Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thoughts from May 2007, on Discipline

This is a little something that I've written which expresses the ideas I shared at the meeting regarding teaching our children to behave with positive reinforcement. (those alternatives to time out). It's kinda wordy. (am I the only complete NERD who actually writes Essays to myself for fun?) Anyway, I figured I'd share it in its entireity. Hope you don't mind:

To Train up a Child, the Positive discipline way!

The word “training” has gotten a bad rap. Radicals and child abusers have been using this word as a justification for their mistreatment of children for so long, that we almost associate the word “training” with canine obedience training. However the word Training is used in the human world all the time. It just means repetitive learning of something in order for it to become second nature. It is slightly different from intellectual learning

So I am going to confess right here and now. I TRAIN my children. I do. Unlike the Pearls I don’t have to cut a switch to do it.
What tool do I use instead? Well my favorite is the “High Five”. But I also use enthusiasm and praise.

Unlike some child training guides, rather than set my child up for failure, and then punish them. I set them up for success and then I reward them.

When I realized that if I ever wanted to eat in a restaurant again, I would have to train my kids how to act in one, I set about our lessons. First, we went to easy places like McDonalds. Where I bolted down my lunch while they sat in their high chairs, after explaining to them the rules I wanted them to follow in restaurants.. I didn’t give them enough time to get antsy. And when we were done eating. I thanked them profusely for their wonderful behavior, gave them lots of smiles and high fives, and got out of there before anybody even got it in their head to throw a fit. Time wore on and I could eat a little slower, and eventually we graduated to Denny’s. We went for a late breakfast when the place was empty. And we did the same thing. I never punished them or yelled at them or spanked them. Yet I ended up with three very small children who could eat at a restaurant and expect to remain in their high chair until we were ready to leave.
You would have probably laughed if you saw me the first time I took three children to the grocery store. But I did the exact same thing. I brought them and planned to buy exactly two things, both of which I knew where they were. I advised them going in that in grocery stores we have to stay in the cart for safety, and we have to keep indoor voices, etc.. and I ran through the store, got those two items, checked out and shared my joy with them at the door regarding how wonderfully fun that was and how nice it is to have such happy children, and high fives to go around. In no time at all, we graduated to hour-long trips to Wal-Mart.

The trick is. Rather than waiting for bad behavior to happen, and then punishing for it. Tell your child what you expect FIRST. Then make it super easy for them to comply the first few times. Show your appreciation, excitement and enthusiasm; give out a few high fives (or whatever) when they accomplished this. And then gradually go from your test situation, to the real situation. You can do this for so many things!

Away from home discipline. I was thinking the other day how glad I am I found this group. Because before I found it, I was housebound with my three little ones. It was so much hassle to go out, I never bothered for 11 months. But once I made it to my first playgroup I got more and more adventurous. And it just recently dawned on me. Going away from the house is the perfect opportunity to hone discipline skills. We all know that the rules are different at home. We each have things that we are more relaxed about at home than we are out in the world. So the only chance our kids have to learn these behaviors is if we actually take them out.
For example, some parents assume that their child is not old enough to eat at a restaurant because they refuse to sit in a high chair at home. However, it is at home that you don’t mind if they don’t sit in a high chair, so they aren’t going to learn this skill. However taking them out, teaching the skill, might just make it possible for them to sit in their high chair at home. Which came first, the opportunity to exhibit the behavior or the behavior? Your child cannot learn to stay close to you when you are out in public if you never leave the house.

I used to be the “going out is too much of a hassle” type. And believe me it IS a hassle! However in hindsight, although I did it for myself, to get out. I think that the behavioral benefits have been enormous.

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