Resources for Anyone Working at Knee High
One of the most persistent questions for anyone working at a childcare is “How do I handle a room full of toddlers?”
While there are a lot methods, below are a number of articles that have good practices ranging from how to prevent kids from getting into conflicts to how to deal with a little one who is acting out in a caring and loving manner.
Think Quick Discipline
by Marie Faust Evitt, Parents Magazine, February, 1999
Imagine you see a two-year-old throw a block at a dog. You’re first reaction might be to ask the child, “Why did you do that?”
The real question to ask at time like this is “What am I going to do next?”. When one discipline tool fails, you need a ready a backup. Or two. Or three. In order to choose the right one, however. you’ll neet to follow three key steps.
The first: Stay calm. “when you get angry, everything just escalates,” says Jerry Wyckoff, PH.D, coauthor of Discipline Without Shouting or Spanking. ” Parents have to demonstrate how to deal with problems.”
The second: Talk less and act more. “We talk four times as much as we need to,” says Stephen Garber, Ph.D, director of the behavior Institute of Atlanta. “We try to convince childern to do what we want, to get them to be reasonable, but we get caught in the same old scripts and they don’t listen.”
The third: Focus on the desired behavior, not the undesired, “Parents accidentally reinforce the behavior they are trying to stop by giving it a lot of attention: says James Windell, author of Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes.
So instead of simply repeating her instructions to stop throwing blocks, Quinn might try positive reinforcement with Kevin: “I really like it when you play nicely with your toys.: Or she could simply show him how to be kind: “Rocky doesn’t like it when you hit him with blocks, but when you pet him like this (taking his hand and showing him how to pet), he’s happy. See how he’s wagging his tail?”
Some other option options: putting the blocks in time-out for a day because Kevin wasn’t using them properly or setting up a wastbasket for Kevin to pitch into. Flexibility is the key, Dr. Wyckoff says. For every discipline problem, there are many potential socutions. Here are just a few:
The Problem: Your 13 month old keeps reaching for the stove burner. You say “No” but he does it again. Removing his hand doesn’t stop him.
Now what: Instead of saying “no”, try saying “Stop” or “Hot” or simply calling your child’s name, says pediatrician William Sears, MD, coauthor of The Discipline Book. “No loses its punch when you use it constantly. But calling a child’s name often stops him in his tracks because he thinks ‘What’s next?’ and forgets what he was going for.” Instead of saying “no”, try saying “Stop” or “Hot” or simply calling your child’s name, says pediatrician William Sears, MD, coauthor of The Discipline Book. “No loses its punch when you use it constantly. But calling a child’s name often stops him in his tracks because he thinks ‘What’s next?’ and forgets what he was going for.”
Next time: Distract your child with a colorful or noisy toy. Or say, “Here’s a pan and spoon for Daniel while Mommy Cooks.?
Alternative: When your child reaches for dangerous items, think of his behavior as a sign of development, not difiance. Windell says. “Touching, exploring, is how toddlers learn.” If your child continues to pull on the lamp cord, for example, don’t think about punishment. Instead, say, “Danger, Not for Steven,” or siimply place the lamp out of his reach until his interest has passed.
The Problem: Your 18 month old used to stand still for you to put on her jacket. Today (when you are late for work, of course), she grins and runs the other way. You chase after her to wrestle the jacket on. She cries and goes limp.
Now what: Look her straight in the eye and say, “I need your eyes and your ears. We need to put your jacket on,” recommends Dr. Sears. He calls this technique “connect before direct“, or making sure your child is paying attention before you tell her to do something.
Next Time: Lighten up and make a game of it: “Can I wear Natalie’s jacket today? Oops, it doesn’t fit me. I guess Natalie gets to wear it.” Humor gets instant attention and defuses a power struggle, according to Dr Sears. If our child likes to run in the other directioin, put the jacket on a chair across the room and say, “Let’s race and see how fast we can get your jacket on.” Again, with a younger child, try distraction: “Come look at the rain outside,” you say, slipping her arms into the jacket.
Alternative: Allow more time to move from one activity to the next. When you runs, things almost always work out badly.”
Praise your child when he complies…”Surprises makes kids pay attention” …..
"Teacher Knows Best" by Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder Parents Magazine, March, 1999
When it comes to disciplining a preschooler, why not learn from the pros who do it all day long?
