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If you are in pursuit of well-behaved, well-adjusted children, you need to understand how your behavior is connected to your childs behavior. Behavior does not occur by magic. It is not inherited. A well-behaved child is not the result of luck. Be encouraged -- children learn behavior, and they can learn to change behavior too.
Children learn by copying, or modeling -- they listen, observe and imitate. Therefore, you have a powerful influence on them, so think carefully about what you say and do in front of your kids. If you tell the telemarketer on the phone that your husband is not
home when he is, you teach your children that lying is okay. If you argue, yell or call people names, you teach your children that these things are okay too. If you get angry at your children, you can expect them to get angry at others.
It's just as true that if you speak in a calm voice even when you are angry, you teach your children how to stay calm when provoked. When you apologize for using bad language, you teach your children to take responsibility for mistakes. When you share, you teach your children to share. Modeling is such a simple lesson that we sometimes forget to make use of it.
As you are observing your children and making a plan for improving their behavior, you must make three promises to yourself.
1. Promise to have courage to be open and to accept new ideas. If what you are doing is working, stick with it. If not, try something new.
2. Promise to have patience. If your son is 12 years old, he has had 12 years to develop his behavior patterns. Give him time to change.
3. Promise to practice. Every parent must practice -- even me. Just as your children learn behaviors, parenting behavior is also learned. Good parenting skills do not appear suddenly and instinctively. But they will become more natural the more you practice them.
Step One Activity:
Establishing Your Goal
During this activity, you are going to establish your goal. To do that, first ask yourself how you would like things to be. What changes do you want to see in your children? Select a goal that offers a high chance of success, as that will encourage more success down the road. If possible, select a goal that contributes to the well-being of the whole family. This will encourage a positive family climate.
Sample goal: Siblings Danny and Allison will get along with each other.
Next, make a list of three behaviors that you want to increase or decrease that will directly affect the success of your goal. In the case of Danny and Allison, the list might look this:
1. Danny and Allison will argue less.
2. Danny and Allison will tease each other less.
3. Danny and Allison will share each other's toys more.
Now, observe and keep a record for five days. Count the number of times the behaviors occur each day. But do not do anything to change them. This week, you are simply observing and keeping a record.
Here is a sample record:
These records are very important; over time, they will tell you if your plan is working. If you do not keep written records, you may not be aware of the improvements. With some children, improvements come slowly. And some improvements are not easily detected. At the start of this plan, Danny and Allison are arguing an average of six times a day. Suppose that after two weeks, they are arguing five times a day. This is a small improvement -- but it is progress. As you take part in this workshop, the written records will show you the gains you've made, no matter how small.
When you are ready, move on to Step Two to find out why discipline works better than punishment.
Learning the Right Way to Discipline
In Step One, you established a goal for your children, listed the behaviors that you want to see changed, and recorded how often they occur. Now you'll be able to take some action by learning the most effective ways to discipline your children in order to change these behaviors.
When I ask parents how they discipline their children, most parents tell me how they punish their children. They yell, scold, spank, take privileges away and restrict their children to their bedrooms. But discipline and punishment are not the same things at all. Discipline is really about teaching
decision making. It's teaching children how to make better choices about their behavior, how to be responsible, and showing them that they have the power to choose how they behave. In fact, when used correctly, punishment is actually a very small part of the total discipline process.
I think that many parents are confused about the purpose of discipline. They tend to believe that its purpose is to control a child's behavior -- make her behave no matter what. And unfortunately, many parents spend hours on end chasing their children around the house trying to force them to behave. The real goal should not be about control, but rather cooperation. If you emphasize cooperation in your home, you will teach your children to choose to behave appropriately because it makes sense to behave appropriately.
Wouldn't that be a relief?
Here's an example to illustrate my point:
Imagine that your daughter makes a mess in the kitchen while preparing her own lunch. Your first impulse might be to yell or reprimand -- to punish her. You might even spank her, or send her to her room. But these reactions will accomplish little. Instead, use discipline to provide a learning experience. Since you want her to learn to clean up after herself, start with something positive: "I'm glad to see you are old enough to make your own lunch, but I'm disappointed to see that you left a mess. I know you can do better. Please go clean it up. Let me know if you need help."
There is an important difference between these two strategies. In the first case, you are trying to control your child's behavior. The new approach on the other hand, encourages your child to control her own behavior. Wouldn't you agree that this strategy makes more sense? Seeking control is seldom a better tactic than seeking cooperation. Once you believe that discipline is about teaching decision making, you and your children will have an improved, cooperative attitude about discipline in general.
