Monday, April 30, 2012


This week - Agreements!  Merriam-Webster defines agreement as: harmony of opinion, action or character.  I like this definition.  Harmony of any sort sounds great to most parents I would guess.  Agreements are an effective way to bring harmony into your home.

The Positive Discipline Tool Card for Agreements has 5 steps.  In a nutshell they are: 1. Allow everyone to calmly voice opinions  2. Brainstorm and find a solution everyone can agree on  3. Agree on a deadline  4. Use non-verbal reminders if agreement isn't withheld  5. If all else fails start back at step 1.

The key is step two.  Everyone that is involved with the problem, calmly and rationally brainstorms solutions.  Remember there are no bad ideas when brainstorming.  Once everyone has been heard, you all pick a solution together.  Everyone agrees, genuinely agrees.  No one is bullied into the agreement.

For us, agreements started to work at around age four.  We have to allow our daughter to provide solutions, and sometimes we all agree to one of her ideas knowing it may not work out.  We just have to let it happen.  Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised when her solution turns out well.  Other times it is necessary to go back to step one and hope that we can find a better solution.  The agreements often require reminders at this age.  We always pick a deadline and ask her at the time the agreement is made how she would like to be reminded if the agreement isn't met.  She usually tells us what she want us to say and how to say it.  Sometimes she makes a not for herself, hangs it on the fridge or her bedroom door and asks us to point to it if needed!

Our only problem is that sometimes we forget the deadline and so does she and then days pass, and then we realize it wasn't done.  The reminder days later doesn't feel so friendly and is not as welcome.  The other day she could not find her bike helmet and was going to miss out on the opportunity to ride her bike.  She started to have a meltdown and we started to lecture on the importance of putting things away where they belong.  Then she went to her room crying and from her room I heard her saying "you don't have to say all that stuff all you need to do is say 'I love you' and help me find my helmet"!  She was right.  At that moment she wasn't learning anything from our lecture and we weren't teaching anything other than shame and ridicule.  I opened her door and asked for a hug and apologized for my mistake, then we went and looked for the helmet together.  Later, during a break from the bike riding, I asked her how we could avoid having to spend so much time looking for her helmet when she wanted to go riding.   After brainstorming a bit, we all agreed on a specific place in the garage where she would return the helmet when we all came inside for the day.  We also agreed that she would get a reminder from us by pointing at the helmet or our head at the time of the deadline.  Sounds great right?  Yep, until we all forget, and the helmet is still sitting on the floor in my bedroom, waiting for me to trip over it.  I wonder if I point at my head tomorrow she will have any clue what I am doing?  We'll see!  My guess is she will be bothered by me telling her to put it away, as if the agreement never happened.

I guess the moral of the story is agreement goes both ways, and requires followthrough from everyone if you are expecting harmonious results!

Next week will delve into: Natural Consequences.  A very misunderstood parenting tool!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Follow Through

The Positive Discipline Tool this week was: Follow Through.  The message here is clear - Say what you mean and mean what you say!

Easier said than done sometimes.  This is one of those tools that I find very effective, but I am also the kind of person who exaggerates  quite easily.  It is hard to follow through when you say things like, "If you break that glass you won't be allowed to use glasses anymore in our house".  Yeah right, like i'm never going to let my child have another drink again.  Why do I say things like that?  Well, it has taken a lot of practice, and I still slip up now and then, but I have really tried to reign in the exaggerated threats and only say things that I can really do.  I have to be very strict with myself and make sure that I follow through EVERY time.

My daughter, age 5.5, now knows that I mean what I say, and most of the time she does not test me.  When she does test me, I am forced to think of a consequence that I can follow through with.  Sometimes the consequence just as disappointing to me as it is to her.  One long standing consequence in our house is that if chores aren't finished by the end of the day then we don't get to go to the park.  When I have to follow through on this one it makes my entire day more difficult.  Not only do I have to be the bad guy, but I also don't get to get out of the house myself and either does the baby, so that leads to a very long afternoon for us all.  I have thought about changing the rule on this one, but there is really nothing else that works for us.  I have tried no bedtime stories if the chores aren't finished by bedtime, but I think bedtime stories are too important to miss out on.  One time I threatened to give away any toys that were still on the floor at the end of the day, of course I couldn't do that, there wouldn't have been anything left!

One area that we are really good at this is bedtime.  We never waiver on time or routine.  When we say it is time, there is no complaining or negotiating, just into the bedtime routine.  We started this one very early with our daughter and have maintained our stance to this point.  We hear stories from friend's all the time about bedtime struggles and it always makes us grateful for our bedtime plan of action.  We also always give our kids a warning when we are doing something fun when the last one or last time is coming.  We say, "last one" and we mean it.  We already do this with the baby when feeding him and doing silly sounds or games that he loves.

The point is: you have to say what you mean and then mean what you say, even if it means sometimes being the bad guys or being crazy strict about certain things.   Children love routine and boundaries, they give them structure, something to rely on!

Next week we will work with: Agreements.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Limit Screen Time

The Positive Discipline Tool Card this week was: Limit Screen Time.  This is no small tool to try on occasion.  This is a way of life.  I feel like this is a hot topic these days, and there is a ton of info out there about it.   It is becoming more and more mainstream to limit screen exposure in young children.  That is not to say that tv/dvd's have become a thing of the past.  I am sure the majority of families still allow their children to watch tv, some allow unlimited and unregulated viewing.  But times they are a changing.

