Have a question, concern or problem regarding your child's behaviors? Send me an email and I will do a blog post about it! You will always remain anonymous! tkmiller81002@yahoo.com

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How I handle power struggles

Every household has power struggles. It can be over when a child goes to bed, whether they clean their room up or not or when they have to do their homework, every day there are power struggles that go on in the home. These power struggles can make or break your day and can greatly affect your attitude towards your kids and other peoples attitudes towards your kids. No one likes a kid who gets whatever they want because they tend to be brats and no one likes a kid who thinks they don't have to respect other adult's or other people's homes because their parents don't make them. What I have found to be the most successful and effective way to handle a power struggle is to refuse to engage in them.

The number one thing I tell myself is that I am the adult and therefore it is my responsibility to keep my cool. Kids are still trying to figure out everything about being human and that includes controlling their emotions so as long as I remind myself that they are still learning it is easier for me to place myself in the role as teacher instead of being the boss of my home. As I have talked to other parents it seems like this is where they struggle the most, they get so frustrated that their kid is challenging their authority that all they want to do is show the kid who is boss. It is either that or they become so intimidated by the situation and are afraid of becoming the bad guy that they give in to the child's demands just to "shut them up" and then they wonder why their kids don't listen. So when you feel your back getting up and the need to flex your parenting muscles put yourself in the role of teacher and it will become a ton easier.

The next thing I do is figure out what I need to teach my kids in that moment. One of the biggest power struggles I recently went through with J was getting him to clean up his messes. It was always too hard and too messy to do it and he wanted me or his sister to do the work for him. He would literally walk into the playroom and just lay there and complain about how hard it was to clean up and he just wanted to play. Believe me it was very frustrating and there were plenty of times where I would get so beyond frustrated that I would lose my cool and yell at him until he was cleaning because he was scared and not because it was the right choice to make at the time. That is the key to parenting and if you can really get the importance of that your life will be so much better - the key is to teach children to make good choices not because they are scared or expect something in return but because it is the right thing to do. K back to J cleaning. What I needed to teach J in this power struggle was that because he chose to make a mess he needed to clean it up and that when his chores were done he would be able to have fun and play.

Now that I knew what I needed to teach him I needed to figure out the best way to teach him that - and that is not by giving in and cleaning up for him or by spanking him and yelling at him for not cleaning. Now I have different principles for cleaning based on where the mess is. Typically the consequence for not cleaning up your mess is that I will clean it up and it will go in a box in the garage where you have to earn it back however we have a playroom in our house that I know J is not the only one who messes up, in fact my 2 yr old O makes the biggest messes in there but he just turned 2 and he is not developmentally able to clean up the entire playroom and I refuse to punish siblings for the mistakes of other siblings so I had to get creative. J loves games, especially video games and for Christmas we bought him the Toy Story 3 Wii video game. He absolutely loves this game so I used this game as a motivator to teach J to clean up without a power struggle. M and J have to have their rooms and the playroom clean and all toys and books out of the living room and kitchen before they are allowed to play video games so when they would ask to play the Wii I would ask them what the rule was and they would both say they had to clean . . . and I would then say o.k. when you finish cleaning up let me know and I will turn the game on for you. The key word there is WHEN, when is my absolute favorite word as a parent because it says so many things in only four letters, it implies that it is not negotiable but is expected to be done, it puts the power in their hands because they get to choose when the task will be accomplished not if it will be accomplished - seriously get rid of the word if and replace it with when and your world will change immensely!