Step Two Activity:
Taking action to change your children's behavior
In the first step of this workshop, you identified which behaviors to change. This step will show you how to take direct action to correct them. Now that you are familiar with the most effective ways to discipline your children, you will need to decide how you will intervene in order to improve their behavior.
Since you now know the importance of cooperation, begin by telling your children about the goals of your plan -- that you would like them to change their behavior, and that you will be happy to help them. Explain the three priority behaviors that you want your children to change. Then, establish the rules and consequences. Be very clear about what you expect and what they can expect. Most importantly, be positive about the plan: Tell them that this is going to make everyone feel better. Finally, ask your children to express their ideas as well. Find out what incentives they would like to earn. Extra one-on-one time with you, minutes added to story time, a thank-you note in a lunch box, praise over the progress made, a back rub before bed? But also be sure to explain that you are serious about the plan; you will follow through with discipline measures if they choose to misbehave.
Here's an example of how you could conduct the conversation. Remember Danny and Allison? They needed to argue less and share more. So a parent might say to them, "I would like to talk to you about a new program. I expect that from now on, you will not argue. I also expect that you will share each other's toys. When you share and do not argue, you can earn extra minutes at story time. If you break a rule, you will go to time-out for five minutes. This plan will help you behave and get along with each other. I know you can do a good job."
From that moment, the choice to behave is with Danny and Allison. The parent can become a spectator, cheering the children on to success. And when the children break the rules, their parents do not need to engage in lengthy arguments but simply enforce the consequences.
If you find that a form of discipline is needed, ask yourself these questions before using any tactics:
Will this discipline style teach my child better decision-making skills?
Does this discipline style change the misbehavior?
Is this form of discipline reasonable and fair?
With your own children, you are no longer the bad guy. By giving them plenty of encouragement when they show improvements, they will know that you are on their side and that you want them to succeed. Comments such as "It's good to see you sharing" and "You should both be proud of your behavior" are particularly helpful in increasing their self-worth. We'll talk more about how to spotlight good behavior in Step Three.
You may find it helpful to keep a record of how often the behaviors occur as you did in last week's lesson. Include whether you needed to use measures of discipline to try and correct the behavior and how consistent you were with the process. As your children adjust to the plan, hopefully you will find that the incidents of misbehavior will decrease.
Learning a new system to spotlight good behavior
In the last step, you learned the right way to discipline, and now you will take it a step further by discovering how to use positive feedback to encourage good behavior.
I tell parents at my workshops that anyone can catch children being bad. I suggest you turn this around and catch them being good! Positive feedback is the most powerful tool you have to improve your children's behavior and self-esteem. Using praise or incentives encourages good decision making. Positive feedback is not something new, but sometimes we forget to use it. If you desire better behavior from your children, increasing your use of positive feedback is essential.
Positive feedback isn't just about praise, but it also means rewards and incentives. Feeling good about behaving is a gradual process. Just as adults are motivated to work, in part, for the paycheck, children need to be motivated toward a reward like a back rub or an extra bedtime story. In the long run, however, it's important to use positive feedback in order to teach a child to value himself. It is all right for children to behave and work hard to please their parents. It's even better when they behave and work hard for themselves. For example:
Good: "I like the way you did that."
Better: "Well done. You should be proud of yourself."
The second statement creates a sense of success, and is aimed at building self-esteem. Whenever you reward your child with an incentive, such as an allowance, be sure to add a comment that causes your child to think about doing the right thing: "You did a wonderful job on your chores. Here's your allowance. I hope you feel good about yourself." That way you are including the three components of positive feedback: praise, reward and incentive.
Step 3 Activity:
Create a Reward Chart
An easy way to highlight and reinforce good behavior is to use a chart. Charts are visual reminders to be consistent, prompt you to look for good behavior, provide positive interactions between you and your children, promote a healthy family climate, and encourage everyone to work together. Plus, in two-parent families, charts furnish an instant way to increase consistency between the parents.
In a new daily chart, list the priority behaviors that you identified in Lesson One. When your child behaves, put a smiley face or checkmark in the box. At the end of the day, add up the number of marks. For some children, filling up the boxes will be enough reward. For others, the numbers will be equal to a special activity or treat that you have agreed on ahead of time. (Note: For older children, an actual chart with smiley faces may not be appropriate. Consider drafting a mutually agreed upon contract instead.)
Shares her toys
Listens the first time
Using the chart that you already created in Step Two and your new reward chart, continue to monitor your children's behavior and misbehavior. When your children show improvements in all three behaviors, you can add a new behavior to the list. But I would be cautious. It is better to add new behaviors slowly. When you are ready, move on to Step Four to find out how to fine-tune your plan and further improve your children's behavior.
