12 February 2012

Reinforcing The Behavior You Want in Your Child

The title really draws you in, doesn't it? Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes? Sign me up!

We've all caught ourselves whining, complaining, and reacting badly. And we're the parents. It's not an uncommon problem.

Some have learned how to better communicate with people. Some have learned strategies to healthfully deal with everyday feelings and emotions.

And as this book describes, some have learned the meaning of "honor".

Parenting books often speak of techniques like negative or positive reinforcement and while I'm not here to argue whether these work or don't work {obviously, it probably depends upon your unique child}, I would like to take things one step farther and suggest that when teaching obedience, it is crucial that we focus on honor.

Want a definition to make all things plain?
"Honor: Treating people as special, doing more than what's expected, and having a good attitude."
I feel like that deserves applause.

{Stacey, a reader, says} "I am guilty of the "no" ideal. Negative reinforcement has been enforced into me and therefore I am guilty of informing it into my boys. So I am clueless as how to renew and reinvent a method of speaking that will change the habits of not only the boys but myself. How can I reverse and reinforce new verbiage, where do I start, what do I start with. Seriously, I am clueless."

Yep, so often we find ourselves taking away privileges, promising something special if they'll just do what we ask, spanking, saying "no" all the time, getting angry, threatening, finding ourselves in a battle of wills, and then dealing with our child's retaliation against us.

Want to know why you should read this book? Because these are the first two paragraphs of chapter two:
"Honor changes the way people think, the way we act, and the way we treat others. Honor motivates us as parents to treat our children differently. It gives children more constructive ways to interact with their parents. It helps siblings develop tolerance and patience. Honor builds a strong bond that, in turn, benefits all members of the family.

Honor adds that little bit of grace that transforms family life. It focuses on others and produces stronger relationships. It's not as concerned with protecting a reputation as it is with doing what's right. Honor is motivating and contagious and treats individuals as special. It brings joy to others but has a special reward for those who give it. Honor is like oil in a machine, making it possible for the job to get done with less friction and less conflict."

I've earmarked so many pages in this book...I would write a whole series on it if I had time. But we're gonna do cliff notes for now, k? With a few thoughts from me, thrown in for fun. :)

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children need to learn an honoring way to communicate
If children find that whining and complaining and badgering WORK for them, they will use these tricks more. Parents must not give in to these tricks, must instead should teach their children how to healthfully respond to the problem of "obedience when I don't feel like it".

First -- teach the importance of "obey first, and then we'll talk about it". Then talk about it. "Here's why you needed to obey quickly." "Thank you for listening and obeying, now please tell me why you might have wanted something different."

Then -- introduce the "wise appeal". This is an honoring way for a child to express his feelings and reasons for wanting something different than what you have asked. The child can say something like this: "I understand that you want me to ______. I have a problem with that because _____. May I please ______?" Even parents with very young children can coach them through this process. It works in sibling and friend interactions too. We are giving them words that work. We are teaching the life skill of compromise, something they'll need throughout the rest of their lives.

honor must be taught
In the case of meanness, parents can say "That wasn't kind, son." If it continues, "That was mean. Please take a break for a few minutes until you are ready to talk about this." If meanness is already a habit, new habits of kindness will need to be made to replace the bad habits.

Teach children to see needs and fix them, without always being asked. Honor does more that what is expected. Honor looks past words to their intent. Honor is being thoughtful and thorough. Honor thinks of others.

When you model honor, your children will begin to mirror your attitude.

sometimes, you'll need to parent in ways that might not come naturally
Parents, rather than trying to solve children's little fights or discover who is right and who is wrong, need to come at the problem much differently. Honoring parents say, "I'm not concerned about who created the problem. I want to see who's going to solve it. When one of you solves the problem, you may both get up [and continue playing]."

Honor based parenting isn't power-directed {authoritarian} or freedom-oriented {permissive}. "Honor based parenting considers a child's wishes and desires as family decisions are made, but it balances them with the parent's wisdom and concerns." Children get to have a say in what happens. Children get to share their feelings. But the family boundaries are firm and the children understand why the boundaries exist.

When teaching even the youngest children to deal with conflict, it is important let them do the work. Teach them that solutions often come through listening. Give them ideas and sample words {like "how about you take a turn for a few minutes and then I'll have a turn?} but in the end, they get the reward of solving their own problem using their new-found skills of negotiation and cooperation.

point out the obvious {that might not be so obvious to them} 
"That was great, son -- your friend is obviously happy about your choice!"
"You did exactly what I asked and see the positive results?"
"Did you know that you are having all this fun and enjoying your friends because you made the right choices earlier today?"
"Next time, you need to listen and pay attention to what the other person is trying to tell you."

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Do you see?

It's not about perfectly timing the length of their time-out, it's not about giving just the right reward. It's about empowering them to be successful human beings -- successful in relationships and successful in difficult situations. We teach, we coach, we ask questions -- "here's what you did wrong", "here's what you need to do next time", "do you understand?" We honor. They learn to honor.

I can't recommend this book more. Obviously. :)

Find it here:
Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes...in you and your kids! by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller.