Aren’t small children delightful? Each day brings new discoveries and excitement and experiencing it all over again through their eyes is an adventure for us! What interests me is how much they are capable of even from the age of 1 or 2 years. How frequently parents underestimate their abilities.
Last year I had the privilege of working with a team of people to prepare and pack 30 gift bags for the children in a crèche in Alex that we have supported for many years. I had the further privilege of involving many children in the packing process, from a 2 year old to young teens. For the two year old, I walked with him and gave one soap at a time, showing him which bag to put it in and encouraging him each time he got it right. For the four year old I gave him one item to pack in each bag and let him do a sequence on his own. For the older children, I delegated the task of independently sorting all the items and counting them to see if we had enough before we packed.
We need to cultivate a mind-set around small children that they CAN and MUST get involved in real, meaningful activities. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I can’t do all these things because I have small children.” Whilst children learn a lot through play, “all play and no work will make Johnny quite an entitled boy!!” Rope them in and get them involved.
For example, ask a small child to put the forks or knives on the table for a meal, put the serviettes out, wipe down the garden chairs, sweep the patio, to snip the ends off the beans with their (washed) scissors, stick the cello tape on the gifts as you wrap them or hold the wrapping paper while you stick on the cello tape. They can unpack fruit into a fruit bowl, take shopping items from the car to the house, take shopping items to various rooms, pick veg from the garden, and my children’s all-time favourite – wash things by stomping them in the bath such as a blanket or cushion covers!!
Children can be directed to CONSTUCTIVE activities. Constructive involvement makes for sharing the load and a positive, responsible experience for the child.
Loving Discipline for Under Fours
While going through some papers recently, I found an article my dad had written for a Hurlyvale School magazine many years ago. I was quite impressed with the topic, as he discussed the art of raising children with just the right amount of control. As he is turning 80 this year, and with his permission, I am reproducing the article below.
While walking around the grounds checking on the new trees and shrubs, I was reminded of the old saying “you may bend the sapling but not the tree”. In the same way, children should be trained early, because what is learnt while they are young is learnt for life. Unfortunately many children today grow up without the strong support and direction of parents until a crisis blows up- and then frequently it is too late. Other children again are so cabined and confined that they cannot grow naturally. A child’s will should be bent but not broken, his spirit conquered but not crushed. To achieve the balance between being too soft and too harsh is not easy, but it is to this that we as parents and teachers have been called. Let us continue, by God’s grace, to strive for this balance.
Dr John Nowlan, founding principal, Hurlyvale Primary
Being an avid gardener, I like the picture of each child being like a young sapling which has to be trained to grow into an upright, self-supporting strong tree. Unchecked plant growth leads to rank, out of control shrubbery which is neither lovely nor fruitful. In the same way unchecked impulsiveness in children will lead to unchecked adult behaviour and all the consequences that go with it.
Careful guiding, pruning and supporting of a young plant leads to a beautiful, strong tree growing in the correct shape and bearing good fruit. In the same way, early training of young children leads to self-control, independence and personal responsibility over time and all the benefits that go with it. Hebrews 12:11 says it perfectly “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. “
Unpruned, untrained quince tree pruned, trained quince tree
With the continuation of the severe drought, water matters should be uppermost in our minds, even though in some areas we may be receiving rain.The drought is not over and SA is a water-scarce country. We have to change the way we view water and inculcate life-long attitudes and behaviours in our children that will preserve our water resources for the future. My husband is busy installing a second water tank for rainwater harvesting, and we have cut down water usage in simple ways like collecting the first shower water in a bucket, wearing clothes twice if they are not dirty, and using rainwater or greywater for the garden.
Have you watched any of the recent programmes around the topic of sugar: The National Geographic documentary “The secrets of sugar”, the movie “That sugar film” and the Special Assignment documentary “Hooked and Hijacked” on obesity and sugar? Self-control around sugar intake can affect life-expectancy, the ability to think and remember, dental health, general health and of course your bank balance!
If one teaspoon of sugar is 4grams, and a preschool child’s recommended added sugar per day is 4 teaspoons, then take a few minutes to look at the contents of the foods your child eats daily and work out how much sugar they are taking in….. just the breakfast cereal can have up to 24grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar per 100grams! I have found that just not buying certain foods solves a large part of the problem – no fizzy drinks, ice-cream or sweets for starters. Eating more fresh fruit and salad and cooking home-made meals helps.
Don’t forget the tuck shop – I have stood and watched amazed as children come with R50 or even R100 and buy BOXES of sweets, fizzy drinks, chips, ice-creams and more sweets and dish them out to their friends!! Taking time to make a wholesome lunch and giving a limited amount of tuck money for a specific purpose will quickly solve the problem.
Small children benefit from constructive activity which helps them to stay out of mischief in these early years of moral training. It is easier to direct a small child than to keep fighting battles! Use the “15/30 rule” which means you will try to be involved with any of the eight areas of play for between 15 and 30 minutes at a stretch. While it is admirable to be able to cover all 8 areas in a day it is probably not practical, however it helps you to vary your involvement and not just do the same thing all the time.
Focussing on directing your child in these 8 areas has many benefits besides assisting with obedient behaviour: love tanks are filled, restraint and self control are developed, gross and fine motor skills are developed and cognitive development happens.Please note that the playpen is used under 2 years and is replaced with independent play.
If self-control development is one of the prime moral values that must be cultivated in the under 4 years, then it follows that offering a child too much freedom and choice too soon will feed natural impulsivity rather than develop self control. Don’t rush to give freedoms, privileges or choices even if everyone else is doing so. Rather focus on helping a child learn to wait, to be patient, to be happy with limitation and to share.
Some obvious limitations that are very good for young children:
· Having a fixed bed time and not staying up late;
· Not having my own television set but having to share and make decisions around one family television set;
· Having limited access to screens in order to free up time for important play like gross motor, reading, construction and fine motor;
· Not being given every new version of every new toy range that comes out! Rather choosing and selecting things of value and certain things to focus on;
· Eating with the family and not being allowed to determine separate meal versions for each child;
· Not advancing to freedoms too soon such as big bed (appropriate around 2 years), and normal dining-room table chair (after 2 and 1/2 years).
**Children who learn to cope with limitation will in the end be more autonomous and be granted MORE general freedom as they grown up. Children who are given too much freedom too soon and cannot self-regulate, will in the end have to be constantly limited and externally controlled.
Children of this age have a tendency to “get into everything”, and one can end up spending all your time stopping them from doing “everything”!!
An excellent discipline strategy is to be ahead of them – YOU decide what you are going to play with right now, and invite them to play with you. Everything they learn, they learn through play, and play contains all 5 kinds of love, making it an all-round first-prize activity for parents to do with children. (Please note that TV is not in this category). Play also involves self-control and concentration, so it is automatically a discipline activity to focus on one activity for an extended period of time (15 – 30 minutes).
Positively-occupied children, will be far less prone to causing havoc around the house!
One of the most challenging things parents of young children have to deal with is how to handle sleep props such as dummies, blankies and teddies, especially when they are carted around wherever you go! A simple first step in self-control training is to just limit the sleep prop to the bed. While it may take some time to wean a child off for instance a dummy, one can reasonably insist that sleep props are for just that – sleeping, and as such should be left on the bed. This will encourage greater maturity and independence. Thumb sucking can be treated in the same way – you can’t leave your thumb behind but you can only suck it when going to sleep!
Towards the middle of last year I tried a different approach with my daughter for getting ready in the mornings. She tends to be distractible and is not really a morning person…. I wanted to avoid constant nagging for her to get ready, so decided to offer to race her and her brother. I remember my brother and I racing each other for getting dressed for school and suspect it must have caused my mom a pleasant chuckle or two!
Well she took to it immediately and miraculously managed to get ready in ten minutes flat! Whilst we don’t race every morning, and I never win, for some reason the incentive is there and it has done the trick!