Maintaining Good Behavior
In Step Three you charted your child's good behavior. If you still aren't seeing as much improvement as you'd like, don't worry, it will come. Your plan may just need some adjusting, that's all. There are two reasons why you may not be getting results -- either the expectations are too high or the consequences are not motivating enough. If you think the expectations are too difficult, change them. If the children are unwilling to share each other's toys, for example, change your expectation: They must take turns while playing a game. Begin by playing the game with them. Show them how you share
and take turns. Once they are successful, let them play a game alone. As they learn to play more cooperatively, try the original expectation again.
The success of any plan also depends on positive feedback and incentives. Children become tired of the same reward. Change incentives as needed to maintain a high level of motivation. You may be tempted to use punishments if your plan shows no improvement, but remember, most children will show less effort, not more if you resort to punishment.
The only times that punishments should be occur are when a child deliberately, willfully and intentionally disobeys. If you have a No-hitting rule, for example, and your child hits, then a punishment such as Time-out, may be appropriate. When used correctly, punishment can be used to curtail some types of misbehavior, as long as the correct behavior is taught and reinforced. So, you might follow up the Time-out by telling your child, "No hitting. Use your words to tell how you are feeling." In general, it is better to stick with discipline and change the positive incentives instead.
Remember what I've said before: Don't wait for misbehavior to happen. Catch your kids being good. We tend to focus on misbehavior, especially with teenagers. We come to expect their good behavior, and often overlook their positive efforts. When a child demonstrates good behavior, notice it. Look for it. The more you notice, the more you will find. And the more you recognize, the more good behavior you will get in the future.
Finally, if your children are behaving poorly even though you are using positive feedback and incentives appropriately, they may be acting out to get more attention from you. Did you know that statistics show that the average American parent spends only seven minutes a week with each of their children? Try to do better than average. Telling your children that you love them is not enough, you have to show them that you love them too. Just spending 10 minutes of quality time with each child every day could vastly improve the situation.
Maintaining Good Behavior
continued from page 1
Parents who work outside the home have an even greater challenge to find quality together time. Here are some strategies for you to try:
ââ‚¬Â¢ When you arrive home from work, give the first fifteen minutes to your children.
ââ‚¬Â¢ Make an appointment with each of your children every day. Even a five to 10 minute period of undivided attention will go a long way.
ââ‚¬Â¢ Take advantage of nice day or evening and go for a walk and listen to what is happening in their lives.
ââ‚¬Â¢ Turn off the TV for half an hour and just talk.
Maintaining Good Behavior
Here's a list of reminders, 10 Principles of Practicing Good Behavior that you can post on the refrigerator and practice every day. Keep it out. That way, your children will also see what the correct way to behave in a healthy family climate is and even remind you of it. If you behave, they will -- and the whole family will benefit.
As a parent, you know that raising well-behaved kids is a constant work in progress. It requires courage and patience. But by completing this workshop, you now have the tools to make this childrearing challenge a reality. Keep the good behavior momentum going by continuing to recognize and reward good behavior in your children. If your kids misbehave from time to time, don't get discouraged. Do not let their behavior keep you from enjoying them. Continue to practice the ideas presented in this workshop. Then, go back to laughing and playing with them!
10 Principles of Practicing Good Behavior
1. Pay off correct behavior, not misbehavior. Reinforce polite requests, not whining, teasing and tantrums. Reinforce calm discussions, not arguments and power struggles.
2. Think before you talk. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Reward yourself for being consistent.
3. Expect good behavior from your children. Children must know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. When children can predict how you will behave in reaction to them, they will make better behavioral choices themselves.
4. Children believe what you tell them.
Coach your children on ways to behave appropriately. Teach your children that effort is essential. Use plenty of encouragement. When you encourage your children, they will see that you have faith and confidence in them, and will have it in themselves.
5. Once you recognize a misbehavior pattern, establish a plan. Tell them the rules in advance and be specific and reasonable. Using charts or contracts, spotlight success and provide support and encouragement.
6. Use punishments that teach decision-making and accountability. Children survive reasonable punishments, such as restriction and time-outs. Do not punish when you are angry.
7. Begin teaching responsibility and decision-making when your children are young. This will prepare them for the real world. Remember, children need limits, structure, ground rules and consistency. Children will see these qualities as an expression of your love and concern.
8. Focus on your children's positive qualities but love them regardless of their behavior.
9. Teach your children to seek self-reward -- to feel good about doing the right thing.
10. Provide a healthy and pleasant family climate. Emphasize each other's strengths and accept one another's weaknesses.