The final step is to follow through! This is the key, once you give the child their choice it is up to them to figure out how to make that choice and up to you to leave them to it. In this case M and J have a choice to either not clean up and not be able to play video games or to clean up and be able to play video games, it is completely up to them. Now just like I don't believe in punishing one sibling for another sibling's choice I will not reward one sibling for another siblings work. M my almost 6 yr old learned a long time ago that I mean business when I give a choice and that her life is so much easier when she chooses to make the right choice so immediately she gets to work and within thirty minutes she would have the playroom, her room and J's rooms cleaned up while J watched her and did nothing to help, so guess what M would be able to play the video game and J would have to watch and not be allowed to touch a wii remote. While M was playing the game I would reinforce to J that it was his choice to not clean up and therefore he chose to only be able to watch. I made it very clear to him that it was his choice. It only took about three days of that happening before J realized he needed to start cleaning up or he wouldn't be able to have the fun that his sister was having and now every morning after he is dressed and fed breakfast he immediately cleans up the living room, his room and the playroom so that he can play video games - the best part about it is that my husband and I don't even have to ask, he will just come up to me and say Mom I am going to clean up so I can play the video game and I say o.k. thanks. Don't believe me? Come over to my house at 9 a.m. and you will see my 4 yr old boy busting his butt cleaning up every toy and book in the house so he can play.

So here are the steps again:
1. Keep your calm, refuse to engage in the power struggle and put yourself in the role of teacher
2. Figure out what lesson your child needs to learn - whether it is that bedtime is at 8 no matter what or that mom is not a short order cook and they will eat what they are served
3. Decide on the best way to teach them that lesson through giving them choices and putting the power in their hands
4. Follow through!!! Even if you feel like you are being the bad guy believe me it is worth every minute of that follow through.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Who's the boss?

In my experience 99% of behavior problems are power struggles. Kids want to feel like they have power over their life and parents like to be in control of their child's life and therefore you get power struggles.

Here is an overview of what a power struggle looks like:
    • Child’s basic belief: I am significant only when I am the boss.
    • Child’s attitude: “you can’t make me,” “I must have what I want,” “I must be able to do what I want.”
    • Child does: stubborn, disobedient, temper tantrum, bossy, argue, uncooperative, has to be first, has to always win, manipulative, do opposite of what they are told.
    • Adult feels: very frustrated, mad, angry, embarrassed – more intense feelings
    • Child’s response: continue without stopping or gets worse.
    • Appropriate Response: AVOID POWER STRUGGLES! You have two choices, you can either ignore it or give the power if it is unimportant. The most important thing is to refrain from getting angry and if you get in a fight take yourself out of it. Use natural consequences as mush as possible; for example, a child refuses to wear a coat when it is cold outside so they get cold. Give children choices.
When giving choices say:
        • You may do ________ or ________ you decide
        • I’m sorry, that’s not one of the choices
        • When you _______ then you may _______
What you can’t say: If you________ then you may ________; Don’t do that or else . . .

Choices have to be stated positively! Child will get angry and then you empathize so the child feels that you care and the power is still in their port and they can make a different choice next time.
                        Always take each instance for what it is and don’t use past experiences!
                        Give children appropriate such as jobs, choices, have them be a helper, and say yes
when they want something and it really is okay – is finishing that bowl of cereal
really worth the fight?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Examples of Attention Seeking behaviors

Every child wants and needs attention from their parents. It is actually crucial to their survival for parents to give their children positive attention every day of their lives. Because it is so crucial to their well being children will do whatever it takes to get the attention they desire from their parents. So what are some negative ways children seek attention? Here are just a few examples:

1. Playing with their food while eating dinner because they know you are going to tell them not to
2. Being the "class clown"
3. Being the over helper, the child who wants to do everything they can to help you out (this is actually a negative thing even though it seems to be very helpful)
4. The child who cries over everything because they know mom will stop what she is doing and comfort them
5. The child who always needs help even though you know they can do it.
6. The child who won't leave your side 

These are just some of the ways a child can seek attention, the main way to know if it is attention seeking behavior is based on how you react to the behavior. If you are slightly annoyed or mildly frustrated then it is most likely attention seeking behavior.

How to get children to stop seeking attention in a negative way? Well it sounds easier than it is but the absolute best way to stop this behavior is to ignore the behavior. Ignoring means you completely ignore it, your body language, what you say about it, everything about yourself is to completely ignore the behavior. This is incredibly hard to do because the behavior is annoying but you have to give absolutely no reaction to the behavior and consistently give no reaction to the behavior before the misbehavior will stop. If you ignore it five times but then you just can't take it anymore and you give attention to it, the child has now learned that if they do it five times then you will pay attention to them so guess what they will continue doing the behavior. It takes 15 CONSECUTIVE TIMES of ignoring a behavior before a child will stop doing it. Consistency and completely ignoring the behavior are two of the most effective ways to get rid of the behavior.