…What follows are some of the best tips gleaned from interviews with early childhood educators around the country.
Six Quick Tips
Sing it don’t day it. Songs are always popular motivators for preschoolers. Just ask Barney.
Get down to your child’s level. Crouch next to her, put your arm around her shoulders, look into her eyes when giving instructions.
Use special signals. When you want to get your child’s attention, clap our hands quickly three times, ring a bell, or flick the lights.
Whisper. Never try to outshout a child. When his voice rises, bring the noise level back down by speaking …very….quietly.
Let "someone else" be the bad guy. Try using a puppet or an "old grouch" voice to announce cleanup time. Or blame the clock, as in : "I’m sorry but the clock says its time to go."
Make Silly mistakes. The next time your child refuses to let you put her shoes on her feet, put them on her hands instead to get her giggling- and to defuse the battle.
Spell out the Rules: Few preschools would attempt to operate without setting clear limits from the start…That doesn’t mean posting a long list of "dos and don’ts" in your playroom. Rather it means verbally communicating to our child exactly what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Before that though, it’s important to clarify our expectations and to make sure that your and your spouse agree.
It’s best to frame your rules in a positive fashion. Instead of telling a child not to throw his toys, tell him that "toys are for playing." Whenever he runs, let him know that "we using walking feet n the house." If kicking under the table is disrupting mealtime, say, "we keep our hands and feet to ourselves at the table.’ State rules matter-of-factly, and make sure to repeat them whenever a problem arises. Pretty soon, your child will get the message.
Develop a routine. "preschoolers have no concept of time, but they can understand what comes next in a sequence." says Tallman. Predictable routines are important to children this age because they provide security and makes transitions easier, she says. Preschool teachers often use props or "visual cues" to help establish routines…. When its time to clean up, rather than merely issue instructions, produce a milk crate for your child to fill with toys. At naptime, bring out the blanket, dim the lights…Soon our child will begin to associate the "prop" with the desired activity, and the activity will easily follow.
Organize your child’s day. To keep children engages, preschool teachers typically organize the day into chunks of activities. Although it isn’t necessary to create such a rigid schedule at home, parents can make their lives easier by planning the day in advance,…You might set aside time to do a craft, followed by a period of "free play". …Always remember to get outdoors for at least part of each day; a trip to the playground or a walk gives exercise as well as a change of scenery.
Be aware of a child’s limited attention span. The younger child, the shorter that span will be…For a 2 year old,……. about 15 minutes for an activity: for three year olds, about 20 minutes. If an activity is going well, you can extend the time.
Keep instructions simple. For 2 and 3 year olds, teachers usually stick with one request at a time. Kids at this age simply aren’t developmentally ready to handle multi-step instructions.
Be generous with praise. Remember to compliment your child when he’s behaving well. And when he’s not, try reminding him that you know he’s capable of better behavior. …"Positive reinforcement is the most overlooked form of discipline," says Funk, "Children this age are eager to please, and praise is one of the best ways to get their cooperation."
Setting limits for your toddler will not only keep her safe–it will help teach her how the world works.
By Antonia van der Meer Parents Magazine, March 1999
Before my son turned 2, most of my days were spent averting impending disaster–snatching toast out of the VCR or rescuing the puppy from overly enthusiastic squeezes. Once my little angel learned to walk, he didn’t seem like much of an angel anymore. As I found myself saying "No" what seemed like a thousand times a day, I sometimes felt like a real killjoy.
When your toddler tests these boundaries, don’t mistake her behavior for intentional mischief or defiance. "They don’t do it to irritate you," explains Linda Mayes, M.D., a professor of child psychology, pediatrics, and psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, in New Haven, Connecticut. "They do it to interact with you, to figure out the answers to questions like ‘If I throw my spoon on the floor, will you pick it up?’ " To a toddler, everything–from food on the table to water in the bathtub–is part of this big, ongoing science experiment. "You need to say to yourself, ‘This is perfect! This is just what a 1-year-old should be doing!’ " says David Steinberg, M.D., director of the Infancy and Early Childhood Development Program at NYU’s Child Study Center, in New York City.
This is not to say that toddlers should be allowed to do whatever they please: Parents need to be ready to step in, especially if a child could hurt himself or someone else. When you do, though, take your child’s abilities into consideration. Most 1-year-olds can’t understand long explanations; they can’t follow rules without direct supervision; nor will they learn from a delayed punishment like "No dessert tonight!" if they’ve misbehaved in the morning.
