Logical Consequence Grab Bag: Say Please!

Source: ladcblog.org

In our everyday parenting, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with the perfect logical consequence. We always want to strike the balance between teaching a lesson without being too harsh. Having our children say “please” and “thank you” is so important, yet it can be so difficult to ensure they do it consistently.

What can we do to encourage our kids to say “please” and “thank you”? First, be sure to explain the importance of being polite. Explain that we are not put on this Earth to serve their every desire. And expressing thanks is the first step toward instilling a heart of gratitude in our kids.

When our kids forget, there’s a great way to handle it. If your child is asking something from you, never give it to him unless he says “please.” This can be anything from a meal that you are expected to provide no matter what or a special treat. If he asks without saying “please” tell him no, and that he can come back to you in 5 or 10 minutes when he’s ready to ask appropriately. He’ll probably ask again right away. Simply walk away knowing you have told him what you require.

With an older child, you might leave it at that. Make note of the time on the clock and don’t allow the child to come back until 5 or 10 minutes have passed. For a younger child, set a timer. Set it for a solid 5 or 10 minutes so he gets a true sense for how long that is.

This is much more powerful than simply reminding our kids and having them ask again right away. As with all consequences, the “pain” of the consequence must equal the weight of the infraction. If the child says “please” and “thank you” 90% of the time and forgets once or twice, a verbal reminder with no wait might be sufficient. If it’s a consistent problem, a longer wait might be more effective. Always gauge the effectiveness of the consequence by the child’s behavior. If it works, great. If not, try again with a more “painful” consequence.

Correcting Our Faults in Children

Source: boagworld.com

What happens when you recognize your own failings in your children? Say you were a super picky eater as a child. What do you do when you encounter that quality in your child? Are you more sympathetic because you’ve struggled with it or do you tend to react more harshly?

A good friend recently mentioned this idea to me, and I find it so interesting. She says that one of her biggest faults is clumsiness. No matter the reason, she’s struggled with being clumsy her whole life. I wouldn’t think of clumsiness as a major fault, because it’s not one of those things that you can necessarily control. But it is definitely something she struggles with. The reason she mentioned it is that she realized that she tends to correct her kids more harshly when they act clumsy.

I can imagine why this might be the case. She has recognized it as an unbecoming fault and doesn’t want to pass it along to her children. Or maybe because she’s recognized it as a weakness in herself, there’s no doubt in her mind that clumsiness is a weakness that everyone should avoid, her children included. But she laughed at it because it’s kind of ridiculous and almost hypocritical for her to judge her kids for a quality that she hasn’t yet been able to conquer.

This also had me thinking about my family. When you look at our genetic makeup, William is 98% my husband. He looks and acts like him so much it’s creepy. You would never know the child is my offspring. But I think this is a problem in our house. I find that my husband is overly critical of William, and it just occurred to me recently that it could be because he identifies with William’s failings so much. Aside from a few SPD tendencies, I hardly identify with William at all. When I look at him, I don’t see myself. So in a way, it enables me to parent him objectively (if that’s at all possible).

I will say that if I see any faults in my children, I do tend to look at myself first. I’ve been struggling lately with William’s perfectionism. It tends to hinder our homeschooling, and it’s so pronounced that he recently said he “wanted to be perfect for the rest of his life.” Uh oh. When he said that, he may as well have been pointing a mirror right back at me. I’m a HUGE perfectionist. I like everything to be just so, and if I can’t make it perfect, I don’t try. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the horribly sized picture on my Facebook page, but it eats at me. I don’t have the software to fix it, so I’m stuck and do my best to push it out of my mind — which is more difficult than it should be. (Hey, if anybody has Photoshop and can help me, I’d so appreciate it!) And my kids don’t have baby books, it’s that bad. I’ve always wanted baby books for my kids, but I’ve tried. And I’ve tried. I just can’t make them perfect, and because it’s so important, it has to be perfect. It’s messed up, right?

