Monday, September 24, 2012

Silent Signals

We love to use Silent Signals!  We have used this tool for various reasons with our daughter over the last few years.  A silent signal is one that, just as it sounds, is a physical, but silent, signal to your child to do or not do something.  The signal is decided and agreed upon by you and your child at a peaceful time, not during conflict.  The tool card says "Adults often talk too much.  A silent signal could speak louder than words."

Recently, our six year old daughter has started becoming more playful and rambunctious when we have guests over to our house.  This is very different behavior for her.  After a few different incidences of her climbing on people, dressing them up in tiaras and feather boas, and coercing them into games of Monopoly, I decided something needed to be done.  First, we needed to talk about what type of behavior was appropriate when guests were over.  We talked about wanting our guests to feel welcomed and relaxed, and to be able to enjoy some adult conversations.  In order to achieve these goals we listed some appropriate behaviors and also talked about some that weren't so great.  Then I told my daughter how much I appreciate her help when we have guests over, and that I know that they really enjoy seeing and spending time with her too.  I told her I thought it would be good if we had a secret signal we could use if she started to get caught up in playing and forgot about the appropriate behaviors we had agreed on.  I told her not only would it be fun to have a secret, but also then I would not have to correct her in front of other people.  She really liked that part of it!  I gave her some examples of silent signals we could use, and she thought of a few of her own.  In the end we agreed that either her dad or I would pull on our ear lobe if she needed a reminder of how to behave with guests.  We even did a couple of pretend skits to practice the signal.  About an hour before our guests arrived the next day I reminded her about the signal.  We ended up not needing the signal that day.  I am guessing just taking time for training was enough for her to rise to the occasion.  There have been other guest's since then, and each time we remind her of the signal before they arrive.  We have used the signal a few times, and it has worked perfectly each time!

I love this tool because it is so respectful of the child.  Children don't usually like to be scolded or even told what to do or not to do in front of other people.  It is humiliating to them.  But sometimes they do need reminders.  That is why this tool is so great.  First it gets you talking about expectations, so everyone is on the same page.  It requires participation, planning and agreement on the part of both parents and child.  This type of "pre-game plan" is so helpful for the child, they feel respected, in control of themselves, and prepared for what is expected of them.  It is just another great way to empower and respect your child while still helping them to learn how to navigate this life!

Next up: Letting Go!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sense of Humor

A sense of humor is essential to survive the child rearing years of life!  The things that you face as a parent can either be extremely frustrating or hilarious.  How you respond will affect both you and your child.  This past week, I had to remind myself of this while I cleaned up peanut butter off almost every surface in the living room including my son, bleach "tie-died" my inconsolable daughter's favorite dress which she had just stained, and negotiated with a melting down daughter about how long we would stay at her school's family night, considering it was already past her brother's bed time.  Sometimes I just have to laugh or cry, so I try to find my sense of humor and laugh!

The Sense of Humor tool card says to remember to laugh and have fun, but be sensitive to times when humor is not appropriate.  There are times where an upset child does or says something so ridiculous that your first response is to just laugh, but you have to know how sensitive your child is and whether your laugh will be helpful or hurtful!  Making fun of a child by laughing at them is not usually helpful, but if you can find a way to do or say something silly so that you can both laugh you can lighten the situation very quickly.

Remember, to help children do better we have to help them to feel better.  Sometimes a silly voice, a funny face, or pair of underwear on your head is all it takes to help your child snap out of a situation that has become much more serious than need be.  Not only does laughing provide a distraction, it also just makes you feel better.  Laughing releases endorphins that make you feel good!  Give it a try, you really have nothing to lose or remember with this tool.

I can't wait until next week to share with you our experience with Silent Signals.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Control Your Behavior

The Positive Discipline Tool we are looking at this week is Control Your Behavior.  This is the one tool that I can say that I work on the most.  In fact, I have this card hanging on my fridge as a reminder for myself.

The card says that we can't expect our children to control their behavior if we can 't control ours.  We need to have a place or space for our own "personal time-outs" or at least a method such as counting to ten to help cool down when we flip our lid.    When we do lose control we must apologize to our children.  Remember, modeling mistakes as opportunities to learn is always the best way to teach that concept.

The reason that I constantly need to work on this tool is because parenting is a tough job, that requires a TON of patience.  Before I had children I would openly admit that I wasn't a very patient person.  I have a hot temper and I have trouble holding my tongue at times.  Now that I have children, I know patience like I never thought possible, but I still lose control of my behavior at times.    I have to constantly remind myself that if I flip my lid, the children will respond (mirror neurons) in the same way!