Instead, when you see your toddler heading for trouble, try what Dr. MacKenzie calls the "four R’s": remove, replace, refocus, and redirect. Let’s say your child grabs a candlestick from the table.
1. Remove the candlestick from your child’s hands–or remove your child from the room.
2. Replace the candlestick with a safe object, like a plastic measuring cup.
3. Refocus her attention from the candlestick to the cup by showing her something interesting about it, like the sound it makes when you bang it on the floor.
4. Redirect her activity, getting her to stir imaginary soup in it with a spoon, for example. "Use her short attention span to your benefit," Dr. MacKenzie advises.
When you correct your child, he adds, "be firm and direct, but calm. Anger and strong emotion may evoke a similar reaction from the child." Verbal corrections should be short, no more than one or two words. Most toddlers understand "no" and other simple words like "hot," but too much detail confuses them.
If your toddler does something hurtful or dangerous–for example, if he bites you–separate him from the rest of the family for a few minutes, but make sure he can still see and hear you. This temporary separation isn’t a time-out, explains Dr. MacKenzie, since you’re not removing him from visual or verbal contact with you. "Kids under 3 have no concept of time and become truly frightened when separated from their parents," he says. Placing the child in a separate area within sight and simply removing your attention for a few minutes is correction enough.
Dr. Steinberg also reminds parents that just saying, "Don’t touch" is not enough. Instead, "get physically involved with your child," he advises. Sara Devlin, of Arlington, Massachusetts, says she used this approach when her son, Hugh, was 1. "He threw things, including his toy trucks," she says. "He wasn’t being malicious, but it was dangerous." Instead of yelling, Devlin held her son firmly. "I told him, ‘No throwing.’ Then I showed him how to roll the truck on the floor, because I knew he couldn’t really understand what I was saying."
Of course, minutes later, Hugh might throw something else. Again, this is normal, says Dr. MacKenzie. "You can’t expect to just say something once. Kids need repetition–that’s how they learn."
In the meantime, commonsense measures go a long way toward keeping 1-year-olds out of trouble. If your child habitually does something destructive, like drawing on the wallpaper, you need to plan ahead. "Create a space where she can’t do the thing that upsets you rather than put her in an environment where you constantly have to correct her," says Dr. Steinberg. Devlin applied this strategy at home too. "I babyproofed some rooms, but I didn’t just let Hugh roam everywhere," she says. Providing safe spaces for exploration means fewer "nos"–and fewer potential trouble spots.
Finally, whenever your child does behave, be sure to acknowledge his newfound self-control. "To a toddler, the most meaningful rewards are the natural ones–like a hug from Mom or Dad," says Dr. MacKenzie.
Over time, the gentle direction and safe structure you develop will pay off: Your child will feel secure in her world, free to explore but knowing the limits. It’s a good start on the long road to learning right from wrong.
The goals of discipline are to lead children toward learning skills and values that will prepare them for adulthood, when they will eventually depend entirely on themselves for self-discipline and, hopefully, lead happy, fulfilling and caring lives. There should always be a positive emphasis on discipline. Your pleasure in your children’s accomplishments and your disappointment in their inappropriate behaviors are your most effective guides ……
When and how to discipline varies considerably according to developmental stage and individual personality. Although your family values will shape the direction of your children’s growth, at birth, genetic makeup provides infants with a variety of temperaments as well as considerable differences in energy and capabilities …….
There are, however, some discipline generalizations that seem to fit all ages and personalities. Your first priority is to teach your children positively; your second is to set limits when your children have temporarily gone astray. ……..
AS SOON AS babies begin to crawl or toddle, you’ll begin your disciplining. Making spaces child safe by rearranging, locking or protecting is much more effective than slapping hands and saying "no" every few minutes. Of course, no environment can be completely child-proofed.
Saying "no" or a descriptive word such as "hot" in a slightly raised and serious voice, paired with a distraction to some other toy or activity, works well until children approach two years of age. Biting or hitting can be retaught with a "no" followed by a "nice" while giving a patting or hugging lesson.
(from Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids)
YOUR KIDS NEED LIMITS
BY CHARLESE . SCHAEFER , PH.D.
