many times, these character flaws are corrected with simple parenting or other adult intervention. (a school or church, for example)  Character flaws aren’t evil.  We all have spots in our character which could improve.  Besides, if our children were perfect already, they wouldn’t need us.  But, when we do not do our jobs as parents, these simple character flaws can grow.  Just like weeds, they are more difficult to remove the longer they are allowed to stay in place.

As parents, it’s our job to teach children right from wrong.   I can’t tell you how many character flaws I have corrected in children or how many flaws my mother corrected in me.  I can tell you I did my best to help the kids I worked with because it was important.  Your child does not need you to help them get older.  They can do that on their own.  Your child needs you to help them grow up.  The only question in the end is….. Will you take the time to care?

I will check in with you again on Tuesday.  Until then, take care of yourself and the ones you love.

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Equailty of Compliments and Consequences

I believe knowing and understanding the personality of a child is one of the most important things a parent can do.  It’s with this concept in mind that I’m going to teach how to get the most out of your child whether it be academically, athletically, socially, or emotionally.

Without getting too technical, let’s just agree that everyone responds to a stimulus in different ways.  For example, if a kid likes M&M’s, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use that as a reward when a desired behavior is achieved?  On the other hand, if the child doesn’t like strawberry ice cream, it would be ridiculous to use that as a reward. A parent would be wise to use what works.

I also think we can agree in general that compliments and consequences can and should be used to motivate a child.  But, how do you determine when to use one over the other?  For example, if a child brings home a poor grade from school, should you compliment the child? (Jimmy, you are so so smart.  I know if you try a little harder, you’ll be able to improve)  Perhaps the more prudent thing to do is to consequence him/her. (Jimmy, because you kissed your science grade goodbye, make sure to kiss your girlfriend goodbye as well because you’re grounded for a week)  Knowing your child well is the best way to determine how to handle the situation.

Unfortunately, the best answer I can give you is that trial and error is involved.  For example, with my 7 year old child, the optimum ratio of compliments and consequences is around. 50/50.  When I compliment him too much, he tends to not listen as much over time because he knows it all.  Contrarily, if I consequence him too much, he tends to lose a bit of confidence in himself over time.  I believe I know my child well enough and a proper balance has been struck.  It took time though to fully realize and implement this balance.

What’s interesting though is with my 3 year old, the ratio is very different.  With him, the optimum ratio is around 70/30.  He responds to compliments very well but struggles more with consequences.  That doesn’t mean I won’t give him consequences to get the desired behavior but I can usually get it quicker with compliments- especially in the world of academics. Again, this took time and a lot of mistakes on my part before striking the proper balance.

I haven’t done an extensive psychological study on this.  What I can tell you is that with all the kids I’ve worked with, there were plenty who responded better over time to consequences than compliments.  That could have been due to their background at home.  There’s no way for me to know.  The most extreme example of a child who fits this was probably a 30/70 ratio.

In conclusion, it’s up to every parent to find where the happy medium is between compliments and consequences.  There are a lot of cases though where the ratio isn’t 50-50.  Obviously, the way to know whether the compliment or consequence actually worked is to see if you receive the desired behavior.

I am fully aware this is a very tricky and often confusing subject.  If you have questions about this pertaining to your child, feel free to email me at tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading and I’ll have another post ready on Tuesday.  For all the people who refer my blog to others, I wanted to give a special thank you. It truly means a lot!!!

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Oppositional Behavior Question

Today, I want to answer a question I received from “a friend” about a child who is giving her some troubles behaviorally.  There have been books written about this topic but I hope the following will give you some concrete footing when attacking the problem.

The basic background is a mom and dad with three kids.  The oldest child is the type who hardly gives mom any trouble.  The middle can be a handful and the youngest is a baby.  I chose this topic because it’s a pretty common theme.  Although siblings may have similar genetic traits, they usually don’t have the same personality traits. (Funny how that happens)  This post is meant to address oppositional behavior and give some tips to this mom and anyone else who sees it in their home.

