The Power of Prevention

Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sometimes, when you’re thinking through the causes of misbehavior, you realize that your child was somehow set up for failure, and that preventative measures could have been taken to avoid the misbehavior. In that case, a consequence might not be appropriate, but the misbehavior could be a signal to you that systems need to be put in place to help your child succeed the next time.

Pay attention to patterns. Does your child have trouble behaving when she’s tired, hungry, dehydrated, overstimulated and so on. If so, how can you set her up for success?

A Word About Dehydration

On a quick side note, so many kids suffer from dehydration. Consider having two distinct water breaks in the day when your child sits down to drink water. The rule of thumb is half your child’s body weight in ounces of water per day. If he is sweating or doing physical activity, he’ll need more. An 80 pound child needs 40 ounces of water a day if he’s no sweating. That would mean four 10-ounce glasses! People tell us all the time that their kids drink plenty of water without any prompting, but we’ve found that’s usually not the case. Most kids won’t opt to drink four 10-ounce glasses in a day.

If your child is thirsty, she is already dehydrated, and dehydration can cause kids to misbehave.

Transitions

Transitioning from one activity to another or place to another can be challenging for some kids, especially toddlers and pre-schoolers. If your child often behaves badly during transitions, put measures in place to prepare your child for the transition.

An egg timer is a great thing! Pack one in your bag, and let your preschooler know you are setting it for five minutes. When the timer beeps, it’s time to go. Also create a transition routine. When my oldest son was small, transitions were very difficult for him (typical of autistic kids). I sang a goodbye song whenever they were leaving a place, and it helped him accept the transition.

Other Preventative Tips

Timers are also a great way to prevent arguments during turn-taking. When it comes to splitting something,Jody came up with a great tool for preventing arguments. One child divides the thing, and the other child chooses her half first.

Routines also help prevent misbehavior. Have consistent routines for meal times, bath and bedtime.

If you know your child has sensory integration difficulty, you may need to avoid large, crowded places. When you can’t avoid them, bring tools to help your child escape the stimulation (i.e. an ipad in restaurant, ear plugs, etc).

Poor grades could mean a student needs more help, or there’s an issue seeing the board or hearing the instructions. Your child may need extra help or have to be moved to a better location in the classroom. These are preventative measures.

Be careful about rushing your children needlessly. Your child shouldn’t suffer because of your bad time management habits. A pre-schooler who just learned to tie her shoes could melt down when she is rushed out the door and not allowed to practice her new skill.

Jody and I often say, “Your lack of preparation does not constitute an emergency on my part.” The same should hold true for our kids. Our lack of preparation should not constitute an emergency on our kids’ part.

Another important preventative measure is prepping our kids before we arrive someplace. Talk about what is expected of them. Explain to them what the environment will be like, who will be there, what foods they will be expected to eat, what forms of entertainment may or not be available, what they are allowed or not allowed to do, how long you’ll be there, etc. Role playing in the car on the way to a playdate is a great way to prevent arguments and empower your kids with tools in case things go wrong.

Our kids should also be memorizing scripture on a regular basis — at least a verse a week. Remember, God’s word is alive and powerful and can discern our thoughts. Getting the Word in their hearts is a long-term preventative measure for future misbehavior.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Positive Reinforcement Is Not Bribery

Reward Chart

Positive reinforcement is not to be confused with bribery. Bribery says, “If you do what I want, I’ll pay you.” It’s manipulation. Positive reinforcement is a reward system.

Negative reinforcement teaches “Bad choices = bad results”.

Positive reinforcement teaches “Good choices = good results”.

It’s is a great tool for rewarding self-control, hard work and a good attitude. Positive reinforcement can be used to reward the hard work that went into achieving good grades (good grades in and of themselves are a positive reinforcement), helping younger children make it through challenging situations like a long string of errands, and so on.

Allowance can be a positive reinforcement to reward consistency and excellence. You can also choose a prize, cut out a picture of it and use it as a motivation. A sticker chart can track progress toward the goal. This is also known as a token economy system: kids earn some form of reward trackers for specified behaviors, and when they reach the goal, they turn in the trackers (stickers, tokens, etc.) for the prize.

Praise is a great positive reinforcement and so is public recognition. Direct sales companies know this all too well and use recognition to push their sales force to perform at higher levels.

When my older daughter was little I worked. She cried every time I left the house, so I used a positive reinforcement to help her understand that working meant provision for our household. I brought her a catalogue and allowed her to choose a prize from it. We cut it out and taped it to a mason jar. Then I drew a meter on the other side of the jar and marked one line for each dollar it would take to earn the prize. Every time I came home from work, we put a dollar in the jar and colored in a line. When we reached the top of the meter, I bought her the prize. 

My oldest son is autistic, and positive reinforcement works extremely well for him. He will do just about anything if it means a reward. A reward can be a prize or time on the computer or TV or a special date with mom or dad, or it can even be money, depending on what we’re working on.

When he was younger, getting through a grocery store trip with an enormous feat. All of the sounds and people and smells and lights were severely overstimulating for him, and led to some meltdowns. But M & Ms saved the day!

At the start of the trip, I would buy a bag of M & Ms. When we entered a store aisle, I told him he could have two if we got to the end of the aisle without yelling, crying or trying to get out of the cart. About mid-way through the aisle, I’d tell him how great he was doing and remind him that if he keeps it up, he’ll get M & M’s. As we turned the aisle, I’d give him the reward, and we’d start all over.

After a while, we were able to reward him with a whole bag of M & Ms if he had a successful store trip. He had become so good at getting from aisle to aisle, that we didn’t need to reward each small step.

Once he could read, I used a different system. Because I knew errands were so challenging for Griffyn, I’d get all of my errands done in one day. Instead of rewarding each stop, we’d start the day with a trip to the dollar store and he would pick a prize. I’d give him an index card with a list of the things we were going to do that day, in order. After each successful stop, I would check off the item on the card. At the end of the day, if he had all checks, he would get the prize.

When you’re using positive reinforcement, it’s important to explain why they’re being rewarded, and to reserve rewards for appropriate situations. In our house, we will say, “We know this is a big challenge. So what are we working for?”

Overuse or an inappropriate use of positive reinforcements can create a “What’s In It For Me?” attitude. You know what I mean — the kid does the dishes without being asked and then says, “So what I get?”

If you see that start to develop, back off the tangible rewards and use more praise.

Tomorrow we’ll be back talking about the Power of Prevention. In the meantime, leave a comment and tell us about your favorite positive reinforcement tools.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Negative Reinforcement is Not All Bad

TimeOut

Negative reinforcement gets a bad wrap! But it’s a real world tool for discouraging bad choices, and when it’s used in the right way and in the right circumstances, it can be a powerful teacher.

Take the transportation system for example. If you get caught speeding, you’ll get a ticket. You’ll have to go to court, pay a fine and get points on your license, which will stay there for a few years, alerting insurance companies that you’re not exactly a safe driver. As a result, your insurance premiums will go up. Get caught often enough, and you’ll lose your license.

That’s negative reinforcement, and it works!

Some friends of ours have traveled to countries that don’t have these kinds of laws, and they say those are scary places. One friend told me she was shocked there weren’t more dead bodies strewn about. She did see one person who was fatally struck while she was there, but the driving experience was so terrifying, she was amazed that the streets weren’t lined with dead bodies.

I’ll take our negative reinforcing traffic system any day over one where anything goes.

Negative reinforcement doesn’t have to be harsh or unforgiving or hurtful. It’s simply a tool to help teach the concept that bad choices equal bad results.

BAD CHOICES = BAD RESULTS

Negative reinforcement can be useful for helping kids to break bad habits, to get through challenging situations, to correct a repeated bad behavior (bickering, forgetfulness, poor grades), for dishonoring or disrespecting someone…basically, for most bad choices.

An Element of Fun

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Even bad results can have a fun twist.

For example, when we want to help our kids break a bad habit (nail biting, nose picking — it happens!), we tell our kids to do 10 push ups every time they’re caught doing the bad thing. It works! And they get in shape in the process.

A friend of ours shared something with us a few years that has stopped our kids from mistreating furniture (standing on chairs, jumping on beds, sitting on tables, etc.). If you mistreat the furniture, you lose furniture privileges for the day. That means the kid eats meals that day picnic-style (the table and chairs are furniture, you know), does homework and watches TV from the comfort of the floor and camps out with a sleeping bag and pillow on their bedroom carpet (the bed is furniture too).