My son is in Grade 4 this year and I am watching with interest how well he is responding to the positive reinforcement programme running in his school. The school’s thinking has been to focus more on recognising and encouraging positive traits than giving attention to negative behaviour. Whilst there is still a clear consequence system in place, hard-working and well behaved children are encouraged to be confident in their positive behaviour and not to allow detractors to get the upper hand.
A positive system of recognition is always an excellent component in a values-based discipline approach. Star charts are one option for offering positive reinforcement especially with smaller children. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to think about when it comes to using star charts:
DO use a star chart system but DON’T put too may items on the chart. Two to four items is quite sufficient.
DO use it for a limited time but DON’T let it carry on forever. A few weeks is fine.
DO make the chart together by hand. This gives you the opportunity to chat together about what you are expecting. DON’T make a perfect chart – your hidden curriculum message must be that this is manageable for real fallible children! Your chart is going to be a work-in-progress.
DO talk positively about the chart while you are making it. Say “I am making you a start chart so that you can learn how to do things for yourself. We think you are a big boy now and you are ready to learn how to make your bed and open your curtains in the morning.” Explain the pictures you have drawn – a bed and the sun shining shows making the bed in the morning, or a moon and a toothbrush shows brushing your teeth before bed. DON’T use the chart to apply guilt or disapproval.
DO put the chart in a place related to the responsibility you are teaching. For example for a 1 year old learning to take their plate to the kitchen, place the chart near the dining room table. For a 3 year old learning how to be responsible in the mornings, place the chart on the bedroom or cupboard door.
DO let your child choose their own sticker each time and stick it on the chart. DON’T rearrange the stickers if you don’t like how they stuck them on!!
DO offer a small incentive at the end of 12 then 15 and then 20 stars. Go out for an ice cream each time to celebrate, but DON’Tgive the incentive too quickly and DON’T make it too expensive. Stop your chart after three cycles.
DO expect your child to continue their responsibilities after the chart has stopped. DON’T do the tasks for them eveni if it is quicker and more efficient!
DO use your chart to hand over specific personal responsibility tasks such as making your bed, opening your curtains, taking your plate to the kitchen or getting dressed but DON’T use it for general behaviour (being good all day) or moral behaviour (being polite).
DO explain the values behind the tasks on the chart: helpfulness, sharing, working together and learning to look after yourself.
DO give genuine, specific verbal affirmation for tasks completed. DON’T use the chart to lecture the child!
DO drive the use of the chart. You need to be tuned in to the tasks and you need to focus the child’s attention on these tasks every single morning or evening. Encourage them to go and do the task and remind them of the sticker they will get. DON’T expect the child to self-motivate.
My husband grew up with this simple sharing rule:
The one who pours the juice lets the other one choose which glass they will have first;
The one who cuts the cake lets the other child choose the first piece.
You may be familiar with the term “helicopter parenting” or “lawnmower parenting”, where parents hover over their children, smoothing out their lives and manipulating their environment to create perfection and happiness all around. The research is clear: such overly – parented children are ill equipped for life and so cocooned that they have few strategies for coping with difficulty. Simple things in life (looking after yourself, caring for your own baby, holding down a job, maintaining your own home) become huge mountains to climb when you have low resilience, perseverance and tenacity.
I am convinced that we all helicopter to some degree – do you remember all the Rescue 911 and other real life drama shows that you have watched that have shaped your thinking about children and safety? We are all afraid – of crime, kidnapping, danger, broken arms, swarms of bees, hurt feelings, bruised egos and numerous other dangers that we believe are around every corner! Finding wise ways to promote confidence, security, independence and resilience takes thought, planning and effort in our overly cautious age.
One of the themes I used for my teenage youth group last year was “DO HARD THINGS” based on the book “Do Hard Things: a teenage rebellion again low expectations” by Alex and Brett Harris (Multnomah Books, 2008). A fascinating book! I saw my teens challenging themselves to be on time, get up early, work hard, serve others through running Holiday Club, engage in personal sacrifice and rise to meet challenges that they thought they could never meet.
Gary Ezzo in his book “On Becoming Childwise”, (Parentwise Solutions 1999, page 27) says: “In little ways, every day, we disassemble our leadership in order to defer to tender little wills of our children. Why? Because we fear letting them down. We avoid their bad feelings and pursue their good feelings. This type of parenting only produces emotionally fragile children, children who lack the coping skills necessary for the real world.”
DO HARD THINGS: its an excellent phrase to help us remember that children and teens need to hone their life skills on challenges rather than be sheltered from life.
Dan Allender, in his course “How children raise parents: the art of listening to your family” (2011, Brilliance Corp) presents a delightful table illustrating in a nutshell, the interplay between love and discipline.
I have a few comments on the table regarding love and discipline:
Yes/Yes: Indulgent parents often fall into the helicopter trap.. loving but also giving in to the child’s every whim, structuring their whole lives to facilitate their happiness. Perhaps these parents want to be friends with their child, or to be liked and appreciated! However, the children become spoilt, manipulative, entitled and disrespectful. They can’t delay their impulses, and are addicted to having their own way all the time.They remain emotionally immature and selfish.
No/No: This is a child who is conditionally loved and not accepted and valued for who he/she is. Rules are paramount, and this child is only loved when they please their parents or when they are “good”. The child will either become a robot, obeying all rules blindly, or will rebel, digging in their heels and rejecting all authority figures.
No/Yes: a child who is not loved but it allowed to have his/her own way all the time will be detached from their parents and is likely to display aggression, disrespectful behaviour and no emotional closeness to their parents. They will also be emotionally immature, but with added anger, aggression and unresolved rejection pain. They would be likely to connect emotionally and inappropriately to others in their peer group where they find acceptance.
Yes/No: Children who are loved (they feel unconditionally loved) but are not allowed to have their own way. They are guided, trained, instructed and taught about a considerate, mature way to behave, and grow to be emotionally, morally and cognitively mature. They have a deep sense of love, value and security within their family, and can form close emotional bonds with family members. They are responsive to authority and are a “…joy to be with and a blessing to those around them.” (On becoming Childwise, Gary Ezzo, 1999, Parent-wise solutions, page 31-32)
A combination of sufficient love with thorough, intentional, positive discipline training is the wisest approach and supported by numerous studies and reputable parenting specialists! Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about love in the Five Love Languages course, or Discipline for under fours in the Loving Discipline course.
No one will deny that in a modern society we are spoilt for choice! As adults living in this society, we have become accustomed to choice and when parenting, tend to offer our children too many choices. Too many choices too soon is called “parenting outside the funnel” (Gary Ezzo, On Becoming Childwise, Parent-Wise Solutions, 1999, chapter 9, p154). Allowing too much freedom of choice too soon can lead to the following behaviours:
Constant negotiation of every request or instruction given by the parent;
Child always has a better idea;
Constant and predictable tantrums, falls apart or “goes ballistic” every time he or she does not get his or her desired choice;
Battles to submit to a specific instruction;
Child cannot cope when they do not get their own way;
Inability to cope with limited choice or a parent’s choice.
The problem is not about giving choice: the problem is about giving too many choices too soon!
So how to go about solving this addiction?
Firstly, assess how many choices you give all day, and set about limiting choices and giving firm instructions.
Parents are in control and parents decide on things like when we eat, what’s for supper, when to bath, when is bedtime, when to stop playing, when to do homework and when to do chores.
For smaller children give fewer choices; age 2 may be a choice of 2 on certain things, and only then if they are compliant and content on limited choices.
Sometimes give choices and sometimes don’t. Children earn the right to increased choice based on how CONTENT they are with mom or dad’s choice. Older children who are content with what is given to them are mature enough to cope with certain choices (such as a 4 year old deciding what to wear or what cereal to eat).
Take back ownership of decisions that you have given to the child which really you should be deciding. Examples: parents decide on bedtime, play dates, visits to granny, going to the shops, going to the library, where to go on holiday, when to tidy up, family outings, where to eat, when to eat. For very small children (around 2 years) parents decide on what will be played with, when we will read, when to play outside, when to go to the shops, which video to watch.
