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discipline

Parenting

He With the Fastest Watch Wins: Sibling Rivalry

My watch is faster than yours!

Dinner conversation tonight:

Liam: “We’re going to play Nerf darts tomorrow at Spring Valley Park.”
Daniel: “It’s called Buffalo Park.”
Liam [huffs]: “Get a map so I can prove him wrong!”

If your home is anything like mine, there’s some sibling rivalry going on. One-upmanship, competition, and even downright conflict happens on a regular basis. Despite the annoyance to me parents, sibling rivalry is normal.

(Note: physical fighting is not something to be condoned. Many parents view physical fighting between siblings as normal, but it teaches kids to solve problems with violence. Moreover, physical fighting between siblings, if often/severe enough, can even be sibling abuse. )

My watch is faster than yours!

My watch is faster than yours!

Sometimes the rivalry can be comical to parents, but it still presents a teachable moment. As preschoolers, our boys received wristwatches as a gift from their grandma. They loved the watches and felt very grown-up. One day at the kitchen table, there was this exchange:

Liam: “My watch says 2:32.”
Daniel [glancing at his watch, smugly]: “Well, my watch says 2:33.”

And the teachable moment was… I don’t exactly remember, because I was laughing too hard. I think it was about how not everything is a race.

Thankfully, most siblings grow out of their rivalry. Also, it is sometimes situation-specific. My boys are frequent rivals at home, but Daniel brags about Liam’s accomplishments when they’re at school.

Tips for calming down sibling rivalry

  • It takes two to tango, so to speak. Regardless of who started the argument (“He did!” “No, she did!”), both kids can receive a negative consequence for negative behavior. This teaches children that they can be in control of their reactions to other people.
  • The flip side of that is to catch your kids when they are cooperative with each other, and praise them. If you keep a sticker or reward chart, this could earn each child a sticker/point.
  • Model calm conflict resolution yourself. If you fly off the handle at little things, your children learn that’s how things are done. We all have some days when we are glad there are no reality TV cameras in our home – okay, I can only speak for myself – but overall, show your children that disagreements can be handled calmly.
  • If age-appropriate, let your children work the conflict out between themselves. Monitor for physical violence, however – or even mean-spirited language that crosses the line.
  • Understand child development. For example, a toddler who bites is not being mean or violent. At such a young age, she is unable to express her feelings, and biting is a symptom of feeling overwhelmed.

 

Sometimes, when there's a lull in the trash talk, this happens.

Sometimes, when there’s a lull in the trash talk, this happens.

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Family, Parenting

Discipline (Part II): “Good Job!” Why Praise Is (and Isn’t) Awesome

PraiseButtons

PraiseButtonsVisit any playground and you’ll hear plenty of praise. Usually it’s “Good job!” many times over.

Good job at what? Often it’s vague. Sometimes it seems so random that parents seem to mean, “Good job! You’re breathing!”

When teaching kids about the world, it’s more effective to shape behavior you’d like to see more of instead of discouraging what’s unwanted. Some of this has to do with how our brains process language: we don’t comprehend negatives very well. If you hear, “Don’t drop the glass of milk,” your brain pretty much hears, “Drop the glass of milk.” Instead: “Hold the glass carefully.”

Give your child an idea of what is expected. Children don’t have a wide repertoire of behaviors to choose from. You might know that “Stop hitting your sister!” means, “Keep your hands to yourself.” But a child doesn’t know what to do instead of hitting.

For optimal calmness in redirecting your child, think of what you do want to see. This can be tricky to figure out. But if it’s hard for adults to articulate a positive alternative, kids won’t fare better.

Praise can be highly motivating, especially if you note these guidelines (adapted from Dr. Alan E. Kazdin of Yale University):

Behavior-related. Praise the action, not the child. No matter what terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day your child is having, he is still good. Address only the behavior. It helps to acknowledge the child’s feelings. “I can tell you’re mad that your sister took your gum, but keep your hands to yourself.”ReadingStarAward

Immediate. The quicker, the better. When you house-train a dog you wouldn’t wait for the dog to pee, then wander around the yard for five minutes before you praise.

Specific. Instead of “Good job!” be detailed. “You picked up your clothes right when I asked you. Thank you!”

Enthusiastic. You might feel self-conscious at first, but really whoop it up, especially for little kids.

No caboosing. “Caboosing” is when you tack on another statement that undermines your message. If your daughter cleans her room, praise that. Stop there. If you say, “You did a thorough job cleaning your room, but you should have been doing that all along,” you create negativity. You wouldn’t like it if a boss told you, “Outstanding effort on that report. You should have done a good job before.” Ouch.

Choose your opportunities. If you praise every little thing it loses its potency, and your child may become a praise junkie. So save praise for those behaviors that really matter.

 

 

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He With the Fastest Watch Wins: Sibling Rivalry
March 9, 2015
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Discipline (Part I): What Works? What Doesn’t?

No naughty chairs allowed!
No naughty chairs allowed!

No naughty chairs allowed!

Although some people still adhere to the adage, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” there is growing awareness that disciplining kids doesn’t have to be punitive. In fact, disciplining kids should not be harsh, whether that is by physical means or overly stringent loss of privileges. (“You’re grounded for a month!”)

Some popular discipline methods backfire or are ineffective at the very least. Not knowing any other strategies, sometimes parents dig in their heels on an unproductive consequence (“Did I say no video games for one month? I mean for one year!”)

The root of the word discipline means “to teach,” not “I’m bigger than you so I will intimidate you into acting the way I want.”