I have to say, though, that I don’t overly criticize William for his perfectionism, partly because I haven’t really owned up to it being a fault (which I seriously need to do). But I will definitely say that there are certain qualities in Lucas that I criticize more than my husband does. Lucas is much more like me (not quite 98% but close). He likes his comfort foods, he likes being cautious, he likes it when life is predictable and pleasant. But sometimes, even though I’m exactly the same way sometimes, it drives me nuts! I’m much less forgiving of his faults than anyone else in my family. I don’t give in to his picky eating. I make him stop whining the minute it starts. I encourage him to try new things, and so on.

It’s really interesting because you’d think I’d be more forgiving of these faults because I can identify with them. I was a picky eater as a child. I whined all the time as a child. I was super cautious as a child. I get it. I’ve been there. But I suppose I’m more critical because I’m aware that these qualities are faults and that they will be something he’ll have to overcome later in life. That, or find a spouse who will cater to these qualities. Thanks, honey! ;)

I suppose the point of this post is that we should ask ourselves whether we are being fair to the children who possess those qualities that we deem to be faults of our own. Are we being hypocritical to be overly stern when we see these faults in our kids? Or are we simply trying to save them the heartache that we have gone through by having to manage these faults in ourselves?

Logical Consequences Grab Bag: Apologies

Source: mylot.com

In our everyday parenting, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with the perfect logical consequence. We always want to strike the balance between teaching a lesson without being too harsh. Over the next few days, in posts with a similar title, I’ll offer a few ideas of logical consequences for common misbehaviors.

What do we do when our kids offer insincere apologies? You know the type. You ask a child to apologize to you for some misbehavior, and rather than look you in the eye and offer a heartfelt apology, he averts his eyes and mumbles the word “sorry.” Sometimes it’s so imperceptible that you’re not sure he even said it. What do you do when this happens? We all know that every form of discipline is done in an effort to teach. Discipline is all about heart training. If we don’t teach them a lesson or reach their hearts, we haven’t done our job.

So what’s the consequence that will reach their hearts? The next time your child apologizes to you, require that he ask for forgiveness. Require him to look in your eye (or the eye of the offended party) and say “sorry” as if he means it. Then have him ask for forgiveness.

It’s too easy for a child to utter a mindless, insincere apology, especially when he doesn’t want to take ownership of whatever it was he did wrong. Nor does he want to put his guilt into the hands of someone else. But these are exactly the reasons why we need to require it. Make no mistake: asking another person to forgive you is a very powerful thing. It tips the scales and requires the offender to give up all power over the situation and put it in the hands of the other person.

My kids took a little while to get used to saying it – and to not confuse the asking of forgiveness with the act of giving it. But it has been a complete game-changer in our house. Whenever a child goes into timeout, or otherwise hurts someone, we require not only an apology but a request for forgiveness. William, in particular, has a tough time with it because he knows how powerful it is to ask someone else to assuage your guilt.

In my house, my kids are required to also say what they are sorry for. So it all goes something like this: “I’m sorry for breaking apart your Lego guy, Lucas. Will you forgive me?” I usually have to coach them through it, which is fine. The other benefit of this trick is that it makes the offended party much more likely to forgive. Lucas is always quick to say “I forgive you” whenever his brother asks for it.

Recently, Lucas hurt William pretty bad, and while Lucas was trying to sort out what he had done, I sent him into the bathroom for a timeout. When he was done and had apologized to ME (he hurt my son), he was required to apologize to William and ask for his forgiveness. William was very quick to forgive Lucas (even though he had a red mark on his cheek), and they then hugged each other. It was a very sweet, loving moment between my boys. If I had allowed an insincere apology, there’s no way they would have reached this moment of forgiveness.

Trouble with Logical Consequences?

Source: hybridrastamama.com

Many, many parenting experts tell us all about the importance of logical consequences. These consequences are imposed by the parent and are supposed to relate to the troublesome behavior. But I think there’s a problem with this. There are too many parents who can’t impose logical consequences because they can’t think of any.