The Punishment Fits the Crime

Okay, so we don’t really mean punishment. We’re not our kids’ punishers or jailers. We’re their mentors and teachers. What we really mean here is that a negative consequence should relate to the misbehavior. For example, if your child didn’t do his homework, it doesn’t make sense to say he can’t go out to dinner with grandma and grandpa tomorrow night. First of all, that punishes grandma and grandpa.

Whenever possible, try not to punish other people for your child’s offense (birthday parties, family get-togethers). Sometimes it can’t be avoided, and in that case, you can talk about how their actions affect other people too.

But in the homework scenario, grandma and grandpa didn’t have anything to do with the child not doing his homework. The truth is, he was too wrapped up in a TV show and was too tired by the time it was over. A better consequence would be to ban television until homework is done and inspected.

If the reason he didn’t do his homework had been that he was disorganized and forgot what was due, you wouldn’t take away TV. Instead, you might sit down with his teacher and enlist her help. Ask her to look over his homework before he leaves to make sure it’s accurate, and check his backpack to make sure he has everything he needs to complete the assignments. Then sign his homework list so you know she’s checked it.

When he gets home, have him show you the list and the supplies and together you can make a plan for the evening to make sure he finishes everything. Then have him bring you each thing as it’s done, so you can check it and make sure he puts it neatly where it belongs. At the end of the night, sign his homework list to show the teacher you’re on board. This is a negative reinforcement in the sense that it’s a loss of independence, but it’s also a preventative method as it helps him become more organized so he doesn’t miss future homework assignments.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, the goal of correction is to teach – not to punish!

Time Out

Time out is a negative reinforcement, and when it’s done well, it can be useful. For a complete description of how to do a successful time out, check out the post on Willful Disobedience. Time outs are helpful for young kids (preschool and elementary age) who are having a bad attitude (it can help them cool off and reset their mood) or arguing with you (it’s a reminder that mom is the boss and it’s their job to obey without arguing). But if you are using Time Out as your consequence for Willful Disobedience, it should never be used for any other misbehavior.

Here are some other ideas for negative reinforcements:

Behavior

Negative Reinforcement

Nail biting

Do 10 push ups

Interrupting

Serve others (to recognize that you’re not more important than others)

Complaining

Lose upcoming fun occasions (movies, sleepover, etc.)

Incomplete chores

Loss of privilege (i.e. TV or computer time)

Not doing homework

Loss of freedom (i.e. not able to go to a friend’s house, or loss of cell phone or ipod)

Mistreating a sibling

Do the sibling’s chores that day

Jumping on Furniture

Loss of furniture privilege

Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about Positive Reinforcement.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Natural Consequences

NaturalConsequences

There are two kinds of natural consequences:

  • Something that happens on its own without any intervention from anyone else
  • A synthetic situation that is created to model what could have happened

Something That Happens On It’s Own

Let’s say your child waits until the last minute to complete a school project. You know he’s going to be embarrassed; his teacher is going to be disappointed in him, and he’s going to get a bad grade. You have a choice: you can either do the project for (ahem…I mean WITH) him or you can let him face the music for not getting it done or not doing it as well as he would have wanted to. The latter is a natural consequence.

Here’s another one–your preschooler is running in the playground. You’ve asked him to please walk, but he continues to run. A natural consequence may occur if he falls and skins his knee. It becomes a teaching tool when you talk about it and tell him that the reason you want him to walk is so that he doesn’t trip and get hurt.

Something You Create to Model a Potential Situation

The parent-created natural consequence usually speeds up time to model a potential result. For example, your daughter leaves her iPod on the floor at youth group where it could get lost or broken. You create a model of what could have happened by taking away the iPod for a period of time to demonstrate losing it for good had it been broken or stolen.

Here’s another one — your son is mistreating his sister. You’ve talked to him about it, but he continues to treat her badly. You explain that when people act that way, other people don’t want to be around them, and the long-term result could be a lonely one. To model this, you have him spend the evening in his room while the family watches a movie. Be sure to let him know that you’re very sad because you love spending time with him, but that his bad choices will often affect other people negatively too.