Food choices: don’t give too may food choices. Particularly avoid feeding different people different meals at supper based on what each one likes. Children need to learn over time to try their food, to eat at least a little, and be content with what has been put in front of them. Mine learned to eat the thing you don’t like together with something you do like!
Require a “yes Mom” or “Yes Dad” when giving instructions.
Be consistent in your follow through.
Consequence the very thing that the child is throwing the tantrum about (eg I want coke at lunch not juice.. loss of the coke definitely and also the juice).
DO NOT MEDICATE THE TANTRUM by indulging the child! The very presence of a tantrum when faced with limited choice means continued limited choice, not increased freedom!
Every Maths teacher will bear me out when I say that after any school holiday, you can be sure that all the children in your class who so quickly completed various mathematical calculations during the last week of the previous term, will be rusty and unpractised after a few weeks of holidays. One has to re-teach, revise and re-practise what seemed to have been mastered only a few weeks ago.
In the same way, it can be depressing to start a new term wondering if anything you have taught your children on the personal responsibility front has stuck! They will need at least a week of “revision” of the personal responsibility routine…. reminding and re-training and re-stating the boundaries. For some children a limited-time star chart may help them to re-focus on their responsibilities and get the family moving in the same direction in the mornings. For other children a family chat over dinner about your expectations in the mornings may be needed. For others, stating of a consequence (and implementing if necessary) may be needed. For example “If you can’t get ready on time, I will wake you up 15 minutes earlier tomorrow morning” OR “I am not going to nag and complain and shout at you in the morning. If you want to take your time and be late even if I have woken you up earlier, then you must be late for school and take your detention as per the school rules.”
A firm consistency on the part of the parent will go a long way to getting back on track quickly. Stick to the plan – preschool children and older should be personally responsible for their own curtains, bed, dressing, hair, teeth and packing their bag, so parents should avoid the temptation to take the task back and do it themselves out of frustration!
A meal is a social occasion and as such, should happen around a table and not in front of TV or wandering around the house and garden. But what if you have a child already in a bad habit? How do you move from garden or TV to table? This is not a comprehensive discussion of every single strategy but a few ideas to spark your motivation!!
1. Have a discussion and give an explanation about why tables are important: dining room tables are for eating and we sit there because we love each other and we want to talk to each other and take an interest in each other while we eat our food. My job is to teach you how to eat properly at a table so that when we go to a restaurant you will know what to do. You’re a big boy now and big enough to sit with the moms and dads at the table. Mommy worked hard making the food and we want to appreciate it at the table and not just gobble it down in front of TV!
2. Give a lead up of a few days, explaining that things are going to change on your chosen day.
3. Describe the expected way in which things are going to happen from that day. State your confidence (pre activity encouragement) that your children are going to be so good at it.
4. Use the previous behaviour (good for the watching TV one) as the next activity after supper- after supper you can watch one story of your DVD. Set this up as an event that is definitely going to happen ( not a bribe “if you eat your food you can…)
5. On the day use a five minute lead up to supper at the table, revising the expected behaviours.
6. If there is no resistance, give lots of praise and encouragement. Use star chart if you like to reinforce the positive experience. Implement a star chart for a limited time only to help focus the family’s attention on developing a new habit.
7. If there is resistance, use your next activity as a consequence – if you don’t stay at the table then you can’t watch one story on your DVD. You could consequence running around for the child who wants to run! This means that after supper dad was planning to play soccer with you and your brother, but for as many minutes as you run around when you should be sitting with us, that is how many minutes you will sit next to me/sit in your cot/sit in your room while we all play soccer before you can come and join us.
8. You can do things in steps: we are eating supper at the table but pudding in front of the TV… only if you sit nicely at the table for supper. If you don’t sit nicely for supper then we can’t have pudding or have it in front of TV.
9. Be consistent: eat breakfast, lunch and supper at a table of some sort. You may choose a children’s table for some meals and the family table for supper to start with. We ate breakfast in the one child’s bedroom at the kiddie table for a long time at my choice, but used a rite of passage (now you are in Grade 1 so we will now eat at the dining room table for breakfast) to make a change. Even if we did a puzzle while eating breakfast to smooth things along, it was still at a table sitting, and the “distraction” was constructive not bad-habit forming.
For the under fours – Compound Interest
Discipline training children is a lot like compound interest – you may not see the return straight away, but with persistence and consistency over time, you will look back and be amazed at how much your children have grown! The trick is to stick to your guns and keep your goal clearly in front of you!
Starting off on this process with young children also means that you should start with tackling one or two things at a time, not try to “fix” everything in one go. Pick important battles to fight such as keeping hands in the car seat straps, staying at the supper table, co-operating on brushing teeth or getting dressed in the morning. Work on your chosen area/areas for as long as it takes to get compliance… for some children it will be quick, for some children it will be a much longer and more painful process. Regardless of the time you have to invest, remember the return on your investment will be most enjoyable once your children have got it right!
I recently had to open bank accounts for my two children and so the issue of money and small children has been on my mind. As with all things our children experience, we have the opportunity to use these events to shape and mature our children. Money is just one such opportunity, and the way we introduce our children to money will begin to shape their future views and expectations regarding money.
In the pre-marriage course that Geoff and I occasionally run, we have a finance module where we ask participants to evaluate their money past, money present and money personality. The way money was handled during their childhoods is always found to play a role in the way they handle money as adults.
So the question to ask is “What kind of money-handling maturity am I hoping to develop as I introduce my child to money?”
These are some of the things I have been thinking about for my own children:
· That my child should learn to value money not as something that is very easy to come by, but something to appreciate and value.
· That first and foremost money is equivalent to work in the process of earning it, and that only secondly is money about using it!
· That we give controlled amounts of money to children (eg pocket money) with the purpose of teaching them responsible money handling, not with the purpose of teaching them unlimited spending.
· That the smaller the child, the smaller the amount of money they are able to handle.
· That in accordance with Loving Discipline principles of not giving too many freedoms too early, we should only introduce children to their own money when they can confidently understand it, count it and use it. Take note of when money is covered in Maths in Grade 1 for an indicator.
· That the older the child gets, the more personal responsibilities they should have attached to their money eg teenagers having to buy their own toiletries out of a monthly allowance.
· That we can teach budgeting from a very early age – save some, tithe some, give some or use some – in a practical and understandable way.
· That learning to live according to your income is something even the smallest child can learn and benefit from! This involves teaching children how to resist social pressures around them and wait for things.
· That teaching a child to save up for something as opposed to just giving a large sum of money will teach valuable life lessons such as delayed gratification, patience, goal setting and the satisfaction of having attained that goal.
We have been very cautious about introducing money to our children (7 years and 5 years). Our tooth fairy is on a strict budget (Just add up the teeth and make sure it doesn’t come to a vast sum!!), and my son was quite proud of himself when he could go and buy something he had seen after saving up his tooth money and working a little to earn the shortfall. Small lessons with small amounts of money.
Likewise on the tuck side, we have kept tuck to once a term not just from a financial point of view, but from a health point of view – it’s cheaper to eat well and be healthy than pay for tooth fillings and the results of poor health! In that respect, I prefer to make my children’s lunches.
From a pocket money point of view, we will start in Grade 2 when we can see sufficient maturity and personal responsibility and an ability to understand and handle money well. Prior to pocket money, being responsible for set amounts such as for cake and candy or a fun day at school can help to introduce money concepts. Of course children in primary school need to go through the process of concrete money handling ie cash before moving into the world of bank accounts and cards which may be more appropriate towards high school.
When starting pocket money in the early primary school years, I have come across two possible principles to work with when it comes to amounts:
1. Give 10x their age per month (8 year old child gets R80 per month) and require a portion to be tithed and another portion to be saved.
2. Give 2x their age per week (8 year old child gets R16 per week or R64 per month) and again require tithing and saving.