I admit I struggle with this myself. It’s far easier to send my boys to sit on their beds in timeout than to think of a consequence that fits the crime. And deep down, I think I know that to take some prized privilege away will break their little hearts. I’m a little too quick to give them second chances.

The truth of the matter is that actions speak louder than words. Taking away a child’s iPad privileges for two weeks will have much greater effect than a daily lecture on the problem that seems to happen day after day.

Understanding this, we can see the value in logical consequences. So why is it so hard to come up with consequences? Practically, it can be difficult to think of a consequence in the heat of the moment. Having a plan and making a list help tremendously.

But even more than coming up with a consequence in the heat of the moment is that our kids simply have so much! If I ever take away my boys’ TV or iPad privileges, they’re happy to go play with their Legos. If I take away their Legos, they have a million other toys they could play with. So what do they care if I take these things away?

By the same token, we need to make sure our kids have enough freedoms that we can take them away. When our restrictions are so tight, we can’t tighten them any more.

I was talking to a friend recently about the fact that she allows her teenage boys to have TVs in their rooms. Without assuming I knew better — I have no idea what it’s like to raise a teenage boy — I asked her why and whether she thought it caused any problems. Her response was that by allowing her boys that freedom, it gave her something to take away when they were causing trouble. She simply holds out her hand and expects them to give her their remotes, with the expectation that they won’t watch at all.

It made me think that we need to allow our kids certain freedoms simply because it gives us fodder for logical consequences. All freedoms should be granted according to the child’s age and level of responsibility, but knowing what freedoms are appropriate and which are not isn’t easy. For some parents, the temptation is to give their kids everything under the sun. Other parents are fearful of allowing their children too much that they have nowhere to go for logical consequences. In my friend’s case, her boys seem clearly responsible to have this freedom because there’s no fight when they lose the privilege. It’s clear that it is a privilege that can be granted and taken away according to the parents’ will.

I don’t assume to know all the answers when it comes to logical consequences. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t even think toys or electronics have any huge effect when I’m implementing a logical consequence. When I see my children at their most difficult times, it’s when the other brother is preoccupied with something. Lucas is like a lost puppy when his brother is away at therapy or busy with some other activity. And William will go to great lengths to not have to play alone. Realizing this, having them play separately is a logical consequence that I need to think about.

But on the other hand, do I really want to get in the middle of their wonderful friendship? Lucas won at a game of Sorry the other day, and because William was whining and complaining about losing, I worried that he was going to lose it the minute Lucas won. But he completely shocked me. He celebrated his brother’s win and gave him huge hugs for it! He was so genuinely happy about his brother’s win, it was as if he had won the game himself.

I’d love to hear about logical consequences in your home. Do you use them? What consequences seem to have the greatest effect?

A New Timeout Method

Source: realage.com

If you’ve read my posts on timeouts here and here, you know that we typically do timeouts on the bed. Our ultimate goal in doing so is to isolate the offending child with the idea that isolation takes away the privilege of social interaction and allows time for contemplation. Essentially, when the child sits by himself, he’s more likely to think about what he did wrong and find a repentant heart.

As important as these ideas are, it’s also important to realize when our usual tactics aren’t working. It occurred to me recently that my boys aren’t thinking about what they did wrong when they sat on their beds. They were merely waiting me out.

The Ezzos would agree with me that any discipline measure needs to inflict a bit of pain to be effective. And I don’t mean physical pain. I simply mean affecting kids in a way that is important to them. With William, timeouts on the bed do inflict pain in that he’s a very social being. It’s difficult for him to be alone. With Lucas, it got to the point where he would twiddle his thumbs just waiting for his timeout to be over. He wasn’t disobeying. He just didn’t seem to care.

So I came up with a new method. I now require them to stand in a corner with their foreheads on the wall or door. It’s surprisingly effective. They are somewhat isolated in that they can’t look at us or engage with us in any way. We have this little alcove in our home that leads to the garage door. It’s narrow, somewhat dark (if we don’t turn the light on), and it’s close enough to the family room and kitchen that we can see if they take their foreheads off the wall.