With the 400+ kids I’ve worked with, some of them were real stinkers (if you know what I mean).  Their m.o. would be to backtalk, fight, or be non-compliant when given a direction.  Interestingly enough, the age of the child didn’t matter.  They shared some common traits and the strategies I’m going to write about have worked with the most difficult children I have come across.

My first premise is there is a root cause to all behavior good or bad.  There’s a reason we feel the way we feel.  A good day may have been caused by a compliment we received from our spouse.  A bad day may have occurred because a co-worker was a jerk.  No matter what you are feeling right now, there is a reason.

Therefore, if a child is misbehaving, a parent would be wise to dig deep for that reason.  I’ll warn you though it isn’t always easy.  Take your time and be very patient in order to find the root cause of the problem.  This specifically means observing, talking to the child, and asking your significant other for any input.  If you don’t, any discipline action will simply not be as effective.  I will go as far as to say in some cases, it’s a waste of time.

Second, a simple concept addressed in my book deals with “buttons.”  This is a slight variation of point 1.  In essence, we all have them.  For example, if my wife pushes the right button with me, she can make me laugh.  If she pushes the wrong one, the response (shall I say) wouldn’t be the same.  I’ve heard it said we should be in control of our emotions which is true.  The thing is though we are all human and have built in positive and negative emotions that will surface in some way sooner or later.  It’s part of makes us human.

If you agree with my premise, couldn’t it be reasoned that children would have a more difficult time controlling emotions than adults?  If so, what button was pushed to set off the emotion?   Again, this has to be known for any consequence to work as effectively with a child demonstrating poor behavior.

Now that I’ve covered these two crucial points, I can tell you that I’m all for consequences when it comes to poor behavior.  Once I know what’s going on behaviorally with the child, it’s very possible a consequence is still in order.  The key with any consequence is it has to work. Don’t take this point for granted.  I realize this key sounds obvious but let me throw this question to you.  Do you know of a parent who consequences behavior by spanking; yet their child still misbehaves in the exact same manner?  Really, me too.  Let’s move on.

Proper consequences for oppositional behavior centers on really knowing your child and what buttons to push.  For some children, it’s time out or even the mere threat of it.  For others, it’s taking a toy/priveledge. Each child even under the same roof is different so choose your consequences carefully.  If your consequence doesn’t work, reassess what you did and where you went wrong.  The next time the oppositional behavior occurs (and it will) you will be better prepared to deal with it in a different manner.

Don’t forget that some children respond to consequences such as positive reinforcement.  Remember to not associate the word consequence with something negative.  For example, I’ve told kids in the “heat of the moment” that they could do better.  Would you believe I’ve instantly resolved incredible struggles while dealing with difficult children based on those words alone?  It’s not that easy with every kid but I could name each one it has worked with.  That’s because I knew the kids I’ve worked with that well.

Controlling oppositional behavior isn’t easy but it is necessary.  Although it’s possible they are “going through a phase” I wouldn’t count on it.  I’d advise to dig deep, attack the root problem, and work towards a resolution.  It’s been my experience that once you do this, you should have a happier home because you’ll be dealing with fewer and less severe struggles.   Hope this helps.

Now for some housekeeping notes:

1.  Thanks to all who have passed my blog around.  I don’t track who you are but let it be known how appreciated it is.

2.  If you look at the top of my page, you’ll find a new addition.  I have copy/pasted the entire preface to Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  I thought this would be a good way for people who didn’t know me to get a peek inside.  I would think it would be difficult to buy any book from a stranger if you couldn’t get a peek.  I think the preface will help.

3.  If you have a parenting question you would like answered, please send it to tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com. Just like today, identifying information isn’t released.

4.  I like the Tuesday/Friday blogs so I’ll see you Tuesday with another edition.  Have a terrific weekend!!!

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