ESTABLISHING LIMITS is just as important for effective discipline as enforcing them, and perhaps more so. If we present a directive well, our children are likely to comply because they basically want to please us. When it comes to setting limits, most of us are not as skillful as we could be. We talk too much, get too emotional or fail to express ourselves clearly and with authority. When we need to tell our children that they must do something and do it now (e.g., stop hitting, pick up toys, go to bed), we’ll get better compliance by using the following 10 limit-setting strategies.
- BE SPECIFIC. How often have you heard yourself or other parents give vague limits such as "Behave yourself," "Be good" or "Don’t make a mess!" Such general guidelines mean different things to different people. Our children will understand us much better if we make our directives concrete in terms of the behavior we expect. A specific limit tells a child exactly what must be done: "Talk in a whisper in the library"; "feed the dog now"; "hold my hand as we cross the street." This one strategy can substantially increase the rate of compliance from your child.
- OFFER CHOICES. In many cases, you can give your child a limited choice in deciding how to fulfill your directive. Having some freedom of choice makes a child feel a sense of power and control, which reduces resistance. Examples are: "It’s bath time. Do you want to take a shower or a tub bath?"; "It’s time to get dressed. Do you want to pick an outfit, or do you want me to do it?"; or "Would you rather practice the piano 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening or 20 minutes all at once?" Since it’s easier and quicker to tell a child exactly what to do, parents don’t offer enough choices. But we can change.
- BE FIRM. On really important issues, when there will be a consequence for noncompliance, we need to state the limit firmly. A firm limit tells a child he must stop undesirable behavior and comply to your wishes immediately (e.g., … "Aaron, stop! Toys are not for throwing").
**Soft limits, on the other hand, imply to children that they have a choice about complying or not. Examples of soft limits are: "Why don’t you put your toys away?"; "Let’s do homework now"; "Come in the house now, okay?" and "I really wish you would clean up after yourself."
Soft limits are appropriate for times when you want a child to act a certain way but don’t require it. However, for those few mandatory "must be done" behaviors, you will get better compliance from young children by giving a firm command. Firm is the middle ground between soft and hostile.
- ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE. Children are more receptive to "do" than "don’t" commands. "Don’t" or "stop" directives tell a child what is unacceptable but do not explain what behaviors you would like instead. Generally, it’s better to tell a child what to do ("Talk quietly") rather than what not to do ("Don’t shout"). Authoritarian parents have been found to give more "no" commands, while authoritative parents are prone to give more "do" commands.
- KEEP YOURSELF OUT OF IT. When you say "I want you to go to bed now," you may be creating a personal power struggle between you and your child. A better strategy is to state the rule impersonally, e.g., "It’s 8 o’clock, your bedtime" (and point to the clock). In this way, any conflicts or hard feelings will be between the child and the clock. Hopefully, when you say, "The rule is no throwing balls in the house," rather than, "I don’t like it when you throw balls in the house," your child will dislike the rule rather than you.
- EXPLAIN WHY THE LIMIT IS NEEDED. When people understand the justification for a rule, e.g., to prevent harm to self or others, they are more likely to comply with it than if they deem it arbitrary or capricious. So when you first give a limit, explain why your child has to comply with it. Understanding the reason for rules helps your child develop internal standards of behavior, i.e., a conscience. Rather than giving a long explanation that children will tune out, state the reason briefly, for example, "No biting people; it hurts them"; "When you grab toys away from other kids, they feel sad because they still want to play with them."
- SUGGEST AN ALTERNATIVE. Whenever you restrict or limit a child’s behavior, try to point out an acceptable alternative activity. By so doing you will sound less negative and your child will feel less deprived. Thus, you might say, "I know you’d like my lipstick, but it’s for lips, not for playing. Here’s a crayon and paper instead." Another example would be to say, "You can’t have a candy bar before dinner, but you can have some of your favorite chocolate chip ice cream after dinner." By offering alternatives, you teach your child that while her feelings and desires are acceptable, it’s just certain ways of expressing them that are not okay.
- BE SERIOUSLY CONSISTENT. A cardinal principle of effective limit-setting is to avoid on-again-off-again rules. A flexible rule (e.g., bedtime at 8 P.M. one night, 8:30 the next night, 8:45 another night) invites resistance and is almost impossible to enforce. Important family rules and routines should be in effect day after day, even if you’re tired or out of sorts. If you give your children wiggle room under your rules, they will almost certainly try to squirm out of them.
