when dealing with toddlers and children
Note: This post is part of an ongoing series on the war that is being waged against families and family values--- and what we can do to strengthen and protect ours. I teach a Sunday School class on strengthening the family and parenting skills. The lesson manual is terrific, the points "right on" and the suggestions doable. I am including, in my blog some of the information from that class.
Beginning at a very young age, children learn as they make everyday choices and experience the consequences of their choices.Parents can apply consequences in ways that help their children learn responsible behavior.
Interestingly, studies have found that parents who have more financially, often have a more difficult time saying no to the demands of over-indulged children. Children of these parents run the risk of not learning important values like hard work, delayed gratification, honesty and compassion.
The actions of many parents actually encourage their children to be self-centered and irresponsible when they attempt to bolster their children's self-esteem by telling them how terrific they are without requiring anything substantive from them. Unmerited praise often results in lazy, demanding, disrespectful, undisciplined children and teenagers. Permissive parents require very little of their children, providing few or no consequences for disobedience or failure to perform.
While it requires their time, responsible parents provide guidance, rules, and discipline within the context of love and caring. In the homes of such parents, rules make sense, and consequences are logically connected to the misbehavior. Children in this type of environment learn from their mistakes and feel that consequences are fair --- even if they don't always like them.
Recognize and Acknowledge Appropriate Behavior
Consider this: Children tend to repeat behaviors that draw their parent's attention. Do we tend to pay more attention to our children when they are behaving or misbehaving? Is our answer "sad, but true" to misbehaving? When parents mainly respond to negative things, no one should be surprised when the children misbehave.
Parents can reinforce desirable behavior by showing interest in what their children do and by interacting with them in a positive way, such as smiling, expressing specific gratitude, or giving a pat on the back.
This: " I appreciate when you help me clean the kitchen. I enjoy the time together, and the work gets done much more quickly.
Or This: "I appreciate you" or "You're such a good child."
See the difference? Generalities may come across insincere or even manipulative.
Allow Children to Experience Appropriate . . .
Natural consequences are consequences that automatically follow actions---
What is the usual result when a child doesn't study for a test?
Individuals learn quickly from natural consequences because the consequences occur in spite of protests or arguments against them. If parents protect their children from natural consequences they deprive the children of valuable lessons.
Important Note: Natural consequences may harm children who are too young to understand them. For example a toddler must be protected from touching a hot stove or walking alone by a stream of water or playing in a busy street.
However, parents can allow a younger child to experience minor natural consequences ---like breaking a toy by defiantly banging it against the sidewalk or ruining a marker by refusing to put the lid on it, causing it to dry out. In such cases, young children can learn best from consequences if they have been taught the rules and understand the natural consequences that will occur as a result of breaking the rules.
Applying LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES
Logical consequences are imposed by parents in a way that is logically connected to the child's behavior. For example, a child who acts up during dinner may be asked to leave the table until he or she is willing to eat quietly.
Logical consequences work best when they:
- make sense to the child
- indicate respect for the child
- require the child to pay a price
Example: A child is often late for dinner, so the parents put the food away and tell the child the next meal will be served in the morning. This consequence makes sense to the child as it is directly connected to the misbehavior and requires the child to pay the price by missing a meal for being late for dinner. Although the child will probably not like the consequence, the consequence is respectful if it is firmly applied by loving parents who are not vindictive and judgmental.
It is important that each consequence represents what one should expect for committing the infraction.
Using LESS LOGICAL Consequences
Some consequences may seem less logical but the key here is the consequence has to do with work and privileges. Example:
Watching television is a privilege that is earned by being responsible. If the child has not done their work, they are not being responsible and they lose a privilege --- in this case watching television.
Again --- It is important that each consequence represents what one should expect for committing the infraction.
Parents should impose consequences in a firm and friendly manner --- not in anger --- or the consequences will invite resentment.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER . . .
- When implementing consequences, parents should focus on being in control of their own behavior rather than on controlling their child.
- Parents should tell the child what the parents are going to do, not what the child will do. Do you see the difference?
CAN YOU HELP YOUR CHILD HAVE INPUT IN SOLVING THE PROBLEM?
Before imposing a consequence, it is often wise to discuss the problem with the child, asking how he or she is going to correct the problem. This question is important because it allows the child to take responsibility for solving the problem. Children are more likely to improve their behavior when they felt identify the course of action they should take.
LET THE CONSEQUENCES DO THE TEACHING
- When parents apply consequences, children sometimes react with anger and want to argue. The best learning occurs when parents say little but follow through.
- If the connection between the infraction and the consequence is clear, the child is more likely to feel responsible and learn from the experience.
- If the parents impose a consequence and then argue about it with the child, the child will focus on winning the argument and will lost sight of the reason for the consequence.
- Yelling and moralizing usually won't work but will provoke resentment in the child.
Again, let the consequences do the teaching.
Mother: It’s time to get the room picked up. We have some friends coming over in a few minutes.
Child: I don’t want to. I want to watch cartoons.
Father (calmly): You can pick up the toys now, or I will pick them up. If I pick them up, you won’t see them again unless you do some extra work to earn them back. Which do you choose?
Child: You pick them up.
The father calmly picks up the toys and puts them in a bag, and places the bag in storage. The following day:
Child: Where are my toys?
Father: I put them away.
Child: I want to play with them.
Father: You remember yesterday when we asked you to pick them up and you didn’t want to? Well, they’re gone just like I said.
Child: Well, I want them back. I want to play with them.
Mother (respectfully): I’m sure you do. They are your favorite toys.
Child: I want them back. Give them to me.
Mother (with empathy): We can see you feel really bad. (Pauses, as if considering what to do.) Maybe we can think of some jobs you can do to earn them back. Would you like that?
Child (yells in anger): I don’t want to earn them back. Give them to me right now!
Father: I’ll tell you what, when you can talk calmly, without yelling or getting angry, we’ll see if we can find a way for you to earn them back. But right now we have some other things we need to do.
The parents walk off. An hour later the son approaches his father and arranges to do some extra chores to earn back his toys. In the days that follow, he willingly complies when asked to pick up after himself.
This scenario illustrates the many benefits of imposing logical consequences:
- The child learns that his parents mean what they say.
- The child experiences the consequences of irresponsible behavior.
- The consequences teach the message that the child has to be responsible if he wants to enjoy privileges such as playing with toys.
- By remaining calm, the parents teach that problems are worked out peacefully and cooperatively instead of through manipulative displays of temper.
- The parent's calmness keeps the focus on the inappropriateness of the child's behavior. A scolding or an argument would have drawn attention to the parents.
Consider this: While it will take more time for you, as parents, to put these concepts into practice in the short run, think of the long run --- imagine the peace and tranquility that will follow.
Even very young children are smart --- they will catch on fast when you learn to patiently and lovingly hold your ground.
A personal example: As I have mentioned before, our first two children share the same birthday --- one year apart! Heidi had been going to bed peacefully and sleeping through the night for over nine months before Romm arrived. Very shortly after his birth, she started crying when we put her to bed and kept it up until we let her get up. We were going crazy. Our pediatrician recommended we put her to bed as usual and then let her howl. He said we couldn't even open the door for a peek, as that would indicate to her that "she won."
We tried it and it was horrible that first night when she
We tried it and it was horrible that first night when she
cried for 1-1/2 hours straight (and I cried most of that time myself!) The next night she cried for one-half hour. Beginning the third night she was back to her pre-brother routine.
Part 5 will address The Importance Of, and the How-To of Applying Consequences when dealing with older children and teenagers