Here’s what everyone can probably agree upon: as parents, we want to develop certain behaviors in our kids, and discourage others. It’s the method we employ in that pursuit that varies.

Study after study demonstrates that spanking is not the way to go. Not only is spanking ineffective, it is linked to all sorts of negative outcomes. Increased aggression and lower self-esteem are just the tip of the iceberg.

You probably already know that nagging doesn’t work, either. Children seem to be born with an innate ability to tune parents out.

What might be a surprise is that withholding privileges is also not useful, if this is your main method. With a strong-willed child, you might find that you quickly back your way into a corner. Consequence after consequence and loss of privileges can snowball until your child is sleeping on a mat in a stripped-down bedroom. Whose will is stronger? Watch the epic battle!

Even without going that far, the mood of your home becomes negative. Your relationship with your child is affected.

When it’s used occasionally and in a thoughtful way, though, withholding privileges can be helpful. It is like garlic: a little bit goes a long way. Research tells us that taking away a privilege for a short period of time — like one day — works as well as a longer time. Psychologist Alan E. Kazdin of Yale University (author of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child) emphasizes that the punishment should happen right after the child’s negative behavior. Pairing the punishment quickly after the child’s behavior is is more important than how long the privilege is forbidden.

What else can a parent do?

Natural consequences are great teaching tools. If you drop a ball off the top of a building, the natural consequence is that it will fall to the ground.

How does that translate to children?

Boy with backbackLet’s say your daughter tends to forget to pack her school homework. If you bring it to her at school, she learns that it isn’t important to remember it herself. As a parent, work with her on planning ahead by having her prepare her backpack in advance. Then, if she still forgets her homework, let her suffer a missing assignment. The natural consequence to not turning in homework is a lower grade for the day.

She will live through this. If you have a perfectionistic streak, it may be harder on you. I assure you, you will also live through this. The take-home is that your daughter learns that she must be responsible for one thing — packing up her homework — to attain what she wants (good grades) and/or avoid what she doesn’t want (bad grades).

dunce cap, sitting in the corner, time out

Time-outs are popular, but typically implemented in a way that doesn’t help your child. Too often, parents use time-outs as punishment instead of a way to help your child calm down. Fair disclosure: I have been guilty of this, when my boys were preschoolers.

The purpose of a time-out is not to punish or isolate your child. It is not about having a “naughty chair” like some media personalities advocate. Rather, taking a time-out is a method to remove your child from an amped-up situation and allow him the space and time to calm down. You may have heard a minute per year of age, which reflects children’s different capacities at different ages. Some parents even create a lovely, calming area in their home for time-outs.

Teaching your child how to create an environment to calm down and redirect his energy is a great lifelong gift. I used to work for a domestic violence agency, and a big part of the work was helping adults learn to take a time-out before a situation escalated.

In the big picture, it is not about punishing your child for a negative behavior. It is about redirecting energy and teaching which behavior is expected instead. Children really are learning about the world, and we often unfairly expect them to act like mini adults.

Praise is also a great discipline tools when used properly. Unfortunately, is often used too generally and without much thought.

I will cover how to use praise effectively with your child in my next post. Stay tuned.

Related posts
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March 9, 2015
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Family, Home, Las Vegas Kids, Moms, Parenting

Do You Believe in Chores?!

There was a lot of talk going around today on different social media sites on the topic of giving kids chores. It got me thinking about my own views on this subject. There were many different sides being argued and I think I fall a little more towards the side of giving my children minimal chores. I have many reasons why. My absolute first reason why is because I love being a homemaker. For me, it feels great to prepare meals, do laundry, and tidy up the house. It might sound crazy, but it is another way I show my family love. When I do simple chores I try to do them to the best of my abilities. I remember when I was in school and there were always those kids that were so put together and had a constant clean and fresh smell to them. I used to be so envious of those kids. I used to wish that my mother would put that kind of effort into me and my appearance. A simple chore like laundry is actually very important to me. I try to always have my children well-dressed and stain-free.  I have found that even if I don’t spend a lot of money on their clothing, if I put the extra effort into washing them properly and fighting the stains, they usually look great. It’s funny because some of the most rewarding comments have been when I go to my children’s school and the teachers tell me they can always tell which blankets belong to my kids because they are so soft and always smell fresh. This probably sounds crazy to about 99% of people but I guess being teased and made fun of for my clothes and cleanliness in school really stuck with me. imageNow I am not quite sure if I could give the same effort if I had a full time job or even part time job. Since I am a stay at home mom, I am able to make matters of the house my full time job. When it comes to the kids, I really just want them to focus on things that I feel are more important than doing laundry or dishes. I want them to focus on their schooling or activities. My oldest son and I were just talking the other night about the fact that when he moves out he is going to wonder, “Why is the laundry basket still full? Why doesn’t my toilet paper roll replace itself anymore? Why does my toilet have a brown ring around it?” Even though he has never really had to manage these things for himself, I am guessing that after time he will figure it out.  Kids seem to have so much more on their plates now than they did in the past: my teen daughter is swamped with homework nightly and my son has overcome many challenging hurdles. So I guess I could care less if they know how to do laundry. Now this isn’t to say that children have no responsibilities at all. They do have one main chore and that is to clean up after themselves. I want them to know that they are responsible for the mess they make. Also, we have a very clean home and if all five of the kids were leaving messes behind them, I don’t think I could possibly keep up. Where do you stand on the subject? Do you believe in giving kids chores?

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March 9, 2015
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