The point of view on the subject is changing.  When our daughter was born, almost six years ago, most our friends and family thought we were crazy when we declared a ban on television while she was awake or in the room.  Not only did we not intentionally show her any tv, but we also wanted to limit her "second hand" exposure to it.  We took a lot of ridicule over this "rule".  It wasn't until she was almost three years old that we started to allow her to watch things on tv.  First we let here watch an occasional documentary style program for children, and then we started recording specific shows on our dvr that we felt were safe and providing a violence free story.  She was never allowed to watch for long periods of time or on a regular basis.  This continues to this day.  She has watched a few movies here and there, and has a few favorite shows that we record for her to watch on occasion, but we still treat tv as a "treat".  Now she also has a notebook computer.  She has a few sites that she is allowed to go to and play games or read stories on.  Since this addition to her screen time repertoire we have had to come up with a reasonable limit to her daily use.  We have all agreed that 30 minutes is fair.  This does not mean that she will use 30 minutes each day, in fact that are many days that she is so busy she doesn't get any screen time, but on the days she does it is limited.  I am sure we may have to adjust this as she gets older, but for right now this works for us.

With the baby we are following the same plan.  No tv, until at least two, and then it will be very limited and regulated.  The only difference is that now we are not the crazy parents with the crazy rules.  Lots of people are jumping on the band wagon with us.  The American Academy of Pediatrics even backs us up - Talk about mainstream!  They recommend a similar plan : No screen time before two, then less than 1-2 hours for young children and the programming has to be carefully selected.  Not only have they declared that the programing and constant scene changes can be bad for developing brains, but they point out that the time spent viewing takes a ways from valuable play and real life interactions.

I see articles all the time about how bad tv is for children.  It has been linked to: lower academic function, hyperactivity, ADD, ADHD, delayed social skills, delayed language development, violent behavior, and obesity.  Just to name a few!  I think most educated adults can agree that it is probably not good for their babies to watch/ listen to the tv.

Some tips:
*Start early or from the beginning with clear limits and expectations on screen time in your home
*Keep screens out of bedrooms
*Provide alternative fun :)
*Think of screen time as a treat
* Read books - an equally satisfying activity to tv
*Provide activities in your home that your child can do independently - being able to entertain yourself is    
  a valuable life skill!

I think there are ways to incorporate screen time into your children's life in a way that won't be harmful and will most likely be helpful to you on occasion.  I get it - putting your children in front of the tv gives you time to do the things that you need to do.  Just be aware, take those moments when you need them and then get back to "real life" and enjoy your children.

Here are a few articles I have read on the subject:

Parents Urged Again To Limit TV For Youngest

AAP reaffirms no screen time for young children even though few parents listen
Understanding TV's Effects On The Developing Brain

TV and Kids under Age 3

Next week's Tool Card is:  Follow Through

Monday, April 9, 2012

Problem Sovling

This week we worked on Problem Solving.  This goes along with the previous two weeks, so we continued with what we have been working on, as discussed previously.  Since beginning our family meetings a while back we have had many opportunities to practice problem solving.  Some problems from recent meetings include:  unflushed toilets, wasting paper, uncleared dinner tables, and "trash on the Earth".  It only took a few meetings for our daughter to get the hang of brainstorming and picking a solution.

Brainstorming as well as curiosity questions work really well with our daughter at this point in her development.  She loves being a part of the solution as well as coming up with her own ideas to figure things out.

We are busy preparing for our baby boy's FRIST birthday party this weekend!  We will most likely have lots of opportunities to practice many parenting tools this week!

Next week we will take a look at: Limit Screen Time.  Oh boy, I am passionate about this one, so watch out!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Three R's of Recovery

This week we worked with The Three R's of Recovery.  The R's are: Recognize your mistake, Reconcile by apologizing, and Resolve the problem, and they are explained perfectly on Jane Nelson's blog.

These three little steps teach enormous lessons.  When you recognize your mistakes you teach humility and self acceptance.  When you reconcile by apologizing you teach genuine remorse.  When we work with our children to resolve the problem we show them respect and teach them problem solving skills.  It is not just the adult who can go through these steps.  Anyone who makes a mistake can recover from it using this plan.  Both parties benefit from the Three R's!

The first step is the hardest for me.  You have to just face up to the mistake that you made; look it straight in the eye and admit that you did it.  Not only do you have to recognize the mistake, but you have to deal with it AND forgive yourself.  Once you have modeled this self acceptance and you acknowledge your mistake, you have the opportunity to learn from it.

The second step, Reconcile, is so good!  If you have never tried genuinely apologizing to your child, you should.  You will be amazed at how forgiving they and at how much they appreciate your apology.  This is one of the easiest ways to show respect to your child.  By reconciling your mistake you give your child the gift of respect, honor and empathy.

Then, once everyone has had a chance to calm and connect by completing the first two steps, you are ready to Resolve the problem.  Children are great at brainstorming solutions, even to problems that don't directly involve them.  The other day I forgot my shopping list in the car, so we all had to go back out to the car in the rain to get it.  As we were walking back into the store my daughter says, "maybe if you put your list in your purse at home then you won't forget it in the car".  HA!  She was right.  Children are always thinking and coming up with solutions to problems comes natural to them.  When the problem directly affects them, then they will really appreciate being a part of the brainstorming for solutions process.   Children are also more likely to follow through with a solution when they helped come up with it and have agreed to it.

It is clear to see how Recovery is the the result of these three steps.  Mistakes are learning opportunities in so many ways, and when children learn to recover in this way they will be all the better for it!

Next week we will continue on this theme with: Problem Solving.