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The Problem with Counting 1-2-3

Why You Can’t Count on Counting 1-2-3

counting1-2-3Counting 1-2-3 to get kids to listen is a popular strategy especially among parents of young children.  The problem is, it really doesn’t work long-term—instead, it teaches kids to do the opposite of what we want them to learn. Think about it: counting to three teaches kids that they really don’t have to listen the first time.  They learn that they’ll have several more opportunities before they have to respond. And wouldn’t we rather they listen the first time we make a request?

If you’ve been using the “Counting 1-2-3” strategy in your home, you’ve probably noticed that your kids don’t exactly snap to attention when you first speak to them. Here’s what’s going through their minds: Read More

Disciplining Other People’s Children

disciplining other peoples childrenHave you ever seen children acting up in the grocery store…and not just acting up, but being downright obnoxious? What do you do? It takes every fiber of your being to just walk by when you really want to go over and discipline them. You reason that it will help the child and the parent to learn a lesson in effective discipline strategies.

Is it okay to discipline another person’s child?

As tempting as it may be, it’s not appropriate to discipline another person’s child except in 2 situations.

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The Spanking Debate Continues…

A segment on The Today Show discussed the recent poll by babycenter.com that reports that 49% of Americans spank their kids.

The debate rages on. Is it okay to spank your kids? If so – under what circumstances?

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend spanking under any circumstance. They state “although most Americans were spanked as children, we now know that it has several important side effects.” They site the following outcomes:

  • Even though spanking may seem to “work” at first, it loses it’s impact after a while
  • Because most parents do not want to spank, they are less likely to be consistent
  • Spanking increases aggression and anger instead of teaching responsibility
  • Parents may intend to stay calm but often do not, and then regret their actions later
  • Spanking can lead to physical struggles and even grow to the point of harming the child

A recent study from Duke University concluded that spanking does indeed affect a child’s development. In the study, children who were spanked more often at the age of 1 behaved more aggressively when they were 2 and had lower scores on tests that measured thinking when they were 3.

The Duke study went on to say “when parents use physical discipline through childhood, their children experience more behavior problems in adolescence.”

What if the child runs out into the street?

When the child does something dangerous – is that a good reason on spank? I often hear this question from parents. To which I ask a few questions:

  • If your young child runs into the street and you spank her, are you willing to allow her to play unsupervised in the front yard tomorrow? (They usually respond with “of course not.”)
  • Well, you gave her a spanking, why not? (“Well, I can’t feel certain she learned the lesson.”)
  • How many times would you have to spank her before you could be sure she would learn the lesson?

The point of this discussion is not to “judge” parents, but to help them understand that spanking isn’t effective for long-term behavior change.

When our kids are processing pain, anxiety, fear or shame, they aren’t learning for the future. They aren’t thinking about how to make a better decision next time.

More effective strategies for keeping a young child safe is close supervision and being very clear about the consequences. “If you go outside of the yard, we will go inside for the rest of the day.”

Then, ask the child to repeat back the rule and the consequence for going out of the yard. (If she is too young to repeat back to you – then close supervision is the only strategy that you should use.)

If she goes outside of the yard – don’t repeat or remind! Very calmly say, “I see you decided to play inside for the rest of the day.” She’ll learn much more from following through on the consequence than from our lecture or our hand on her butt.

Spanking sends the wrong messages.

It teaches our kids:

  • It’s okay to let out your anger and frustration by hitting someone else. (That’s what we’re trying to teach our kids NOT to do!)
  • A stronger, more powerful person is justified to exert his power over a smaller, weaker person.

Physical punishment also encourages lying. What reasonable child would want to tell the truth when he knows that pain, humiliation, anxiety and shame are going to follow?

“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that we could make kids do better by making them feel worse?” (Jane Nelsen, Ph.D.)

Whether you are among the 49% of parents who spank or not, my mission is giving parents the positive discipline tools so they don’t feel the need to spank. Remember, the word “discipline” comes from the Latin root “discipulus” which mean a pupil, student or learner.

Disciplining our children means training them to behave in appropriate ways and holding them accountable with dignity and respect so they learn to make better choices in the future.

Why are POWER STRUGGLES so hard to correct?

Actually, they aren’t hard to correct. It’s just that parents often pick the wrong strategy to correct them!

Don’t feel bad about this. Discipline approaches for power struggles are NOT INTUITIVE. In fact, the opposite is true: most of the intuitive approaches that parents use to “correct” power struggles, actually make them worse.

Power struggles may present themselves as not listening, back talk, arguing, negotiating, tantrums, yelling and most every terrible twos behaviors. Or, they may be more passive in nature such as completely ignoring our requests.

The negative behavior the child is displaying is about COMPETING FOR POWER. They do this because children (and adults) have a hard-wired, basic human need for power.

Power struggles CONTINUE because parents often attempt to correct “power behaviors” with “power reprimands”. These include raising our voice, “demanding compliance”, punishing, trying to “control the situation” or the all-time favorite, “because I said so!”

Unfortunately, these approaches only invoke the “fight or flight” response in our kids. Children can’t easily “flee” – so they choose to “fight back” and the misbehaviors escalate. Essentially, the child is digging in her heels and saying, “You can’t make me”. The intuitive parent response is “Oh, yes I can!”

When we address a “power behavior” with a “power reprimand”, we are giving the child a PAYOFF – a “power fix”, if you will. (It is a negative power payoff – but in the absence of positive power – they’ll take it every time!)

To end power struggles for good, we have to REMOVE the negative power payoff and give POSITIVE power instead! The result will be positive behavior.

Is Time Out a good discipline technique?

Parents are often quick to use “Time Out” as a discipline tool because it is a widely used practice.  Physicians, teachers, and other parents frequently recommend “Time Out” as a way to correct common misbehaviors.  The problem with this thinking is, “Time Out” most often increases the intensity of the power struggle.

“Time Out” is not the same as removing the child from the situation.  For children under the age of 3, using one or more of the Remove and Redirect strategies are most helpful:

· Remove the object

· Remove the child from the environment  (This is not “Time Out”)

· Redirect the child’s attention

· Redirect the child’s activity

After the age of three (and even younger for some children), they understand that they are “independent beings” and using “Time Out” will only intensify the power struggle.  We cannot impose our will on another human being – even a child.  When we try to exercise power over a child, they will naturally fight back.  How can we possibly force a child to stay in “Time Out”?  Some children who are less “spirited” may do as they are told and remain in “Time Out” for the prescribed time – but what are they learning about their misbehavior? Are they sitting in “Time Out” thinking about their poor choice and about how they will do things differently next time?  Probably not!  Most likely they are “stewing” over how unfair it is that Mom or Dad sent them to “Time Out”!

How is “Time Out” related to most misbehaviors?  In most cases, it isn’t.

For consequences to be effective and to provide learning for future behaviors, they must meet the criteria of the 4 R’s.

You will learn about the 4 R’s as well as many other tools to address misbehaviors by enrolling in Positive Parenting Solutions Online.

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