- DISAPPROVE OF BEHAVIOR, NOT OF THE CHILD. No matter how serious the misdeed, we need to make it clear to our children that we are disapproving of their behavior and not rejecting them. So instead of saying "Bad boy!" (disapproving of the child), we should say "No biting" (disapproving of the particular behavior). Rather than saying, "I really can’t stand you when you act like that," we should say "Those cans are not for pulling. They need to stay on the store shelf."
- CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS. Researchers report that when parents are very angry they punish more severely and are more likely to be verbally and/or physically abusive to their children. There are times when we need to take a slow, deep breath and count to 10 rather than lashing out in a hostile way. Discipline is basically about teaching children how to behave, and you can’t teach effectively if you are extremely emotional. So rather than attacking your child with an angry putdown, such as "What’s the matter with you?" it’s better to take a minute to calm yourself and then ask with composure, "What happened here?"
All children need their parents to establish guidelines as to acceptable behavior. The more skillful we become at setting limits, the greater the cooperation we will receive from our children and the less need there will be to enforce the limits by applying unpleasant consequences. The result is a more pleasant home atmosphere for both parent and child.
Charles E. Schaefer, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Psychological Services at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is the author of more than 40 books, including TEACH YOUR CHILD TO BEHAVE: DISCIPLINING WITH LOVE FROM 2 TO 8 YEARS
Finally, while of course you must always correct your daughter’s behavior when it’s necessary, you could take extra trouble to do it in a positive way ("try this" rather than "don’t do that"), and to avoid humiliating her.
Two useful measures of this: If you say "no" words more often than you say "yes" words, your discipline probably isn’t coming across as positive.
(An excerpt from an article by Penelope Leach, a child psychologist and mother of two, is the author of the best-selling books YOUR BABY AND CHILD: FROM BIRTH TO AGE FIVE and YOUR GROWING CHILD: FROM BABYHOOD THROUGH ADOLESCENCE)
Every baby mammal is born with natural weapons and the impulses to use them. For humans, those weapons are teeth, nails, fists and feet. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s anything morally wrong with an 18-month-old baby biting and kicking. And don’t kid yourself that it’s got much to do with teething. ………………
He may think adults’ protests and reactions to pain are funny. That doesn’t mean he’s a brute; it means he’s not old enough to empathize with anybody, which is why biting him back would be pointless as well as cruel. Try to prevent it by seeing it coming rather than reacting after it happens. If you do have to react, be cold and low-key about it.." (Penelopy Leach)
The parent’s problem:
My daughter is 33 months old, quite verbal and intelligent–and assertive. That is to say, she has difficulty accepting “no,” and will not come to me when I tell her to stop. We try to use the word “no” only for the big things, such as attempting to plug a cord into an outlet. Still, she will test us after we have emphatically said “stop,” “no” or “don’t touch.” She seems to try one or two more times until we threaten her with time-out or a spanking.
Also, when we say “no” she often cries loudly, swings her arms, stomps her feet and occasionally takes a swing at her mother.
Are we expecting too much? In other words, is it developmentally appropriate for us to expect her to respond to “no” or “stop,” or do we have to continue to use distractions? At what point do we punish her? For example, after we have told her to stop touching an electrical cord and she continues, should we then go to time-out or spank her, or simply distract her?
We want to teach her the importance of “no” without her having a fit. If she does have a fit, should we ignore it or punish her?
What you need is a combination of firmness and redirection. Let’s use the electric cord situation as an example. Your child takes a cord and is attempting to plug it into an outlet. You say, “No, stop!” yet she continues to proceed toward the outlet.
** Why? Young children do not have flexible minds (even at 33 months). If you tell them “No, stop!” they can’t think of anything else to do, so they just keep heading toward the forbidden object; they’re locked into completing that action. So if you really don’t want your daughter to attempt to put the plug in the outlet, you must get up out of your chair, head toward her, take the cord out of her hand and say, “No, I won’t let you plug the cord into the outlet. It’s dangerous.” Then redirect her to another activity.
STILL TOO YOUNG FOR SELF-CONTROL
The line “I won’t let you” is key. It tells the child that you know she can’t stop herself because she lacks self-control, so you’ll provide the control for her. In time, between three and five years, the control you’re providing will transfer from you to her.