When I first did this with Lucas, it was difficult for him. He was throwing a fit, and the first thing he wanted to do was fall to the floor. But I didn’t allow it. I required him to stand up with his forehead on the door without sitting or talking.

It was an amazing exercise in self-control. And I’m happy to say that he passed with flying colors. He stayed put until I came over to him and discussed what he did wrong. We did our usual chat, talking about the offense and giving apologies. My boys are also well-versed in asking for forgiveness. With all of that out of the way, we finished it off with hugs and kisses.

We may still do timeouts on the bed occasionally, but for now, foreheads on the wall add that bit of novelty that make them more painful and more effective.

Do you do timeouts at home? What works best for your child?


Baby signing “please.” Source: parentingpink.com

After my post last week about kids doing what works, I’ve gotten a few comments and questions about what to do with kids who whine. Whining is one of those things that can just grate on our nerves. But at the same time, if it goes on for too long, we get used to it and let it go until it gets worse!

The Ezzos say this about whining:

“Whining is an unacceptable form of communication that becomes annoying to the listener if left unchecked. Besides being obnoxious, it is often a subtle challenge to parental authority. Whining is a learned trait, not a warning of deep-seated, emotional problems,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 191).

Lucas struggles with whining (as did I as a kid), so I have very real personal experience with this. The key to squelching whining is to understand why they do it. What is their motivation? If the child is a “glass half empty” kind of kid, whining and complaining simply come naturally. These are the kids who thrive on a routine and hate any disruptions to that routine. Surprises are never a good thing for these kids.

Whining also comes easily to kids who learn that it works. If you have ever given in to the whining, you are just encouraging him to do it again. For some parents, whining grates on their nerves so much that they’ll give the child whatever he wants just to make the whining stop. Not good.

Another reason kids whine is simply to communicate. This is true for kids who aren’t yet talking. Grunting, screeching and whining are their main forms of communication. The screeching is happy, grunting is neutral, and whining is unhappy. But this doesn’t mean that you have to accept the whining. Teaching other forms of communication is key.

So how do you work with a child to stop whining? How you respond will depend on the child’s age.

For kids under age 2.5 (non-verbal kids), teach sign language! I took a baby sign language class when William was a baby. He picked up on it very quickly and was signing by 7 months. Lucas did just as well. I taught them several signs but the ones they used most were please, more, all done, thank you, milk, eat, water, and change (as in change my diaper). You can pick up a few signs from the Internet or get a DVD on baby sign language. Make sure you learn from a video. It’s hard to understand from static pictures.

Now, one of my readers asked what to do if they still whine after you’ve taught them to sign. I can understand if a toddler needs you to look at him so he can sign. If that’s the case, I would work on teaching the child to say “mama.” William started saying it at 11 months, and he had a speech delay. Make “mama” your cue that the child will sign after he gets your attention. If you’ve done this and he’s still whining, it’s simply become a habit. If this is the case, give the child a stern comment telling him not to whine. Show him with your voice what whining sounds like. Remember, these kids understand much more than they can communicate. So teach him, and remember that it’s better to overestimate their understanding than to underestimate it.

Also be sure that your actions teach that whining is unacceptable. I remember holding Lucas in my arms while he would whine for something. I would swiftly put him down to indicate that his whining is unacceptable. My quick action shocked him into changing his behavior.

For kids over age 2.5 (verbal kids), they key to stopping whining is to not ignore it but to make them wait. You might try saying, “I can’t understand you when you use that voice,” and have them ask again. But this might not be enough to break the habit. Typically, the whining comes in when they are asking you for something. Say the child is asking you for a cup of water in a whining voice. You would say, “I understand you’re thirsty, but since you asked in a whining voice, you will have to wait. I will set the timer for 5 minutes. When it beeps, you can come back and ask with a normal voice.”