Be careful when choosing time periods for man-made natural consequences. You want it to be long enough to teach a lesson but not so long that the child loses hope. If you find yourself wanting to increase the length of time for multiple offenses, you may instead consider revoking the item or privilege all together, until the child is ready to be more responsible.

Bear in mind that if you take something away indefinitely, you must fully explain what the child must do prove that she is ready to be trusted with it again. Give her small opportunities to practice being responsible. It will build her confidence and help you monitor her progress.

A Word of Caution

If you choose a natural consequence, make sure you’re not really being motivated by revenge. If you find yourself thinking (or even saying), “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll show you how it feels!” It’s not a natural consequence; it’s revenge.

Our goal is not to be our kid’s punisher or jailer, it’s to be their coach, mentor, teacher. We are training their minds and hearts.

Be very gentle with natural consequences. Don’t say, “Well, that’s what you get for running.” This tool requires us to show tremendous compassion. Couch every natural consequence in lots of conversation, and let them know that you believe in them and you believe they are going to make a different choice next time.

Come back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about how negative reinforcement is not all bad.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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Filling The Training Toolbox

Stupidity Wisdom Sign

Last week we kicked off the discussion on correcting misbehavior with a question, “What is the Goal of Discipline?” I’d encourage you to read that post when you have a minute, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes — we want to teach our kids to identify and make good choices.

Discipline or correction is all about teaching and training. That’s why we called this post Filling the Training Toolbox. We want to help parents brainstorm some tools that can help them train their kids to identify and make good choices.

Hang with us long enough, and you’re bound to hear us say:

  • Good Choices = Good Results
  • Bad Choices = Bad Results

Of course we know that bad things sometimes happen to good people and that good things sometimes happen to unscrupulous people. Matthew 5:45 says, God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

But as a general principle, this one is sound. Chances are good that if I work hard, save money, invest wisely and have a giving heart, I’m not going to live in financial turmoil. (Good choices equal good results.) On the flip side, if I refuse to work regularly, and I live beyond my means, I’m going to face debt and stress. (Bad choices equal bad results.)

The tools we’re going to talk about this week fall into one of the following categories:

  1. 1. Natural Consequences
  2. 2. Negative Reinforcement
  3. 3. Positive Reinforcement
  4. 4. Preventative Measures
  5. 5. Corrective Conversations

Before using any form of discipline, check your own heart. Is your goal to train and correct, or is it revenge (i.e. you’re mad and you want them to know it!)?

Once you determine that your true motivation is to educate or train, pray and ask for wisdom and then ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What was the root of the misbehavior? (i.e. laziness, pride, selfishness, anger, rebellion, sensory issue)
  • How is this behavior wrong?
  • What would happen if an adult behaved this way?
  • What other negative outcomes could this behavior produce? (someone could have been hurt; an item could have been lost, stolen or broken, child could be alienated from others)
  • Was the child somehow set up for failure? (tired, hungry, overstimulated, pushed to incompetence)
  • Does your child need a motivator to overcome the misbehavior?
  • Is your child missing a tool that could help him to be more successful?
  • Is he mature enough to benefit from a discussion about the situation?

If you struggle to answer any of the questions or to choose a good teaching tool, talk to your spouse or another trusted adult, but be sure to honor your child in the process. Don’t gossip about your kids or air their dirty laundry in public. We all make mistakes, and just as we wouldn’t want someone broadcasting our faux pas to the world, our kids don’t like it either.

Stop by tomorrow for an in-depth discussion on Natural Consequences — what they are and how and when to use them.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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The Goal of Discipline

Goal

Have you ever felt so angry and frustrated with your child’s misbehavior that you wanted to ground him for a year?

That’s what happens when we don’t have a tool. We become more and more frustrated, and sometimes it can lead to an explosion.

I once heard a great analogy. Imagine  you’ve got a leaky pipe inside your wall, and you call a plumber to come fix it. When he gets there, he finds the leak and uses a wrench to close it, but the wrench doesn’t fix the problem. So the plumber goes out to the truck and gets a bigger wrench. That doesn’t fix it either, so he goes back to the truck to get an even bigger wrench.