Children don’t like it when they can’t do what they want; nevertheless, it’s a parent’s job to guide children to safe and appropriate behavior. If your child explodes with a temper tantrum when you take the electric cord out of her hand, say, “I know you want to plug this into the wall just like Mommy and Daddy do, but I won’t let you because it’s dangerous. You can be mad but I’m not going to allow you to do it.” Now stay with your child, don’t talk or reason further, but don’t isolate or desert her either. Your presence helps absorb all those angry emotions. Her fit will subside.
Finally, notice and talk about what she does that’s right. Give a play-by-play account of her positive actions. Don’t let naughty behavior slip by, just make sure you’re taking time to call attention to her positive behavior.
Miraculously, you’ll see more and more of it.
Jan Faull, a child development and behavior specialist, is in her 20th year as a parent education instructor and public speaker.
By Tammy Noteboom
…………… I knew before I gave birth that parenting would be a challenge. What I didn’t know is that the solutions to those challenges would change. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, Ben moves onto a different stage and I need to change my discipline methods. And for those of you with than one child, the methods not only differ for each age, they differ for each child.
** Discipline is a controversial word among parenting experts. Some see it as negative and would like it banned from our parenting vocabulary. Others, like Victoria Johannes-Schmitz, M.S., family therapist and regional director at The Village Family Service Center’s Elk River, Minnesota, office, have a different view. "Discipline is exactly the right word. The word discipline comes from ‘to disciple,’ which means ‘to teach.’ That is exactly what we should be doing with our children? teaching them acceptable guidelines for how to behave now and in the future? teaching them right from wrong."
WHY CHILDREN MISBEHAVE To teach and guide our children, we must understand the reasons behind their misbehavior, which usually have to do with their age, stage and temperament. There are nearly as many reasons for children’s misbehavior as there are children. However, Ellen Anderson, training department supervisor at Moorhead’s Child Care Resource and Referral, gives us some common reasons for misbehavior:
** The child is at an age or stage where he needs to test the limits of his own control.
She is stressed or overwhelmed by a hectic schedule.
He is tired, hungry, bored, curious, frustrated or over-stimulated.
He is facing a traumatic event such as the birth of a new sibling, divorce, move to a new home or parental hostility.
** Children also misbehave to get attention. If they’re not getting their parents attention through praise and positive feedback, they get it through misbehavior and negative feedback. Kids are attention-seeking entities, says Rachel Fleissner, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist at Psychiatric Medical Associates in Fargo. For most children, any attention is better than none. If they don’t get attention by being good, they will go for the negative.
BE CONSISTENT Every parenting expert I talked with said their most important advice for parents is to be consistent. Johannes-Schmitz says kids do best when parents are consistent with their rules and expectations. "Kids need to be able to form a sense of trust. They need to trust that what you tell them today will be the same today, tomorrow and next month. If you say ‘no’ five times and then give in, you are teaching your child to badger you."
Fleissner agrees. "Most of us respond to our children based on our mood. Whether you’re in a good mood or bad mood, and no matter where you are, be consistent with the punishment you give for the crime. If you are consistent there will be less trouble in the long run." …………………..
** POSITIVE PARENTING Our society is great at telling kids what they do wrong. They hear it in the media, at school, at home and from other kids. It is our job to provide them with the encouragement and praise they need to excel.
Fleissner says, "If you only say negative things, there is very little reason for your child to listen to you. If you praise them they’ll think, ‘hey, if I listen to my dad I might hear something good.’ Always, always look for the good in your child, and then tell them you noticed."
Praise, however, must be real. Kids are brighter than we give them credit for and can see right through false praise. "Then," Johannes-Schmitz says, "the true praise won’t have as much punch.
** "I give parents the five to one rule. Kids need to hear five pieces of positive feedback for every time they hear ‘no’ or criticism. Find very small things to praise them about, even it’s just that they brushed their teeth or didn’t argue with their brother for the last 10 minutes."
Nancy Frosaker-Johnson, Clay County Extension Educator, says we can often turn a negative into a positive if we just stop and think. Instead of saying, "Johnny, don’t run!" say, "Johnny, please walk!" Instead of, "Missy, don’t take your hat off!" try "Missy, please leave your hat on your head." Even better is when you catch your child behaving appropriately to say, "Johnny, thank you for walking," or "Missy, thank you for leaving your hat on your head."