Teaching prudence with money is an excellent investment in your own future peace of mind too – it helps to prevent the development of ENTITLEMENT, a nasty disease which can be a driving force in the teenage years that you want to avoid!
Based on principles contained in the Congenital Factors talk.
During the winter months, we decided to bunk our two children in the same room as it is much warmer than the other room, and because we happened to have a string of visitors staying over during those months. Having one child (5 years old) who is easily distractible, it has been interesting to note how this affected her. Whereas in her own room she has been able to grow to a point of moving in a straight line and accomplishing her morning tasks fairly well, she has found it very difficult to be as responsible with another active and distracting person in the room with her! Whilst she can take much pride in making her bed and getting dressed in her own room, she found it hard to focus with her brother around. The only way we have been able to help her focus more is to put the stove timer on to 20 minutes for morning routine with a consequence applicable at the end of the time if she is not ready. Amazing how quickly she was able to focus and be more purposeful with a goal in mind!
Ideas for distractible children:
· Having their own space or own room can help them to focus better.
· If not possible, having undisturbed time to complete chores and tasks would help, such as reading to the other child while the distractible one baths and gets dressed, later swopping over the activities to be fair.
· Use an end point to help them complete and activity – a stove timer set for a reasonable period of time for their age (5 years can cope with 20 minutes to dress, brush hair and make bed).
· Use words of encouragement to support and assist them.
· Place a consequence for non-compliance of the time period.
· Resist the temptation to keep nagging – eventually they become immune to the nagging and still don’t move, as you have not passed the responsibility over to them!
· Use star charts to help them focus on a new responsibility.
· Join new chores to other activities eg the way to remember to take your bowl to the kitchen after breakfast is to finish eating and pick it up straight away. This means finishing the task at hand!
· Ask them to repeat back to you instructions given.
· Ask them to report back to you on tasks completed.
Based on principles contained in the book “One Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam and on the Loving Discipline principles derived from this book.
A fascinating subject covered during teacher training is the various curricula contained within a school environment. The formal curriculum is the subjects and information taught formally in the classroom. The informal curriculum is the supporting activities offered by a school such as extra mural, cultural events and shows, and leadership programmes etc. The hidden curriculum is a third curriculum taught by the example of the educators and other adults involved in the school. Their attitude to the formal and informal curricula and towards authority and school rules conveys in itself a learning experience.
For example, if the educator says “We are not going to Art for the rest of the term, we have too much Maths to finish”, he/she has conveyed the message that Art is inferior to Maths. If the educator slowly drags him/herself to the classroom, shifts the chair to the sunny doorway and snoozes in the sun while the class reads and draws pictures, he/she teaches them that education in itself is meaningless and hard work not necessary. If the teacher fudges the rules and always looks for the easy way out, he/she negates a work ethic and undermines the respect for school rules that the rest of the staff may be trying to cultivate. If the school itself looks for ways to work around departmental rulings they set a double standard in asking the learners in turn to respect their own rules and requirements.
Likewise in the home, parents convey a hidden curriculum in their training of their children. The essence of discipline training is identifying and defining boundaries and setting consequences to enforce those boundaries. A boundary is a line, a protection, an end, a definition. Boundaries are not just taught in our discipline of our children, but demonstrated in our own living. How are your own personal boundaries? Here are some examples:
- Do you have personal space boundaries in the home – mom’s makeup and personal effects are not for general play; when mom’s bed has been made it cannot be used as a trampoline; bedtime for children is at 7-30pm and after that is mom and dad time for their relationship and the many responsibilities they must fulfil; you have your own bed and we have ours – you need to sleep in your own bed as mom and dad need time together because they love each other; no you can’t just take things without asking such as food and stationery; the TV, DVDs, cell phone and CDs are not toys for you to play with.
- Do you have boundaries around technology, or do you allow technology to constantly demand your attention and intrude on your face-to-face interactions.
- Do you have personal responsibility boundaries – where you hand over a responsibility to a child and leave it there – or do you constantly have a need to rescue them, help them, protect them from their consequences or otherwise do the job for them.
- Do you display the application of personal self-control boundaries in life in general – getting up and getting the family and house ready for the day; keeping to some sort of orderly routine; fulfilling your own responsibilities without complaint; meeting your adult responsibilities such as overseeing homework, providing food, sorting out uniforms and maintaining your home and garden.
- Do you have boundaries around work that say “work ends here and family starts here”, or are you boundary-less, allowing work to encroach on family time according to its demands?
Having children forces us onto a personal growth path that we often fight against! On Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Stages, we ourselves are moving through the adult “Generativity vs self-absorption” stage of development – the desire to be nice to ourselves and take the easy route vs growing into being the adult and picking up our responsibilities. If we want our children to be obedient to us, self controlled, hard-working, respectful, considerate to others and responsible for themselves we need to demonstrate those qualities in our own daily lives.
Based on principles contained in the book “One Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam and on the Loving Discipline principles derived from this book.
Some discipline problems are not discipline problems at all… they are really just bored children getting up to mischief and trying to occupy themselves!
An excellent idea when going somewhere where your child may be expected to sit and wait, such as doctors rooms, the dentist, a talk, church, tea with a friend or visiting granny and grandpa, is to take a bag of tricks with you. Go prepared with various toys, puzzles, drawing or other activities that your child has not seen for some time. With the under threes, you will have to participate actively in the play or at the very least get them started. Take an interest and help them to play constructively and quietly instead of roaming around at large. It may be a bit of work for you, but it will certainly have many other benefits. Children who learn the art of waiting are a pleasure to all those around them!
Based on principles contained in the book “One Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam
Daniel Goleman, progenitor of the Emotional Intelligence concept, had this to say about self control:
“It seems that the ability to delay gratification is a master skill, a triumph of the reasoning brain over the impulsive one” (Nancy Gibbs, “The EQ factor”, Time, October 2 1995, p60). In his research study results, he outlines the positive benefits of self control as children grow up and become teenagers. He found these children to be better adjusted, more popular, adventurous, confident and dependable and with higher Scholastic Aptitude Test results.
Gary Ezzo comments on the development of self-control as follows:
“Self-control is a base virtue. That is, other virtues and life skills in an individual can’t exist without it. Self control influences kindness, gentleness, proper speech, the ability to control negative emotions, focussing skills, sitting skills and many other behaviours. Each of these has a corollary impact on learning.” (Gary Ezzo, On Becoming Childwise, Parent-wise solutions, 2004, p38.)
Ezzo also comments that teaching self-control is too late at age five, but should be taught as early as possible! Self control training, according to Dr James Dobson, starts from as early as 7 months and is most effective with children under 3 years of age.
Practically speaking, PARENTS are responsible to teach a child self control. This value should be in place BEFORE preschool, as it impacts a child’s ability to sit, focus, listen, follow instructions, cope socially, respond to authority, study, complete tasks and projects, work independently, be well adjusted in his environment and know appropriate behaviours. An all round excellent value for a young child to have to stand them in good stead for their school years!
Based on principles contained in the book “One Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam and on the Loving Discipline principles derived from this book.
A good question to ask yourself while training YOURSELF to apply Loving Discipline principles is this:
Does my child comply with what I ask, or do they refuse, delay, shout, scream, throw a tantrum, negotiate, avoid, pretend they didn’t hear, argue, divert your attention, get distracted or somehow get YOU to do what you asked THEM to do?
Following through on requests is vital – “No I asked YOU to do …….. and I am not changing my mind. If you don’t …… then …… consequence will happen”. Then get up and follow through on your consequence.
Ross Campbell (co-author of the Five Love Languages of Children) wrote a most delightful book called “How to really love your child”. In his chapter on discipline, he makes the following comments about the connection between love and discipline. I couldn’t say it better so I have quoted relevant sections:
First things first fellow parents. Practise unconditional love then discipline.
….making a child feel loved is the first and most important part of good discipline.