I often joke that between 4:00-5:00 pm is the witching hour in my home.  Both children and I are tired, hungry, and crabby.  I am trying to fix dinner, my daughter is trying to do homework, and the baby is very needy.  This is the time of day that I find it the most difficult to control my behavior.  Knowing this, I have been attempting to prep meals as much as possible during his naps and try to help my daughter with homework as soon as she gets home from school.  If 4 o'clock rolls around and we are all in the living room playing together it makes for a much more peaceful afternoon.  Planning and consideration of needs is a big part in controlling your own behavior.  Set yourself up for success!

Another time that I find it difficult to remain in control of my own behavior is when being yelled at or physically hurt.  I am learning that elementary age children are quite moody and argumentative at times.     This can be pretty challenging to deal with.  On the other hand, our little boy has reached a new stage of development where he doesn't quite understand that other people feel pain, but he rather enjoys seeing the results of his inflicting pain.  He pinches, hits, scratches, pokes, and basically does what he can to get a rise out of us.  And he does it all with a smile.  Call me crazy, but when I am being hit over the head with a wooden horse, I find it hard to maintain control of my behavior.  With my daughter we use tools like, Hugs, Wheel of Choice, and Positive Time-out to deal with her flipped lid.  Sometimes they work great and other times I have to lock myself in the bathroom to get a moment to cool down myself.  Either way I feel like we are working toward the right thing.  With our son however, we are trying to encourage the behaviors we desire, like touching gently, and we are constantly distracting and redirecting him.

As we continue to work with various tools to help the children learn to control their behavior we must constantly work on doing the same.  When we remain in control we are able to be better parents.  It never feels good to lose control, especially when dealing my children.  I continue to try to find relaxation techniques to help me remain calm and in control.  I also have to remind myself to QTIP (quite taking it personally).  When the children are pushing my buttons I have a hard time with this, but just taking a moment to remind myself that they are not trying to upset me, or even if they are it comes from a mistaken goal, and for that reason I shouldn't respond with anger or defensiveness.  I hope to write about mistaken goals soon, it really is at the heart of positive discipline.

In the meantime I will work on controlling my behavior and encourage you to do the same.  Next week's tool is the number one requirement for being a parent - have a sense of humor!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Small Steps

This week's tool card is Small Steps.  It says to break tasks down into small steps to allow children to experience success.  Whether teaching a child to wash their hands, clean their room, or write a story, taking small steps is the best way to get there.

In the Montessori classroom we teach most things to the children in steps.  Guides give lessons by performing the activity once in entirety while the child observes and then allow the child a chance to do it on their own.  As the child gets older, the lessons increase in amount of steps as well as difficulty.  For example, washing dishes in the toddler classroom involves: putting on an apron, dunking the dirty dish into the prepared soapy water bucket, scrubbing, dunking in the rinse water bucket then placing on the drying rack, hanging the apron back up.  It requires six steps that must be performed in a specific order.  As the child grows and moves into the primary classroom they will continue to wash dishes.  The steps required to perform the task are: put on apron, fill pitcher with water, pour water into left basin, fill pitcher again, pour water into right basin, squeeze soap into left basin, dunk dish in soapy water, scrub with sponge, rinse in rinse water, place in drying rack, repeat with all dishes, use towel to dry dishes, stack clean dishes on the clean cart, empty used water from left and then right basin into the discard bucket, pour dirty water out, use towel to clean up work area, take dirty towel to laundry basket, replace towel with a fresh one, return apron to hook.  That is now 20 steps that must be done in a specific order.   By observing the adult, silently performing the activity, the child is able to "learn" what he is supposed to do to complete the job.  Doing this work allows the child to contribute to the classroom community and develop his mathematical mind all while doing what many of us would consider a very remedial task.

Each human being has certain needs that must be met in order for survival.  In order to satisfy these needs we respond with a variety of tendencies.  Maria Montessori recognized these tendencies to be the driving, unconscious, forces that allow the individual to meet his basic needs.

These needs are:
1. Physical - food, shelter, health, safety
2. Psychological - love, security, intellectual nourishment
3. Spiritual - a belief in something , or a sense of self

The human tendencies that she described are the tendencies toward: Exploration, Work,  A Mathematical Mind, Group Orientation, Spirituality.  The tendency toward a mathematical mind is the one that responds to our teaching things in small steps.  Following a logical sequence of actions, (set of small steps) allows the child to develop his mathematical mind and therefor responds to a basic human tendency.

Not only does it make sense to break big jobs or lessons down into small steps, because they seem more easy to manage that way, but now we can see that it is also the most appealing way for a child to go about learning something new.

When you use this tool in the home, you can slowly add more steps as your child matures.  Remember to perform the actions slowly the first time that you model them and then be prepared to re-teach when necessary.

Ah, next week we will focus on controlling our own behavior!