It is also important to be proactive–plan ahead for situations that tend to be difficult for your child. …………………………………..
Fleissner insists that positive parenting will, on a good day, ensure that you get respect and cooperation from your child. "That’s only a good day. You’ll never get it on a bad day!"
WHAT ABOUT THE BAD DAYS? No matter how much we read about parenting?no matter how well we follow the "parenting rules," we will have bad days. On the bad days, Johannes-Schmitz encourages us to offer choices and use logical and natural consequences.
It is critical to give your child the power to make decisions about what will happen. "Anytime a person makes a choice, whether he is two or 82, there are consequences. Kids need to learn this. They are much more apt to have lasting learning if they are given the power to make some choices."
When your child makes a wrong choice, allow him to experience natural and logical consequences. These are consequences that are logically or naturally connected to his behavior. For example, if he refuses to wear his mittens outside, his hands will get cold. If she forgets to put her bike away, then she’s not allowed to ride it.
If the natural consequences are too dangerous, like when your child runs out in the street, you’ll need to be real creative. If you have trouble with these, see the sample consequences on page 20, or check out some parenting books at the library. Most parenting books provide good examples on the use of logical and natural consequences.
Tammy Noteboom is a mother of an eight-year-old son and the marketing and communications director at The Village
Family Service Center in Fargo.
B Y V I V I A N B R A U L T M . A .
MANY PARENTS assume that pointing out what a child does wrong is the only way to correct a child’s behavior. But instead of motivating a positive change, critical words usually backfire and undermine efforts to improve behavior. Children take the criticism of parents and teachers personally, and feel attacked by those whose approval they dearly desire. Not surprisingly, some children try to defend themselves by "getting even" through back talk, hostility, or willful disobedience.
Because it is never possible to motivate kids to "behave better" by making them feel worse, we need to drop critical remarks and replace them with a more positive and productive approach for stimulating positive behavior. Alternatives to criticism include:
Describe what needs to be done: When children make mistakes, as all normal children do, respond by focusing your comments on ways to correct the problem or learning how to prevent it in the future. For example, if kids spill cereal, avoid such reactions such as, "How can you be so careless? Why don’t you ever watch what you’re doing?" Instead, focus on the solution. "The broom and the dustpan are in the hall closet." And in those situations in which there is something new to be learned, follow up with a question, "What can you think of that would help to keep that from happening next time?" Also, focus on what to versus what not to do. "Please put the books on the shelf," instead of "Don’t throw the books on the floor."
Allow children to experience consequences of undesirable behavior: Mistakes are life’s opportunities for learning. Kids learn more quickly when parents and/or teachers don’t bail them out. The best time for children to learn the cause-effect relationship between their actions and the consequences they experience is when the child is young, and the consequences are little ones. The only time an adult should step in and shield a child from experiencing the consequence of his behavior is when danger is involved.
When children carelessly break or lose a favorite toy, let them do without it rather than rushing in to fix or replace it for them. When possessions are lost because of carelessness, don’t be too quick to replace them, if you replace them at all. When children lose or forget to do their homework, let the teacher be the one to impose a consequence, and support her decision.
Provide support and acceptance: When kids are frustrated or faced with difficult circumstances of their own making, avoid blaming them for getting into that situation in the first place. For example: "If you had listened to me and started earlier, you wouldn’t have this problem now." This "I told you so" approach is bound to stimulate hostility rather than motivate a positive behavior change.
When children are struggling, it’s important to avoid saying things such as, "Come on, it’s easy." Although well intentioned, such comments cause them to feel even more inept. Instead, try supporting and encouraging them with comments such as, "That’s not easy is it? But I’ll bet you’ll get it." Or, "That’s a difficult one, isn’t it? But you’ve improved already and I have confidence you’ll figure it out." While intended to support and validate, comments such as, "You can do better than that," actually discourage and de-motivate because the underlying message is, "You really didn’t do very well."
Treat mistakes as the start of a learning curve, not the end of the world: Making mistakes is a normal and necessary part of learning any new skill. But when kids encounter challenges when undertaking a new activity, we often jump in to criticize their mistakes and show them how to correct them. Unfortunately, our involvement can undermine their self-confidence and rob them of opportunities to discover their own solutions. Remember, although children are born with lots of potential, skills take time, training and a lot of practice to develop. And mistakes area a necessary and inevitable part of the process.