Isn’t this sometimes how we’re tempted to deal with a behavior problem in our kids? We try a punishment, but that doesn’t fix the behavior so we up the ante and make it longer or more severe, and when that doesn’t work, we turn up the heat even more, hoping that we’re going to create so much discomfort that they’ll think twice about doing that naughty thing again?

Just like increasing the size of the wrench doesn’t work for the plumber, intensifying the consequences doesn’t work with kids.

The real questions are these: What is the goal of discipline? What is our role in the process?

Are we our children’s punishers? Are we their jailers? If that’s how we view ourselves, even on a subconscious level, I suppose we can look at the nation’s prison systems to see how effective we’ll be.

Nationwide, the overall rate of recidivism is 67% after 3 years! I’ll bet that if we researched the effectiveness of punishing our kids with a jailer-like authority, based on the likelihood of the child repeating the same behavior, we’d find similar results, except I don’t think it would take three years for the kid to do it again.

So, let’s back up and think about the goal of discipline. I think part of the answer lies in some of the synonyms for discipline. I like to say that we are correcting our children or even better, training them. Starting tomorrow and continuing into next week, we’re going to give you a wide range of tools to use in what we call the Training Toolbox.

Our goal is not to punish our kids. In fact, if you find yourself so angry that you want to make them suffer, you may be venturing into that zone of wanting revenge against your kids. We’ve all been there at least once or twice, but it’s an ugly place to be, and it’s not doing our kids one ounce of good!

The goal of discipline or correction or training is to teach our kids how to

  1. 1. Recognize their choices,
  2. 2. Identify which choices are good and which ones are bad,
  3. 3. Understand why the good choices are best and the bad choices are not,
  4. 4. Make the good choices.

We want to educate our kids. That means offering good training material — frequent discussions about choices, good reading material, positive role models, opportunities for practice, coaching along the way, praise and reward for right choices and correction and redirection for wrong choices.

Education is the goal, and not surprisingly, when that’s the goal in the nation’s prison system, the recidivism rate dramatically decreases. Earlier, we mentioned that the nationwide recidivism rate is 67%. Inmates who earn an A.A. degree have a 15% recidivism rate. Those who earn a Bachelor’s degree have a 13% recidivism rate, and those who earned a Master’s level degree have a 1% recidivism rate.

Come back on Monday, as we kick off a series on filling the training toolbox. We’ll talk about natural consequences, positive and negative reinforcement, preventative measures, and conversations for correction.

 

 

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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How to Handle Tantrums

Tantrum

If you’ve been with us for a while, you know that we LOVE a good definition. Shared language brings peace and order.

So for the sake of child training, let’s start with a good definition for tantrum. We hear the word thrown around a lot, but when it comes to this method, a tantrum means “a violent demonstration of rage or frustration.”

We’re not talking about Willful Disobedience, which we covered yesterday. We’re talking about a total loss of emotional control. It can look like screaming, kicking, flailing, hitting, spitting, throwing things…TANTRUM!

When a child is in the midst of a true tantrum, no training method will be effective. Instead, we need to help our kids learn (hopefully at an early age) how to regain control of their mind, will and emotions when they’re nervous system is flooded with intense emotion.

Jody and I often say that the prison system is full of people who couldn’t control their emotions for just five more minutes.

When we teach our kids how to manage their emotions, we give them a great gift.

My Tantrum Journey

As many of you know, my oldest child is autistic. When he was two years old, he had absolutely no expressive or receptive language, which means he said no words and understood no words. He couldn’t even point or gesture to communicate. So when he was hungry or tired or bored or cold or wet or unhappy or uncomfortable in any way, all he could do was throw himself on the floor and cry. My husband and I went through all kinds of mental gymnastics to figure out what this child needed. We were slaves to his outbursts.

For most of his second year, Griffyn wore a big contusion on his forehead from banging it against the ground. And we wore circles under eyes from sheer exhaustion.

But toward the end of his second year I learned something that forever changed our lives. It’s called The Extinction Method, and it works on tantrums like nothing I’d ever seen before or since.

We’ve used on all of our other kids during the terrible twos and with many of the families we’ve coached, and we have found that after using The Extinction Method correctly two or three times, tantrums are a thing of the past because the child learns the valuable skill of getting his emotions under control all by himself.