On top of ignoring the behaviors it is also extremely important to make sure you are giving your children lots of positive attention to your kids throughout the day. I have three kids who get along extremely well - of course there are days when they hate each other - and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that when I see them playing well together I comment on it and tell them how much I love seeing them play nicely together! I also am constantly aware of how I am spending my time. Did I spend the entire day cleaning and working on the computer? Did I take time throughout the day to play with my kids - even if it was only for a few minutes? I have found that the more positive attention I give my kids the less I have to deal with the negative ways my kids seek attention.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pay attention to me!

Parenting is busy work. I have yet to meet a parent who isn't busy. Whether you are busy taking care of your kids, or you work out of the home, or even in the home for that matter, or you just can't say no to people and find yourself busy with a variety of things all day long, it doesn't matter, parents are busy! I find myself often get so caught up in everything that I have to get done, like cleaning and cooking and serving in my church that I forget to pay attention to what my kids are doing until they force me to pay attention to them, and not in a good way usually!

One of the more common and frustrating misbehavior of a child is attention getting misbehavior. This is also the least understood misbehavior, I call it the garbage pail misbehavior, meaning most parents will say that their child is misbehaving because they want attention - when it actually is something else. In fact I bet most of you think that a tantrum is a child trying to get your attention, when it isn't that at all, that is a power struggle!

Here is an explanation of attention getting behavior in a nutshell.

Child’s Basic Belief: I have significance only when others are paying attention to me.

Child misbehaves by: showing off, nuisance, cry, overly sensitive, being slow to do something, forgetful, overly helpful, overly charming, brown – noser.

Adult Feels: frustrated/annoyed – relatively mild

Wrong response: as soon as adult reminds, gives sympathy – behavior is reinforced.

Child’s response: child stops because they got what they wanted.

Appropriate Response: Ignore – unless it involves safety. Be consistent and have your total body language relaxed and ignore the behavior. It will take at least 15 consecutive times of ignoring a behavior before behavior will stop so hang in there! The minute you pay attention to the behavior the child’s mistaken belief has been reinforced and the behavior will continue. 

I am interested to get some feedback from you on what specific things you think a child does that is attention getting based on those few notes and tomorrow I will post some specific examples on what it looks like.

We survived the past two weeks!

Well we survived my husband's surgery and our life has returned back to normal. My husband is back to work and I am back to blogging and taking care of my amazing kids. One thing I really noticed as my husband was healing was how amazing my kids were at understanding that their needs were not my number one concern but that didn't mean I didn't love them, it just meant I needed to take care of daddy and then them. It also helped to have a great support system of family and friends who could watch my kids for a few hours so I could take care of him and myself. I know my brother in law doesn't realize it, but he did me the greatest service by ditching basketball to help me out, and I was able to take a shower and not have to worry about anything but getting clean. That was huge for me.

Speaking of my kids understanding I have to share a story about my priorities as my husband was healing. On the first day after my husband's surgery my 4 yr old J came in my room and wanted me to turn on a video game for him and get him a drink of milk at the same time my husband needed me to go get him his pain pills and something to eat. As I was walking out of my room with J I was explaining to him that he would have to wait because daddy's needs were my number one priority and his needs were my number two priority. My five year old heard me say that and immediately said, "Well then where am I?" I didn't realize she heard what I said to J so I told her that she obviously was in the living room, and she goes, "No mom, I mean if J is number 2 and D is number 1 what am I?" I then had to explain to her that all my kids were included in my number 2 priority and none of them were more important than the other two. After that they were so good at being patient and waiting until I finished helping T before I helped them.

This week I am going to be focusing on why kids misbehave and for me I have found that if you can truly understand this concept then life as a parent becomes a TON easier, so ask questions and share examples so you can all help each other understand the concept better!