Making them wait will have much more of an impact than simply telling them to ask their question over again. I’ve tried that, and Lucas just starts whining again. And ignoring it doesn’t work at all. You might think that ignoring the behavior would clue them in to the idea that whining doesn’t work, but as with everything in parenting, our kids only learn if we actively train them.

Another tactic with a verbal child is to have them acknowledge that whining is unacceptable. In the same way that we require our kids to verbalize submission by saying, “yes, mommy,” we can have them do so with whining. For example, you might respond to whining with the following dialogue: “Nathan, repeat after me, ‘Yes, mommy, no whining.'” The child repeats you and hears himself verbally agree to not whine. If he does this and continues to whine, the offense is direct disobedience, in which case a timeout (in isolation) is appropriate.

Now, if a child whines not when he’s asking for something but when you’re giving an instruction, your reaction would be very different. Getting a “But I doooon’t waaaan’t toooo,” after you’ve told a child to make his bed is simply unacceptable. Here, you would not make the child wait. You would stop the child immediately after the word “but” comes out of his mouth, put a finger over his lips, lean down to make eye contact and say, “Your only acceptable response right now is, ‘yes, mommy.'” At that point, the child says, “yes, mommy” and goes to make his bed. If he refuses, have him sit for a timeout and vow to yourself to work harder on first-time obedience. Yes, this is much more of an obedience issue than a whining issue.

I hope this helps. Let’s unite to rid the world of whining children! :)

Turn sibling squabbles into hugs

Source: slimyfish.net

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted much about sibling rivalry. The simple explanation is that I don’t have much experience with it! My boys just love each other so much. And any squabbles were usually squelched by Lucas, my peacekeeper. For some reason, he saw it as his mission in life to appease his brother.

But all good things must come to an end. Lucas has decided that he’s done with keeping the peace. He’s decided to speak up for himself. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a few squabbles.

Well, I came across a fantastic way to stop sibling fighting the minute it starts. The consequence for any fighting is that they must hold hands. They cannot hold just one hand. They have to face each other holding both hands. And they must stay that way until they’re ready to hug.

I’ve tried this twice in the past two days, and it works beautifully! It ends the fighting in mere seconds! They see each other’s faces and almost immediately hug. At first, William wanted to hold just one hand and still look away from his brother. But as soon as I required them to hold both hands, they hugged.

It’s so simple and so sweet to see!


Kids do what works

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Kids do what works. It’s very simple, but for some reason, this idea can be difficult for parents to recognize. If your child has a chronic behavior problem that you can’t seem to shake, ask yourself whether you’re encouraging it somehow by proving to your child that it’s working.

To determine whether a behavior is working for your child, it’s important to understand his motivations. In many cases, our kids seek positive attention from us, but even negative attention is attention. Consider the following behaviors:

  • Whining
  • Crying
  • Sibling squabbles
  • Tattling

These behaviors typically incite some sort of reaction from us. Be careful that you don’t respond to these behaviors like this:

  • Whining = Giving in to the whining or responding in any way to the child’s whining voice
  • Crying = Again, giving in to the child’s protest
  • Sibling squabbles = Taking sides, giving one child more attention than the other or somehow validating the argument
  • Tattling = Disciplining the child who did the initial wrong without disciplining the child who tattled

There are many more behaviors that we see in our children that become chronic misbehaviors simply because the child has learned that they work. But before you label your child as a manipulator, understand that all of this happens on a very subconscious level for the child. Recently, I was talking to a friend about William’s complaining about school work. (We’re homeschooling.) The complaining had become such a habit that it was a daily problem. She suggested that I simply walk away or turn my head. It worked! Not only that, but a few days later, he had to work alone by necessity, and he actually decided that he did better when he was left alone. Without consciously recognizing that he was whining and complaining, he realized that it was getting him nowhere, so much so that he asked to work alone.