Disclaimer

Before we tell you how to do it, we have one important disclaimer. If you are consistent and committed to the process, The Extinction Method WILL break tantrums. However, if you give in, even once…even a little bit, we promise that the next tantrum will be longer and louder. Once your toddler knows that you have a weak spot, he will up the ante until he finds it again.

The Extinction Method

Here’s how it works. When you see a true tantrum coming on, put the child in a safe place, remove any items that could get broken or could hurt him, and stay nearby so that he can see you. If your child sleeps in a crib or uses a playpen, these can be useful places to place the child as soon as the tantrum comes on.

Get down on their level, make eye contact and very calmly say, “You are having a tantrum. You need to calm yourself down.” Then, do not say another word or make eye contact again until the tantrum is over.

No matter what the child does or says, DO NOT respond AT ALL to the child until he has calmed himself down and has brought their emotions under control.

But DO stay nearby where he can see you. Remain fully aware of your body language and facial expressions, and no matter how hard it becomes, do not tense up, sigh or show any outward signs of anger, sadness or distress.

Make no mistake — this is not for sissies. This is where the rubber meets the road in parenting. It’s hard work and it could take every ounce of self control you can muster. But it is worth it.

Keep busy. Do dishes, read a book (or at least pretend to read a book), clean the room, fold laundry, make a grocery list…and all the while, stay totally calm and quiet, as if nothing were happening.

Avoid getting on the phone, computer or iPad. Those things can make the child feel like you are escaping him. During a tantrum, you need to let him know that you are there, while also giving him the space he needs to work this out.

How Long Should You Let it Go On?

A truly willful child can keep this going for a LONG time! Griffyn’s first tantrum during The Extinction Method lasted for two hours. I thought I was going to jump out of my skin! But the next one was much shorter, and the third lasted a matter of minutes. There never was a fourth. He had learned what to do when overwhelming emotion flooded his nervous system.

The only acceptable reason to acknowledge the child at all during The Extinction Method is to remove him from harm’s way. During Griffyn’s two-hour tirade in the crib, he pooped in his diaper, took it off and smeared it all over the crib and walls. I lifted him out of the crib without a word, as calm as I could be (but thoroughly FREAKING OUT on the inside!). Put him in the tub, washed off the poop, all without making any eye contact or saying a word. He continued to scream and thrash, and I did my best to act as if nothing was happening. I got splashed, hit, kicked and got poop in my hair. I wanted to scream and quite frankly, to throw him out the window, but I forced myself to stay completely calm and even aloof.

Once he was clean, I put him in a playpen in the room with me as I calmly cleaned the crib and walls. He eventually exhausted himself and fell asleep, and I cried and then scrubbed down the bathroom and took a shower. It was HARD work, and on that night I had little hope that it would ever change. But I remembered the workshop instructor who first taught me this method saying that it would get better. I held on to that hope and held my breath.

The next time Griffyn had a tantrum, it was remarkably different. I put him in the crib and although he kicked and screamed for a while, he didn’t have the panic and desperation he had had the first time. No poop catastrophe, and this time, he calmed himself down without falling asleep.

By the last tantrum, you could see in his face that he knew he was going to have to work it out on his own and the sooner the better. It took a few minutes, but he did it.

We’ve helped many families successfully use this method. Along the way, we discovered a few things that may help any of our readers who are currently dealing with tantrums.

When to Acknowledge the Child

If the child falls asleep, don’t disturb him, but be aware that he may wake up and start the tantrum again. Just continue as before.

As soon as the child calms himself down, go to him gently, and tell him you are very proud of him that he calmed himself down. Give him lots of hugs and kisses and then ask if he’d like to read a book with you or play a game.

Calm can look like a gentle cry or whimpering, as long as the violent outburst that characterizes a tantrum has stopped.

Sometimes the tantrum will start up again once you acknowledge him. Just gently say, “You are having a tantrum again. You need to calm yourself down,” and go back to The Extinction Method. But be careful not to confuse crying with a tantrum.

Sometimes, once you acknowledge the child, the relief of finally getting your attention again can be so overwhelming that they can’t help but cry. Once they recover from a tantrum even toddlers can feel remorse and even guilt for having been so out of control, and that can also make them very sad.