Applying behavioural control techniques without a foundation of unconditional love is barbaric…
Discipline is immeasurably easier when the child feels genuinely loved. The child is then able to accept parental guidance without hostility and obstructiveness.
A child who does not feel genuinely loved and accepted, however, has real difficulty identifying with parents and their values. Without a strong, healthy love-bond, a child reacts to parental guidance with anger, hostility and resentment. He or she views each parental request (or command) as an imposition and learns to resist it.
I do believe that a mother or father’s worst enemy in raising a child is uncontrolled feelings, especially anger. As a child grows older, parental expression of too much anger (temper outbursts) will instill increased disrespect for the parents along with kindling the child’s own anger and gradual resentment.
In my mind, the Love Languages information always precedes the Loving Discipline information – you cannot discipline a child on an empty love tank. And making sure our children have enough time with both parents in the critical under four training years is a vital key to filling the love tank. Ross Campbell’s words are a reminder to us to continue practising love all the time – the need for discipline never necessitates a removal of love.
I recently took my children to the Pretoria Zoo for the day during their October break. What a delightful experience and a beautiful zoo to visit! I realised during this visit that in our complex society, we as parents are faced with a myriad of CHOICES each day for which we need to have thought through where we stand. Do I hire the golf cart and ride around the zoo, or do we walk? Choices, choices! Well of course we WALK – there is nothing better for children than to develop qualities like tenacity, perseverance, resilience, patience and empathy than when we all walk together! Not forgetting of course good old sunshine, fresh air and exercise! And then we saw far
more animals, ate less and had a really long and tiring visit! They certainly slept well that night!
Based on concepts from “On Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. This section of information assumes an understanding of the information contained in the Loving Discipline workshop.
Getting children to develop the self-discipline needed to keep some sort of order in their rooms is quite a challenge!The goal is not a perfectly pristine room with no evidence of play. However, there are certain principles of play that can help contain the mess, and certain times of the day when tidying up is essential.
Young children should be playing under supervision, and with your involvement. They should only be taking out one or two types of toys for play. Arbitrary play with an overwhelming number of un-related toys scattered all over the floor does not lead to constructive play, concentration or focussed enjoyment. Instead it leads to disjointed play with no purpose. So under 3 years, parents should be very involved with the selection and play process.
If the above has been done correctly, children will naturally enjoy playing in a more focussed way with selected toys,and you will find you are able to step back somewhat and allow them to play. If the above has not been accomplished, then guide them in selecting what they will play with. The principle is ” if you are finished with the one set of toys (floor puzzles) you need to pack them up again before taking out the next set of toys (cars and blocks).
Children should not be allowed to pull out toys with small pieces, table toys (like puzzles) and hundreds of small un-related items. Store toys with smaller pieces higher up or in a cupboard so that they have to play with these toys under your supervision.
Times of day:
Leaving ones room in order before school is vital – bed made, curtain open, floor tidy, toys packed away
Afternoon play can be monitored as they move through different activities, packing up what they are finished with as they go
Either before supper or before bedtime, a general tidy up again.
THE FLOOR MONSTER:
I recently introduced the Floor Monster to my 6 year old son, whose tidying up can be somewhat vague with things put in the general direction of the cupboard but not in their place. I will ask him to tidy his room and make sure everything is in the correct place. Occassionally I will ask if I can bring my floor monster can come and see if there is anything to eat on the floor – shoes left lying around, crayons on the floor, toys not in their boxes, papers or crafts, gown, – anything not put away correctly will be eaten by the floor monster (removed and not returned until a specified day). Works like a dream! Its like camp inspection – I used to inspect the four morning chores – now I can bring my floor monster with me to additionally inspect the floor!
Based on concepts from “On Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, and “Making Happy People” by Dr Paul Martin. This section of information assumes an understanding of the information contained in the Loving Discipline workshop.
1. Permissive parenting has a worrying outcome in older children and teens that parents need to be aware of. It’s a good motivation to keep tightening up, to be firm and consistent (yet always loving), and not to give in all the time!
The outcome is this:
Because permissive parents prevent their children from going through any kind of negative emotion (doing something difficult, not getting your own way, having to wait for your needs to be met, accepting the consequences for your misdeeds, experiencing some form of loss as a consequence, not having your every whim and desire met, not being the centre of everything, having all your misbehaviour excused due to tiredness or hunger etc), these children are “programmed” to only do things that FEEL GOOD. As a result, they may find it extremely difficult to do anything that requires commitment, perseverance, determination and persistence. They will find it easy to avoid anything difficult, and as a result may avoid personal growth and stretching activities that lead to maturity. They may prefer to remain “cocooned” in safety and comfort, never venturing out from their comfort zone! Its good to be lovingly firm – keep moving yourself towards better and more consistent firmness!
2. Developing resiliance
My son started swimming lessons recently, something he just loves as he counts every day to the next lesson. The first lesson went very well, and we arrived at the second lesson to be told the school had swopped days and did not yet have my contact details to let me know. The lesson would now be on the following day. One brave little boy disintegrated into floods of tears accompanied by the sympathy crying of his sister as we drove the short distance home! Sad – but actually such an excellent opportunity to teach him how to cope with disappointment. Life is full of disappointments, and shielding children from them is less helpful than helping them to talk through the problem.
The way we ourselves respond to disappointments on behalf of our children is also a pointer for them on how to cope. I was quite calm and found out all the details and said to the teacher that life is about changing direction sometimes, and that we would be happy to come the next day. I took time to talk clearly to him about what was happening and why, and explained that he would be just fine waiting one more day for his lesson. I let him cry and we talked about how sad it was to wait for the next day, and we talked about how much he had looked forward to the lesson, and how sometimes in life things are changed and we can’t do anything about it.
Taking time to properly process is an excellent investment in emotional maturity! After processing properly, my son was happily able to look forward to the next day’s lesson again, and he went in to the lesson as excited as usual. This approach means that our children become RESPONSIBLE for themselves, not constantly blaming their unhappiness on other people. They learn to be CONSIDERATE, not expecting other adults to re-arrange their entire programme to accommodate one child’s happiness. They become more MATURE, not measuring their success in life only by present happiness. And they become more RESILIANT, better equipped to face the real world.
Reference: “On Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. This section of information assumes an understanding of the information contained in the Loving Discipline workshop.
THE TIDY FAIRY
Part of discipline training of children encompasses teaching them to be responsible for themselves. Restraint and self control as well as obedience should lead on further to taking up responsibility for ones self and then ultimately owning that responsibility without reminders and cajoling. So what is the limiting factor for young children to take up and keep personal responsibility?
The answer is very simple: It’s US! I have been watching myself lately – its too easy to quickly take a pair of shoes with you as you head down the passage, drop the shoes in the cupboard, whip the lunch box out of the bag, close a couple of drawers, straighten the bed and close the curtains while collecting a cup and a bowl and heading back to the kitchen. All this and the child had to do nothing! The magic “TIDY FAIRY” did her job, and no learning of personal responsibility took place! (Even more tragic is when the tidy fairy is an employee who follows the child around neatly straightening up after them as they roam through the house!)
So I have been reminding myself to leave it be, making sure to leave the responsibilities firmly in my child’s corner! There are a few gradual steps in this process that are very helpful:
To start with, make a simple star chart of only three things that a young child has to learn to be responsibile for – age appropriately. Good starters are to make the bed, get dressed and brush hair. Other things can be added in the morning like opening curtains, putting on shoes, taking the school bag to the kitchen to collect lunch boxes and brushing teeth. Methodically teach each item, daily reminding the child and awarding stickers for each item completed. This will take a few weeks. This is good to start around the age of three. At this age, the task will still be closely tied to your reminder, encouragement and presence, but they must start learning to do the job. This stage should take quite a long time as you gradually see greater skill and ability and independence in each of the three tasks. For instance, it took my daughter quite a few months to learn to brush her own hair – we started with her brushing ten strokes before I would finish off, and worked up to her being able to do it all.