One other thing to look out for when identifying chronic misbehaviors that work is to realize that you are not the only one who might be feeding the fire. Your spouse, grandparents, and even the child’s sibling might encourage the misbehavior. So if you hear whining from your child and see it directed toward your husband, you know that he is probably the one who gives in to the whining. It is then his task to work on his response to any and all whining.

Also beware that if you don’t nip a misbehavior in the bud, the child’s sibling might actually do it, too. If your youngest cries to get what he wants and his sibling sees this happening all day every day, then he or she will start to do it as well. Who wouldn’t? If it works for baby brother, why wouldn’t it work for big sister?


React swiftly but have a plan

Source: totallifecounseling.com

When our children misbehave, reacting swiftly and quietly can have a much greater impact than giving a warning or waiting to see if they’ll stop. But to react swiftly, we must have a plan.

For example, when you see your toddler throwing toys, I’m sure there’s no doubt in your mind that this is not a behavior you allow. I’m sure the child knows it as well. So what do you do? Do you tell him to stop? Do you plead with him? Do you try to reason with him?

Actions speak louder than words. So when you see such a behavior, simply stop what you’re doing and react swiftly but calmly. You might take your child by the hand and guide him to his room for a timeout. Or you might simply take the toy away. Guiding him by his hand without saying a word or even having an angry expression on your face will surprise the child. He won’t know for sure what’s going on until you sit him on his bed and walk away. It eliminates any chance for a tantrum or that spaghetti legs thing they know works so well.

By the same token, if you take the toy away, simply take it and walk away. If he knows he threw it and he knows it’s wrong, you taking it away will send the message. When he asks for it back, then you can tell him why you took it away.

You’ll notice that both examples, however, require having a plan. Acting calmly and swiftly can only happen if you have a plan. If you see your child throwing toys but aren’t quite sure what to do, you will hesitate and your actions won’t be as powerful. You might also think that reasoning with him will work.

Not having a plan will also increase the likelihood that you’ll act out of anger and frustration. And when they know they can get a rise out of us, some kids see that as score 1 for the child–not to mention the fact that correction done in anger is simply less effective.

“It’s natural for parents to react spontaneously to negative behavior. You see defiance and boom, you jump on it. But before you jump, you stop and think. You must act for the child’s good. Recklessly reacting in the heat of the moment isn’t the best plan.” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 135)

So take the time to think through your child’s most chronic misbehaviors and come up with a consequence for each. Then decide on your “go to” consequence for every other behavior problem that presents itself. We use timeouts as our “go to” consequence. Read more here on how to create a discipline plan.

Do you say “no” too often?

Source: billycoffey.com

How many times in a day do you hear the word “no” escape your lips? Do you feel like all you ever do is say “no” to your child?

There are some parents who are so legalistic in the training/teaching of their children, that they say “no” much more often than they say “yes.” Do you fall into that category?

If so, imagine life from your child’s perspective. Yes, many times when we say “no” it is valid. Whether the child is being unsafe or flagrantly defying our instructions, saying “no” to our children is perfectly fine. But how about all the other times in the day?

I’ll be honest, I sometimes feel like my husband and I say “no” to our kids too often. There are many times when it’s warranted, but then I try to imagine life from my kids’ perspective. It can be stifling. It can create an “us vs. them” (children vs. parents) adversarial mentality. Really, when they’re just curious about something and not hurting anything, we should just allow the behavior.

So when you’re tempted to say “no,” stop and ask yourself if any of the following are true of the behavior:

  • Is it unsafe?
  • Is it hurting anyone or anything?
  • If it continues, will it bother you?
  • Will it lead to long-term behavior problems?
  • Does the child know when and where the behavior is unacceptable? (For example, if you allow a child to hold his lovey during dinner, does he know it’s inappropriate to bring it to a restaurant?)

And finally, ask yourself if any of your child’s misbehaviors are a direct result of the fact that you say “no” too often. When our kids feel stifled, they often act out because of it. When they are denied every bit of freedom, some children will try to get it in any way they can.