As long as there’s no violence involved (no screaming, flailing, kicking, angry words, etc.), just show tenderness and compassion. You can say, “I understand that you feel sad. It can be scary to have a tantrum. But you did a great job of calming yourself down. I’m so proud of you, and I know that next time you feel very angry or frustrated, you’ll be able to calm yourself down again.” Even if your child is still too young to understand all those words, he will understand your love and compassion.

Some Notes About Older Kids

If you use this method in the toddler years (i.e. the terrible 2’s or even 3’s) you won’t have tantrum issues after that. But if you didn’t know how to do this when they were toddlers, you might have a preschooler or school-aged tantrumer on your hands. First, let me say, you need to let yourself off the hook. Do not, for one moment, feel any guilt or condemnation for having not done this sooner.

The truth is, this method is NOT obvious. It’s not something you “should have known.” In fact, it defies every natural instinct we have during a child’s tantrum.

Older kids can be more challenging in some ways. For one thing, they’ve got a better command of language, and often they’ll use it in violent ways. Don’t be ruffled by hateful words or harsh accusations that you don’t love them or that you’re torturing them. Kids can be master manipulators. Don’t be tricked into responding in any way during a tantrum. Continue to stay busy nearby until he calms himself down.

The good news with older kids is that they understand more, so when the tantrum is over, they will have a much better understanding of what is happening. When the tantrum is over, you can assure him that he’s not a bad person but that he just became overwhelmed with anger or frustration and didn’t know how to handle it. Then you can tell him that he calmed down all by himself, and that you are so proud of him for learning how to do this. Let him know that the next time he feels rage coming on, he can calm himself down again, and that he’s just going to keep getting better and better at it.

If you have any questions about The Extinction Method or tantrums, please feel free to leave a comment, send us a message or go to our Facebook page and contact us there.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Teach Kids How to be Proactive and Approachable

Lexi Smiling

Last week we talked about teaching kids how to choose friends carefully and be a friend. Part of making new friends involves being proactive and approachable. We’ve found that there are some tangible ways that you can help kids develop these important people skills.

The Handshake

We teach our kids what we call the handshake routine. It builds confidence in them and teaches them how to step out on their own. We have a blog already written on how to do this and implement it in your own home. Check it out here.

The Interview

People always want to talk about themselves. The problem is that most people don’t know how to start the conversation. So, a common practice in our homes is to come up with interview questions. Questions that get people talking about their favorite subject — themselves!

For example

  • Where do you go to school?
  • What’s your favorite subject?
  • Do you play sports-what do you play?
  • Are you involved in any other activities – what are they?
  • Do you take family vacations-where have you gone?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • Why does that interest you?

Being Hospitable

We have to teach our kids to be observant. Look around and see who is not “plugged in” to what’s going on. Then, teach them how to “pull them in” to the activity.

One of the prerequisites to going to a function when you live in the Hagaman Home is when you walk into a room, look around. See who appears to be feeling left out, awkward, uncomfortable or new to the group. Their job is to approach them, interview them and find a way to make them feel welcomed and included.

Talk to your children about being empathetic. It’s important that our kids know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. You can do this by asking questions. “How do think he feels being the new kid and not knowing anyone?” “Do you think it’s scary walking into a room full of kids you don’t know?” “How hurtful do you think it was when so-and-so purposely shunned her?” Not only will this help them get far in life, it will also cause them to be emotionally mature.

Being Fun

A simple smile goes a long way. Have them constantly do an inventory of their facial expressions. No one wants to be around a Stick-In-The-Mud or a Negative Nellie. I had one of these in my house. I had the girl who would always poo-pooed everyone else’s movie choices or game ideas. We had to work hard at changing that. We prayed, found the root and weeded it out. Now, she’s the FUN GIRL! Everyone wants to be around her because she’s the life of the party.

So, what are some things you do to help you kids be proactive and approachable?

 

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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What It Takes To Be a Friend

Seth and Josiah Shoulders

Yesterday, I talked about teaching our kids to be careful who they call a friend. In the midst of a discussion about this with my oldest daughter, it got me thinking about what it takes to be a true friend.

Being conscientious of what it takes to be a good friend causes a person to look for those same traits in the people they call friends. But when it comes to kids, it also takes regular conversation about the subject to keep it fresh in their minds.