Step 2 is to make a chart with three items as one: one sticker for doing all three: making the bed, getting dressed and brushing hair. You can remind as follows: “Have you done your three things?” or “Please go and do your three things” or “What three things must you do after breakfast?” This is good from around the age of four.
Step 3 is to hand over the responsibility entirely to the child (no star chart) by saying: “You may play before school but only if you have done your three/five things.” You just have to say “Please go and do your three/five things”. Later on just say “Are you free to play?” This is good around the age of four to six, once you have overcome patheti-chitis!
In so doing, you gradually hand over the thinking and the responsibility to the child.
However, one has to keep extending this principle to more and more responsibilities. This could include:
Are you free to go outside and play (the principle being that toys played with inside should be packed away before starting up on more toys outside). Same principle applies to “Are you free to come and watch this DVD” or “Are you all ready for supper – can I come and inspect your room?” or “Please check the house for your belongings before supper”
Fine tune this principle: If items are being taken back to the bedroom, this means that they should be packed away where they came from and not just dumped in the doorway. Dirty laundry should be placed IN the wash basket and not thrown somewhere in the vicinity of the wash basket!
In the home, one should involve children from a very young age in all sorts of chores and responsibilities, but starting off more as an ad-hoc experience (yes I am saying it yet again!!). Laundry, cooking, baking, shopping, unpacking shopping, gardening, cleaning and dishes are all good. However, one must remember to keep at it – make a pointed effort to reserve certain things for the children to do as they move through preschool and not do them (efficiently) when the children are sleeping or at school. This can include:
Taking their own clean laundry and packing it away neatly
Learning to fold socks
Sorting clothes for washing into different colours
Laying the table
Clearing the table
Making their own toast and sandwiches
Stripping their own beds on wash day
Emptying their own waste paper basket
Making their own juice
Preparing their own breakfast
Cutting items for a salad
Today I took my children to do the monthly groceries – I reserved the pushing of basket trolleys for them, the pushing of our full trolley to the car for the three of us (no help) and the taking of groceries to the right cupboards and rooms for them. These jobs have to be thought through and planned, especially in a society when there are lots of other “fairies” to do the work for our children!
A wonderfully helpful guide to use for little children with regards to what behaviour is acceptable, is a clever idea used by pre-school teachers at school. It certainly is worth using at home too! It involves helping younger children to distinguish between inside and outside behaviour.
An inside voice is calm and polite and in a “normal” tone, while an outside voice may involve louder singing, appropriate shouting, or calling. However screaming would never be acceptable unless in a crisis, as it indicates a problem and a need for help.
Inside toys are those toys that are clean, are small, involve fine motor table play or are delicate. Examples are puzzles, Lego, books, pencils, board games and small toys. In our family very small cars are included as inside toys while bigger more robust cars and truck are happily used outside. Occassionally inside toys go outside for specific games, but that is with permission and not for general throwing-around! An example would be taking a pencil and paper out into the garden and doing rubbings on different surfaces. Outside toys are those that are for more gross motor play, involve dirt or can make surfaces in the home dirty, or are likely to break things in the home with just normal use. Examples of outside toys include balls, black motorbikes, wagons, garden tools, sandpit toys, real tools like hammers and nails, wheelbarrows etc. You may have some toys that live inside (eg kitchen toys and play food) that are used outside regularly for activities like play camping, but are packed away inside again to keep them in good order.
Inside behaviour is more controlled and “civilized”, while outside behaviour should include rolling, wrestling, jumping, running, hand stands, hopping etc. Using outside behaviour inside just becomes more and more dangerous and potentially destructive as the child gets bigger!!
Simply explaining “That is outside behaviour – if you want to run around then please go and do it outside” or “We are inside now, please use your inside voice” helps children to make better decisions about how and where to use appropriate behaviour.
At a recent Loving Discipline workshop, the issue was raised of whether it is wise to say to a child “You made mommy so happy when you made your bed” or whatever the desirable behaviour was. The answer to this is NO it is not wise! A child’s obedience in day-to-day activities should not be seen in reference to mommy’s happiness – that only leads to people-pleasing behaviour.
For example: instead of only speaking about your level of happiness you can say things like:
- Thank you for making your bed.
- You are such a big boy to make your own bed.
- You are very responsible and helpful.
- Let’s put a star on your chart for making your bed this morning.
- What a clever boy – you made your bed all on your own!
- Look how neatly/quickly you made your bed this morning – well done!
Instead of saying how sad your heart is that they didn’t make their bed, you should only implement a consequence not at all related to your personal emotions. For example you could say:
- Please go and make your bed straight away so that we can go to the shops.
- If you don’t go and make your bed right now then you cannot play/read/go outside/watch TV.
- For a tardy child – I am counting to 5 and by the time I get to 5 your bed needs to be made otherwise …. consequence.
- What do you have to do to get a star on the chart this morning? Well you better go and do it now otherwise no star!
Please check your room and make sure that you have done everything you need to do before school so that you can play (older child of 5 or 6yrs).
- Are you free to play this morning? (older child of 5 or 6yrs)
Based on principles contained in the book “On becoming Childwsie” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. This section assumes a familiarity with the contents of the “Loving Discipline” workshop.
Sitting still is a very difficult thing to teach a young child, and yet this skill is VITAL for the entire duration of their 15 years of formal schooling! Teachers rely on parents to properly teach their children this skill so that their children can make the best use of the education given to them in class.
So how does one accomplish this?
Firstly one has to remember that sitting still is a MORAL VALUE – it is something a child learns as they choose to control their own body. Children do not naturally sit still! Those who appear to, have actually been taught the skill over a period of time.
If you have the advantage of starting early (under 1 year), you can use the following as part of your strategy:
- Use a playpen from 2 months until 2 years. Here a child learns to sit alone, focus on one activity at a time, and stay in a limited space. They learn to “make friends” with a boundary, to feel safe with limitation, and to play independently. Use daily if possible.
- Use your high chair from 5 or 6 months to 2 or 3 years. Insist on the child remaining seated – apply a consequence if they try to climb out. Use the high chair for EVERY meal (breakfast, lunch and supper).
- Use the high chair occassionally for play – eg playing with containers with lids, shakers, playdough, peg puzzles or finger food while you cook.
- Stricly use your car seat and do not allow a child to take their arms out of the straps. Stop the car immediately if they do and apply a consequence. Give a young child cardboard books to read or manageable toys to keep them occupied while you drive .
- Buy a children’s table and chairs and try to do table activities for 5 – 15 minutes daily. If they are very small, hold them on your lap (6 months) and play. As they are old enough to sit, prop them up with a cushion. If they learn what it feels like to sit at a table and concentrate on a fun activity with mom BEFORE they can run away, you have overcome a big hurdle!! Play enthusiastically and make it all very fun. Play with different things that they have not seen for a while to keep their attention. As they learn to do this, they should be able to extend their table-sitting abilities to between 30 and 45 minutes.
- Make sure they can learn to do two types of sitting – sitting with you and doing activities, as well as sitting alone and doing activities. Patiently teach them whichever one they still need to master.
If you have left this skill later than 2 or 3 years, it will obviously be far more difficult to train. However, with persistence, one can make progress. Some elements of your strategy can be as follows:
- Use the brain – explain kindly and in great detail to your child the importance of sitting at a table. Explain that in the past you have not been doing this, but that as from now there will be a change. Explain clearly and kindly your expectation – “mommy is going to sit and play at a table with you every day for 15 minutes because I love you and I want you to learn to do this so that you will be happy at school”. Do not use guilt – it is not their failing that they cannot sit at a table but rather your responsibility.
- Buy a kiddies table and chairs if possible if you don’t have one!
- Have a plan – fun ideas to do at a table. include playdough, painting, drawing, punching holes in paper, stapling, sticking old wrapping paper onto scrap paper, cutting doily patterns in paper, puzzles, board games etc.
