The last couple of weeks ‘V’ (my wife) and I have been taking part in a weekly evening program called ‘Positive Parenting’. We’ve been parents (of those two little guys over on the right) for a bit over 3 years now and thought it might be good to get a bit of input on the topic. While much of it so far has been more reinforcing what we’re already doing by instinct – it’s also been helpful to be given frameworks for some of the concepts.
While much of it is common sense in some regards being given language to describe the ideas gives us some more techniques to try.
A few of these techniques that I’ve enjoyed:
- Escalation Trap – most parents have experienced it. It’s a pattern whereby you as a parent only seem to get your child to do anything by escalating your efforts to get their attention – ie shouting, screaming, threats and craziness. The child also uses the same technique to get what they want – (tantrums). When this pattern takes over a family things can get pretty crazy as everyone’s pattern of behavior is to only respond to escalated behavior and to get their way by escalating.
- Ask, Say, Do – a cool little technique for teaching a child to do something. Instead of taking complete control of a situation and doing everything for the child you start by asking them what they think they need to do first (giving them an opportunity to say what the first step is). If they ’say’ it correctly you move on to ‘Doing’ but if they don’t you then ’say’ what they need to do first. ‘Do’ is all about the child doing with you assisting – rather than the other way around. Then when the first step is complete you go through the cycle again (ask, say, do). I’ve been using this one for a few days now and our eldest really enjoys it – something about him being in control but there being a clear process seems to work well for him.
- Accidental Rewards – where you reward bad behavior – sometimes just to make a child stop behaving badly (buying the toy they want when they’re throwing a tantrum in the supermarket) or sometimes inadvertently by giving the child attention when they’re doing something antisocial (laughing when the child throws mashed potato at their grandmother). The problem with these accidental rewards is that the child learns that the behavior can get them something and they’re sure to repeat it.
I think some of the other ‘lessons’ that I’ve found helpful are:
- Telling not Asking – instead of saying ‘do you think it’s time for a bath now?’ saying ‘it’s time for a bath now’ – the first option gives the child the option to say no and then leaves you needing to convince or negotiate. The second option might also get a ‘no’ but is less likely to get that result. I guess it’s about assertive instructions rather than open ended ones.
- Other Bad Instructions – there are a heap of other bad ways to give instructions – giving too many at once (telling a 3 year old to do anything more than 1 thing is too many), not giving clear or detailed enough instructions (telling a child to eat with their cutlery without having taken the time to show them how), giving instructions that are vague, too hard, from one room to another, with bad body language. I guess it’s made me realize that many times it’s not a child who’s being disobedient but me as a parent who is simply not communicating well.
- Quality Time – I’ve always tried to set aside time for one on one time with my boys. I usually try give put aside extended amounts of ‘quality time’. This week though part of the teaching was that quality time was often best in short sharp doses. Anything from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes of complete focus on a child is really important at multiple times during the day. I guess I ‘knew’ this and do it – but it was good to know that it’s not just about long periods of time.
We’re only at week 2 of a 4 week course but so far it’s been a beneficial time of learning. Will try to put together some more thoughts on the final two weeks.