Role playing is a practical way to walk through real life scenarios. It helps kids see possible outcomes and ways to navigate various situations. In Lexi’s case, we brainstormed ways to respond to a similar situation as the one I shared yesterday without being taken advantage of.

What does it take to be a good friend?

Build Trust

  • By being reliable. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be where say you’re going to be. Let your yes be yes and you no be no.

  • Be consistent. Be the same to everyone everyday.

  • Be just. Defend what’s right and stand up against what’s wrong no matter who is involved.

  • Tell the truth.

  • Don’t gossip.

  • Don’t show favoritism in a group.

  • Don’t let your friends be left out.

Show Honor & Respect

  • Put others first. Let them go first in line. Offer a helping hand. Listen more than you talk, and show genuine interest in what they say.

  • Don’t push others down to elevate yourself.

  • Don’t be sarcastic. Check our blog on the difference between sarcasm and facetiousness. http://www.jenniandjody.com/?s=sarcasm

Loyalty

  • Stand up for what’s right.

  • Be willing to work through conflict and not give up on a friendship.

Acceptance

  • Embrace differences without compromising morals. Your friends don’t have dress the way you do and like all the same things you like. Give each other space to be unique.

  • You don’t always have to agree with your friends, but always respect their opinion.

  • Learn how to enjoy different personality types.

Stop back in on Monday. I’m going to talk about teaching kids to be proactive and approachable as they seek out new friendships.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Be Careful Who You Call Friend

Strange-Friends

How do we teach our kids to wise about friendships without being skeptical? How do we teach them to be generous without being a sucker? I recently tackled these questions with my oldest daughter.

Lexi attends a visual and performing arts high school part time. Just before lunch each day, she drives herself in to school.

There are a couple girls she hangs out with when she first arrives because the rest of the students are still eating lunch. One day, one of the girls called Lexi and said she was “starving”.  She asked if Lexi would stop by McDonald’s on her way in to grab her a bite to eat. Lexi, being sympathetic to her plight, could not refuse the starving, sad voice on the other end of the phone. But then, as soon as Lexi agreed to get her food, the “starving” girl cranked up the manipulation.

“Great! Get me a 10 piece McNugget, a large fry and a Cafe Mocha. I’ll pay you back.”

Lexi went through the drive-thru and used her debit card. Unbeknownst to her it caused her account to become overdrawn. Immediately, I received a notification (her account is connected to mine), and needless to say, this mom was not a happy camper.

When Lexi got home from school that day, we had a nice chat.

She’s at an age where she should be wise and know when to trust and when to be leery. But it’s a delicate balancing act, because she also needs to be generous. I want all of my kids to have giving hearts, but I don’t want them to get ripped off.

When she got home, I sat her down for the McDonald’s talk. I didn’t want her to feel stupid or shameful, so I started with some questions.

“Lexi, did it occur to you that this girl was already at school with a bunch of other kids who had food? There was plenty of food available to her, but she hadn’t asked anyone there for something to help solve her hunger crisis?”

I could see from the expression on her face that this thought had not occurred to her.

“Did you have the slightest ‘check’ when her food order was almost $12? She certainly wasn’t ordering off the dollar menu. I’m thinking if she was THAT hungry a dollar menu item would have been just fine.”

This also had not occurred to her.

Then, of course, we had to have the conversation about always checking your bank balance and not overdrawing the account. We have since put a system in place to prevent that from ever happening again.

Her responses were all very innocent. It had never occurred to her that this girl’s goal was to take advantage of her. To this day, the girl has never paid her back and now avoids Lexi like the plague.

Lexi just hadn’t thought to question her “friend’s” motives. She didn’t for one second entertain the possibility that this girl wouldn’t pay her back.

This was a tough one. First I had to check my own emotions about the situation. I was angry that this girl had taken advantage of my daughter, but I was even more concerned that Lexi had no clue she had been taken advantage of.

I sent Lexi back to school armed with ammo to confront the situation.

I role played with her different ways to approach this girl and ask for repayment, which was extremely difficult for Lexi, who typically runs screaming from confrontation. That in itself was a growth opportunity for her.

The obvious take away for Lexi from this situation was to be careful who she calls a friend (and trusts), but it also opened an important conversation about friendship in general. Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about what it takes to be a friend.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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