- Make a star chart – a star for sitting and playing with mom for the full 10 minutes (2 – 3 years) or 15 minutes (3 – 4 years) or 20 minutes (4 – 5 years and up). Extend the time gradually.
- Be consistent – make a specific time such as after supper and stick to it. Do it every day.
- Reward success after 15 – 20 stars on the chart by going for an ice-cream. Explain while eating ice-creams why you are so proud of the child.
- Communicate with the teacher – praise the child if they manage to sit quietly at school for their activities. Never use guilt!
- Have a clear consequence that you are willing and able to apply IMMEDIATELY they get up from their chair while you are doing the 10 – 15 minutes at home. Insist that they stay sitting – not by using shouting or talking, but by applying your consequence.
Children who can sit contentedly at a table will have a far happier and much more productive time at school!
One of the most trying aspects of having small children is the number of times one has to say NO! As some people say, they do not want their child to grow up thinking his name is No!! However, we need to consider that there are two types of yesses and nos, and we can have a positive approach to both types.
In a very busy society with both parents now under pressure, children can easily be left with a low love tank level. This will show itself in love requests, and the best answer for a love request is YES! Children with an empty love tank appear very demanding to us, and every time we say no, they go away still unsatisfied, only to keep returning with the same or another request. Eventually they may appear to be “naughty” because they keep coming back! Ultimately the frazzled parent when really pushed may become irritated and snappy. This scenario would be very true of a quality time child with an empty love tank.
Examples of love requests could be “Mommy or Daddy please can you read to me/ please can you come and play with me/ please come and watch me ride my bike/please can we do something together/ please can you come and look at what I have done”. You may need to say “Yes when I have finished …..” but the answer is still a welcoming “YES”. Children with a satisfied love tank will settle down and become less demanding.
On a different level, young children also keep going back and crossing the same boundary over and over again. In this instance, the “NO” should be firm, consistent and non-negotiable. In the context of all the “Yesses” given for love, the “nos” given for discipline training will not be excessive. And if you give your “No” with a clear explanation as to why this is no, you will make better progress.
One way to reduce the amount of times one has to say “No” is of course the implementation of a consequece. “No you can’t ……. and if you do, then …….. will happen”. It forces the child to take on the responsibility of deciding for him/herself a course of action and ends the constant repetition of the “No”. If you find your self on the road of much repeating (as we all do sometimes!) just add in a consequence and go from there.
An intersting question to consider is this: “Is giving in a form of love”. For example Junior wants to unpack the nappy bag, you say “No”, he insists, you keep saying “No”, and then once he starts wailing loudly, you give in and let him unpack it, thinking it will do no harm. Interestingly, this is neither love nor discipline but indulgence. It is not love because it cannot be classified as any of the five love languages, and it is not discipline because he just learned to manipulate an authority figure. The peace and quiet you have is really a false sense of happiness and not the contentment that comes with rather redirecting and saying “No I will not change my mind, you cannot unpack the nappy bag – but mommy would like to read you a book instead”.
I have been avoiding discussion on this topic, but due to a number of recent incidents, have decided that the time is now!
I witnessed quite a spectacular tantrum thrown in a public shopping mall by a boy of about 7 or 8 years. Interesting to watch …. it was really just a 2 year old tantrum being thrown by an 7 year old! Mom screamed but had no effect, and dad pretended that nothing was wrong. I then heard of an 8 year old boy who threw a tantrum EVERY DAY of a two week holiday for every thing he did not like or agree with. The adult relationship involved deteriorated beyond repair as a result. If that was not enough, I watched Special Assignment on the juvenile detention centre at Leeuwkop Prison for 14 – 21 year olds. Sobering. The next thing was a letter to the local paper about how rude, arrogant and uncaring some of the dads are at a local school, shouting at the scholar patrol and teachers and driving recklessly. And lastly to top it all, I witnessed two youths mugging a third youth in broad daylight and on a busy public road this morning! All these things are related, and they all come down to one thing: The quality of the firm, loving training of young boys under the age of 7 years.
So what separates the controlled, considerate, kind, mature, respectful, focussed yet all-boy boys, from the unruly, wild, disobedient, disrespectful, bullying, destructive boys? Where does one draw the line?
The line is drawn on one factor alone: are the parents actively training the boy according to a values-based system that teaches a consideration for others as the underpinning value?
To be more practical.
Almost every little boy, without firm, loving parental training, will engage in these types of activities. These behaviours are in no way excusable due to personality, but are the normal and natural display of untrained boyhood!
Eating with his hands
Chewing with his mouth open
Standing on his chair
Running away from the table
Running away from his parents (esp mom!!)
Refusing to get dressed, get undressed, get out of the bath, get into the bath, brush his teeth
Throwing toys and other items
Hitting people and things
Shouting and screaming loudly
Our boys whom we love so dearly, come to us with only one focus in mind: ME, ME, ME! They have no natural self control and virtually no sense of consideration for other people. If you look at the above list, you will see that every one of the behaviours is unkind, inconsiderate, disrespectful, uncontrolled or hurtful to either mom, dad, siblings or friends. And this type of behaviour can be costly and frustrating to mom and dad.
Values-based training involves two things: explaining the correct and considerate behaviour (we sit on our chairs at meals and wait patiently until everyone is finished because we love each other) and stating the consequence (IF YOU stand on your chair or get off, then……..). Without a consequence/loss, training has no muscle (talking is not a consequence), and without the explaining, training is not loving.
It is our job to patiently and lovingly yet very firmly train them to
channel their energies positively (focus)
control their impulses (self-control and restraint)
think about other people (consideration)
A huge task that spans the first 7 – 8 years.
A note to dads (and moms should read too!)
The dad factor in training up young boys is very interesting. The role of the dad in developing considerate young men should not be under-estimated. I quote from “Marriage on Trial” by Glen Stanton and Bill Maier (Christian Art Publishers, 2005, page 76).
“If there is no significant male in a young man’s life to teach him how to display his masculinity in socially acceptable ways, he will demand that the community recognise his strength and masculinity by engaging in violence, intimidation and tomcatting. This is why gang activity is much higher in communitieswith low concentrations of involved fathers. You don’t find well-fathered boys in gangs.
In “Juvenile Homicide in America”, Kathleen Heide says: “Boys need (male) role models to define themselves as male. When fathers are absent, young males are more likely to exaggerate their purported masculinity”. And forensic psychologist Shawn Johnson notes, “The research is absolutely clear….the one human being most capable of curbing the antisocial aggression of a boy is his biological father.
While fathers help young boys become less violent, they also help children become more compassionate and caring. …A twenty-six-year-long study found that the number one factor in developing empathy in children was father involvement.”
In single-parent families, involvement with loving dads in the extended family and amongst friends will certainly fit the need. In two-parent families, it is vital that dads actively participate in the training/consequencing of their boys, not just leaving it all to mom.
Discipline tips for the under fours
Two simple principles for making one’s own life MUCH easier:
Based on the book “On becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.
1. Avoid allowing young children to play with non-toys (remotes, DVD cases, Cds, mom’s toiletries including lipstick, mom’s purse and contents, buttons on any form of technology, telephones, cellphones, stationery). Non-access and a clear training that these things belong to mom and dad, will largely prevent children from inappropriately using these items when you are not present, which can lead to frustrating disasters! Once the freedom has been given, they will make full use of it and will never understand when it may be appropriate vs inappropriate. And freedoms given can seldom be taken back without a MASSIVE showdown!
2. Insist that young children are trained to ASK before taking or doing something. You will largely avoid unexpected surprises and household disasters that accompany young children in their quest to reach, carry or use things! This may include access to food (you may eat as much fruit as you like, but you have to always ask mom first; you must ask if you want bread, you can only have so many biscuits and that with permission; ask before you consume party-pack food). Likewise when it comes to using scrap paper, cutting out of the cutting-out magazines (not just any magazines), using glue, cutting any paper, painting, using playdough, getting dress-up clothes or shoes, using water in the bathroom, playing musical instruments, getting recycling out, using items from the garage etc. Many of these things involve health and safety aspects, and you need to be overseeing what activities are happening. And with the under fours, many of these items still involve training in how to use them eg “We only use scissors to cut paper” , and you will want to make use of the opportunity to train the correct behaviour.