Provide encouragement: Let kids know they’re moving in the right direction. Give recognition for effort and progress, don’t wait until the job is done completely or perfectly or it might never get done!
Be specific about what you are encouraging. For example: Instead of a gratuitous "nice job," say "I really like the way you stacked those books so neatly. It looks so nice in here."
The single most potent factor in motivating positive behavior is simple encouragement. Reflect for a moment on the person you feel was the best teacher or coach you ever had, and you will recall that just being around this person made you feel accepted, capable and motivated to do your very best. What that individual provided was simple encouragement.
Chances are this person never criticized or focused on mistakes; they emphasized your progress, growth, and what you did right. They believed in you so strongly you couldn’t help but believe in yourself, and they always took the time to listen. You probably went out of your way to live up to their expectations because you were highly motivated by simple encouragement.
By combining encouragement with the four alternatives to criticism suggested above, we can be at least 100 times more effective in motivating positive behavior than we could ever become by criticizing. Criticism hurts; encouragement heals.
Vivian Brault has been a Boise counselor for 20 years.
HOW TO REACT
Linda Goodall, mother of nine-month-old Corey and two-year-old Brian, can vouch for the benefits of early limit-setting. Believing in a baby’s need to explore, Linda gave firstborn Brian free access to every room in the house. Daily cleanups were massive, of course, but much more difficult to deal with was Brian’s inexperience with restriction. Errands and visits were so nightmarish that Linda has taken a different approach the second time around. Through techniques like distraction, explanation and environmental controls, Corey has become comfortable with authority.
To sow the seeds of discipline in your own baby, try these responses:
Be predictable. "Consistently enforced limits tell a child that she is safe and loved and that her environment is ordered and predictable," says Marianne Neifert, pediatrician and author of the popular DR. MOM books (Dutton). Your baby will balk at many of your restrictions, but it’s important that she be able to anticipate your responses to her actions.
Withhold social reinforcement. Does your baby dive into his dinner–literally? "Expect him to treat solids as toys," says pediatrician William Sears in GROWING TOGETHER "He will watch the food splash on the floor and enjoy your reaction…" Rather than make a fuss, simply remove the meal once your baby stops eating. In the same vein, resist covering your ears to block out screeches or boasting to grandma about baby’s shelf-emptying skills.
"Jamie dissolves into tears if I so much as frown at her," says Kathryn of her 14-month-old. "It’s hard to remain firm when she looks so sad, but I’ve found that the moment passes as soon as I distract her with another activity.
Provide alternatives. Rather than scolding your baby for experimenting with new and annoying behaviors, Sears recommends steering him toward acceptable options. If your baby hits you, for instance, take his hand and show him how to pat gently. If he bites you, hand him a teething ring. For shrieking, get his attention and model a soft whisper. …………………………………..
Offer explanations. Instead of overusing the word "no," make it a point to identify the problem at hand. "Children should be told the rationale behind each limit," says pediatrician Marianne Neifert. "This will help them view rules as protective and loving rather than restrictive." For an infant, use as few words as possible: "That’s sharp!" "Don’t go there!" or "Very hot!"
Garber, Stephen W., Ph.D.; Marianne Daniels Garber, Ph.D.; and Robyn Freedman Spizman. GOOD BEHAVIOR: OVER 1200 SENSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO YOUR CHILD’S PROBLEMS FROM BIRTH TO AGE 12 (Villard Books, 1987). Explores and offers how-to suggestions about different aspects of child misbehavior.
Hill, Barbara A. TIME-OUT FOR CHILDREN (Avery, 1996). Describes how to initiate self-discipline in your child through correct use of the time-out technique.
Samalin, Nancy. LOVING YOUR CHILD IS NOT ENOUGH (Viking Penguin, 1987). Examines the importance of parental authority throughout childhood and presents techniques for setting appropriate limits.
Sears, William, M.D., and Martha Sears. THE DISCIPLINE BOOK: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO HAVE A BETTER BEHAVED CHILD–FROM BIRTH TO AGE 10 (Little, Brown, Co., 1995). An in-depth exploration of the whys and hows of childhood discipline.
Windell, James. DISCIPLINE: A SOURCEBOOK OF 50 FAILSAFE TECHNIQUES FOR PARENTS (Collier Books, 1991). Presents a tried-and-true collection of practical discipline tactics.