Based on the book “On becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.
One thing you can be sure of with all children is that they find it extremely difficult to display patience! Waiting is not what they are about, and whatever they want, they want it right NOW!
Waiting is a very important quality to teach a small child, and the more impatient the child, the more important it is to focus on this lesson. Instant gratification is a great problem in our instant society, and it is easy to grow up expecting everyone else to instantaneously grant my every wish. Unless of course wise parents plan to teach little children to wait!
Helpful answers to demanding children can be:
Yes you may but only when I have finished drinking my tea.
Just a minute I will come and look after I have finished …..
We can do ….. but only after we have had our supper.
Yes you can have a biscuit, but not if you stamp your feet.
If you behave in that way because you don’t want to wait, then we won’t do what you asked at all!
Go back to your room and come and try and ask again nicely.
In our family we say “Please ” , we don’t just say “I want …..”.
I was going to give you….. but because you are screaming at me about it, I will put it in the cupboard and we will try again tomorrow.
Waiting shows self-control, and restaint is an invaluable quality for any child to have acquired!
Based on the book “On Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.
It is very helpful to bear in mind that one should start off only allowing things that you are prepared to live with for the rest of your child’s growing up years! BEGIN AS YOU WISH TO CONTINUE is the tip. Because children never grow out of unacceptable behaviour – they only concrete it in for as long as you allow it to happen! Imagine the same behaviour at 14 and that should give you some motivation to do some training. At 14 it will be louder, longer and more insistent with an added logical brain and years of experience in manipulating parents….!
I recently heard of a 9 year old boy who, when he refused point blank to open his mouth for the dentist, stated to his father that he would only open his mouth if his father bought him a new watch!! The boy had learnt through years of experience that if he just dug in his heels long enough, he could get anything he wanted before obliging his parents. A sobering thought!
(Based on principles in the book “On Becoming Childwise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam)
Two year olds are notorious for getting stuck on an issue (ANY issue!), and fighting it out with you. Whilst they are in training to learn self control and obedience, and they are rightly to be held accountable for their behaviour, one can’t get stuck with them, fighting back and forth on an issue over which you have already decided. Distracting them to avoid the issue is not helpful, but redirecting them past the issue once you have clearly and firm dealt with it is very helpful. Here are some thoughts:
1. Move PAST the issue as if there is no problem at all. Talk as if there is no problem at all – you know that things will go according to what YOU have decided. Be confident about this.
2. Think about whatever is going to happen after the event that they are stuck on, and start chatting about that very calmly and pleasantly.
3. Don’t compromise what you decided – keep at it in a low-key way while firmly and pleasantly moving them ahead through discussion.
For sleep and naps, you can suggest:(Child must obviously be trained in and able to cope with whatever you select)
Would you like me to tell you one story on your bed before you go to sleep?
Which story CD would you like to listen to while you lie in your bed before your nap?
Should we put this toy in a special place to remind us to play with it again after your nap?
Which two books would you like to read on your bed before you go to sleep
Would you like a toy to play with on your bed (something safe, quiet and peaceful).
For bathing, say:
Lets see what interesting things we can play with in the bath tonight.
Would you like to choose (only a choice between 2 things) what to play with
Mommy has a clever idea – I’m going to fetch something to play with in the bath. Try unusual things like blowing through straws in the bubble bath, play kitchen toys, containers that have lids, toy brush and comb, plastic dolls). Anything they haven’t seen for some time or have never played with in the bath will spark some interest.
For getting dressed after a bath, I have tried:
For Beth, offering a cuddle between each piece of clothing, as she is a Physical Touch Child. (let’s put your vest on and then have a cuddle)
For Jason, he could run around mommy once between each piece of clothing.
Having a race with two children – which parent can dress which child the fastest.
Saying you will rub their special lotion on once they are dry.
Talk about the books dad is waiting to read after getting dressed.
For food you can try:
Sitting at a child’s table for breakfast and doing puzzles or games together. Shovel the breakfast in as you play!
Some children eat if distracted by a video (temporary solution), but I found mine forgot to eat while watching!
While sitting down to the meal, chat about either what they have done so far that day, or about something you were thinking you can do together after the meal. “I was thinking we can get your (…favourite board game) out after supper and mommy will play with you. Yes but only when you have finished eating.
Gary Ezzo in his book “On Becoming Childwise” reminds us to be aware of whether a child’s error was out of childish innocence or blatant defiant disobedience. Children who do something wrong such as breaking or spilling something may do so because they had no idea what would happen! They may also have lacked the dexterity or strength to do what they wanted to do. In such cases, you will not implement a consequence. However, learning still needs to take place, because discipline is about training the child to the correct behaviour. In such a case, you will explain clearly what the correct and expected behaviour will be next time (eg come and ask mommy if you want some milk or come and ask daddy to carry something that is too heavy or only throw the ball outside and not in the house). You will do this while involving the child in the clean-up process! As they take responsibility for their mistake, even though it was innocent, they are learning to approach the same situation in another way the next time to avoid the same consequence. You may explain a consequence for if they go ahead and do the same thing another time, because in this case it would be disobedience, as you have clearly explained the expected behaviour (yes they do remember!)
Blatant, defiant disobedience, especially repeated disobedience on the same matter, will be dealt with in a different way by consistently implementing an appropriate and related consequence. Tackle this same issue in a focussed and direct way until you get compliance, regardless of how long it takes! Don’t give up or give in!
Discipline tips for the under fours
Constructive activity and avoiding bad behaviour
One of the first things you learn as a teacher about discipline in the classroom, is that busy children have less time to get up to mischief! The same applies at home. Young children left to their own devices for long periods of time are not only under-stimulated, but they also have a tendency to get into everything they shouldn’t.
If a child or children have been playing independently (yet supervised) for some time and things start to get out of hand, it is time to say
Come lets read some library books in the sun OR
I think its time to do some puzzles. Go and choose a puzzle for us to do together OR
Let’s play a board game together – you choose and we can sit in the dining room OR
Come and help me hang up the washing / wash the car/ water the garden OR
Where is our playdough? Lets play with playdough and use our scissors to cut it into pieces OR
Bring your blocks lets build a city in the lounge.
Moving into some focussed time with a parent will not only fill up their love tanks, but will direct them in a more constructive way and calm everyone down!
Part of training younger children is teaching them to respect authority figures – which has the added benefit of helping them to respect ALL authority figures including YOU!
Here are some practical situations where you can actively promote the respect of authority figures:
We don’t eat in the library because the library lady/librarian says that eating can make the books dirty, and we want to look after the books so that other people can enjoy them;
The policeman says that we must keep our arms in the safety belt so that we will be safe if there is an accident;
The doctor/pharmacist says that only mommies and daddies can give medicine, and that you must have all your medicine every day so that you will get better;
We are not going to play with these toys because they belong to the man who owns the shop, and we haven’t paid for them so they don’t belong to us;
This TV and DVD and the things in this room belong to ……. and not to us, and they are not toys, so you will not play with them because they are not yours (when visiting someone’s home);
Your teacher asked that you do not take toys to school because they may get lost, and because other children will want to play with them and then you will be sad. Mommy is going to take the toys home with her, and you can play with them in the car on the way home;
The sign says that you cannot jump on the trampoline with your shoes on, so let us take our shoes off, because shoes wear out the trampoline faster. This trampoline belongs to the man who owns this shop/restaurant and we want to look after it so that lots of children can enjoy it.
Interestingly, in the classroom, if the children are responsive to and respectful of the teacher, it goes a long way to making her job easier and the learning time more productive for all the children! Respectful children can make full use of their time in the classroom, as they are not in constant conflict with their teacher.